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Monkey sightings on rise in Northeast Florida

Sightings reported in Duval, Flagler, Putnam and St. Johns counties in past 10 months

A rhesus macaques monkey observes kayakers as they navigate along the Silver River in Silver Springs, Fla.
A rhesus macaques monkey observes kayakers as they navigate along the Silver River in Silver Springs, Fla. (Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Rhesus monkeys, part of a population released on a Silver Springs island as part of a jungle boat tour attraction in the 1930s, have thrived in Central Florida for decades and now seem to be exploring our part of the state.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which tracks the monkeys, said the core population sill lives around the Silver River in Marion County, but confirmed it has received several reports of sightings in Northeast Florida in recent months.

Since March 2019 there have been eight sightings in St. Johns County, two in Putnam County, two in Jacksonville and one in Flagler County.

Wildlife officials believe these sightings are most likely the result of monkeys that originated from the Silver Springs population and are now roaming the state.

Rhesus macaque monkeys are not native to Florida -- originally from Asia -- and they are known to cause ecological, agricultural, and economic impacts in the state. They can also carry diseases, including the herpes B virus, which can cause brain damage and even death in humans.

If you encounter wild monkeys in Florida it is important to keep a safe distance. Never feed wild monkeys. Feeding wild monkeys is illegal.

If you see one, you are encouraged to take a photo from a safe distance, note the location and notify the FWC’s Exotic Species Hotline at 888-483-4681.


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