ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — At first, Colleen Sokol just heard some tree branches moving in her backyard. She said she didn’t give it any thought because she’s used to seeing animals back there, until she saw it swinging from trees.
She immediately took out her phone and started recording from inside her house. She caught a wild monkey in the wooded area behind her home, eating oranges from her trees.
“I couldn’t believe there was one out behind my house,” Sokol said.
It’s been the talk of her St. Augustine neighborhood for days. Since Action News Jax first reported on the sighting over the weekend, more neighbors have sent pictures of wild monkey sightings near their homes in the past year.
“It’s a little bit unnerving because you got to be concerned that maybe they’ll jump out and attack you or chase you,” Randy Jacob said.
According to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, nine wild monkeys have been spotted in St. Johns County since 2011, six of which were in 2019. Action News Jax has reached out to the FWC to learn the exact species of these monkeys.
Another FWC map shows a rhesus macaque monkey was found in Duval County in December 2019, specifically Mandarin.
This type of monkey originates from Asia. Experts said its population is rapidly reproducing and is expected to double by 2022.
These monkeys are considered highly dangerous because they carry a rare deadly form of herpes, known as herpes B, which is deadly to humans. The FWC said 18 people have reported scratches or bite marks from these monkeys in Florida.
The FWC said is it prohibited to feed these wild monkeys, because they become aggressive.
FWC says that if a resident comes in contact with the animal, to make sure all small children, any pets and garbage is removed from the yard and to call FWC.
Action News Jax has reached out to the FWC to learn if they are working to track down these monkeys and contain them.
Their response is below:
"We have received several reports of rhesus macaque sightings in Northeast Florida over recent months. While the core population of rhesus macaques is in central Florida around the Silver River, individual rhesus macaque sightings have occurred over the years throughout Florida, most likely a result of roaming monkeys originating from the Silver Springs population.
"Monkeys are not native to Florida, and they are known to cause ecological, agricultural, and economic impacts in our state. They can also carry diseases. If you encounter wild monkeys in Florida, it is important to keep a safe distance. Never feed wild monkeys. Feeding wild monkeys is illegal.
"See the “Wild Monkeys in Florida” brochure for more information. https://myfwc.com/media/17162/brochure_monkey_english.pdf
“Additional information is also available on our website: https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/nonnatives/mammals/monkeys/rhesus-macaque/”
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