Biologists say monkey population spreading in Florida

File photo: Rhesus monkeys in Key Lois, Florida. (File AP Photo/Bill Cooke)

THE VILLAGES, Fla. (AP) – University of Florida biologists say a population of monkeys native to Asia appears to be spreading in central Florida.

For more than 75 years, rhesus macaques have inhabited Silver Springs State Park in Ocala.

That population has grown to roughly 200 monkeys in the park, and University of Florida biologists say new sightings of the monkeys have been reported in Lake County.

Monkeys have been spotted in Lady Lake and The Villages, more than 20 miles south of the park.

Biologist Steve Johnson tells The Orlando Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1IypPAW ) that as the population grows, it wouldn’t be surprising to see males disperse outside Ocala.

In November, a tan-colored monkey was spotted on the roof of a Lady Lake school. Weeks later, a homeowner reported seeing a monkey in her backyard in The Villages.

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