Monkey encounter near Florida state park

A monkey was captured on camera charging at some guests who were visiting Silver Springs State Park in Marion County, Florida.

JC Castillo and Janee Masciarelli of Ocala said they were visiting the park this week, as they do multiple times a week, when a woman came running up to them in a panic. 

"I'm thinking maybe someone's trying to rob her or she's getting attacked by somebody, and then she says 'I'm getting chased my monkeys,’” said Castillo.

The couple started recording video as the monkey then approached them, pausing for a moment, before charging at them and passing by the frantic guests. Next thing they knew, Castillo and Masciarelli said they realized monkeys were now looking at them from nearby trees and on the ledge of the boardwalk.

"Yeah there's like little babies hopping from tree to tree and across the water way,” said Masciarelli.

Scientists say there is a growing population of rhesus macaques in Silver Springs State Park, near Ocala. A study, published October 26, in Wildlife Management, said the monkey population will double by 2022 unless state officials intervene. 

There is at least 300 rhesus macaques in the park. The study says that figure could double by 2022. Scientists suggested sterilizing half of the adult females and removing half of the adults biennially to regulate the population.

Also in 2018, Florida Fish and Wildlife began prohibiting people from feeding the monkeys due to fears that the species, not native to the state, could spread herpes.

The growing population problem began back in the 1930s, when the original six rhesus macaques were released onto a small island in the Silver River, which is now part of the Silver Springs State Park today. The initial purpose was to create a tourist attraction. 

It turned out the rhesus macaques are strong swimmers and escaped into the woods. More were brought in to replace them, but they also left. 

By the 1980s, hundreds were living in the Marion County park. Between 1984 to 2012, state wildlife officials removed more than 1,000 to combat their growing population. However, the practice was put to a complete stop after the public learned the animals were being sold and taken to biomedical researchers, reports the National Geographic.