Silver Springs State Park has been home to a large troop of invasive, STD-carrying monkeys for almost a century, but now sightings are becoming more frequent in Florida cities hundreds of miles from the park.
According to a new report from First Coast News, the population of rhesus macaques has expanded considerably over the years, and the monkeys are now being spotted in northeast cities like St. Johns, St. Augustine, Palatka, Welaka and Elkton, and as far south Apopka and Tampa.
The monkeys were originally part of a failed tourist attraction called Colonel Tooey's Jungle Cruise in the 1930s.
A survey performed in 2018 found that the Silver Springs troop now consists of roughly 300 monkeys, and that 25% of that population carries herpes B, which, while extremely rare in humans, can cause brain damage or even death if not treated immediately.
The report states that efforts to control the rhesus macaques population ceased in 2012, but a feeding ban was put in place by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in 2017. The FWC reported 23 incidents of human injuries between 1977 and 1984, but has not kept records since.
In Nov. of last year, a kayaker in Silver Springs State Park filmed dozens of monkeys diving from trees uncomfortably close to his boat.