New ‘Mystery Monkey’ has local residents watching out for elusive rhesus macaque

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — It appears there is a new “Mystery Monkey” in the Tampa Bay area.

A number of people report seeing a monkey in the past few days, some have taken pictures and video of the monkey to prove they aren’t crazy.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission says is has received several reports about the monkey in the Hudson Beach area.

It’s believed the monkey is a rhesus macaque. The FWC Isn’t sure yet how this macaque arrived in the area, but they are people to call in with information about the animal so they can find out where it is.

In 2012, another rhesus macaque was seen and eventually captured in Pinellas County.

The monkeys are not native to Florida, but they can thrive here.

In the mid-1930’s several rhesus macaques were introduced into the Silver Springs park as a tourist attraction. Those monkeys eventually escaped their original enclosure and a population of an estimated 200 monkeys are now in that area.

Dr. Steve A. Johnson is an Associate Professor with the Department of Wildlife Ecology & Conservation at the University of Florida and has studied the monkey population at Silver Springs. Johnson says the monkey that is on the loose can be very dangerous to people.

“Don’t try to pet it, don’t approach it” advised Johnson.

He believes there may be two possibilities as to why people are seeing this monkey in the area.

“It could be an escaped pet. If someone keeps a monkey they are required to have a licence for the animal. If the monkey escapes they are required to report that to the FWC As far as I know no escaped animals have been reported to the FWC,” said Johnson.

The other possibility is that a young male has been kicked out of the Silver Springs area by other monkeys according to Johnson.

“Hudson is a long way from Silver Springs. He would have had to cross I-75, but they are fast and intelligent and he could have done that,” said Johnson.

Dr. Johnson says many of the monkey’s at Silver Springs are infected with the Herpes B virus.

Dr. Johnson said one bite from the monkey could be very dangerous for a human.

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