In the heart of central Florida lies Silver Spring State Park—a large patchwork of forests and wetlands with a spring-fed river flowing through it. One of Florida’s first tourist attractions, the park was once known for its scenic vistas and native wildlife. But for the last 80 years, the park’s biggest draw has been its monkeys.
That’s right—Silver Spring State Park is home to at least 300 rhesus macaques, a monkey native to south and southeast Asia. The animals are breeding rapidly, and a new study estimates that the monkey population will double by 2022 unless state agencies take steps to control it.
The study, published October 26 in the journal Wildlife Management, claims that such an increase could put the health of the park and its visitors in serious jeopardy—because, among other problems, the monkeys carry a rare and deadly form of herpes virus called herpes B. It’s extremely, extremely rare for herpes B to spread from a monkey to a human, but when it does, it can be fatal.
Rhesus Macaques are particularly problematic primates, says anthropologist Erin Riley, who studies human-animal interactions at San Diego State University. “They aren’t as afraid of humans as other animals, and they can be pretty nasty,” she says.
Several aggressive monkey displays have led to two partial park closures since 2016, including one last summer, which was implemented after a monkey charged a family along one of the park’s boardwalks.
Troops of Silver Springs macaques have caused mischief outside the park as well. One large group of rhesus monkeys recently raided a deer-feeder behind a house in Ocala—and yes, there are photographs. Although the town is just outside the park, stray males will occasionally venture within city limits and have ranged over 100 miles from their home colony, turning up in outlying cities such as Sarasota and Tallahassee. The colony within Silver Springs State Park has already spread into the Ocklawaha River and could easily establish new colonies in other parts of the state, experts warn.
Sounds like Trump voters to me.