Wild monkeys were spotted in Orange City, Florida, prompting officials to warn residents to keep their distance from the creatures.
The Orange City Police Department wrote in a statement on Wednesday that it has received multiple calls regarding monkey sightings. The department told residents to notify the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) for further assistance if they come into contact with the animals.
On Thursday, the department announced that it had identified one as a wild Rhesus Macaques monkey.
The FWC warned that “macaques may become aggressive when fed, and feeding wildlife brings people into close proximity with wildlife. Primates also carry a host of diseases that can be spread to humans.”
According to the FWC, rhesus macaques were introduced to the Florida Keys in the 1970s but were removed 20 years later after they “destroyed red mangroves, leading to massive vegetation loss and shoreline erosion.”
The core population of the species is found in Florida near the Silver River, an hour and a half drive from Orange City.
“The sightings began like a week ago but we haven’t been able to actually locate it,” said Orange City police Lt. Sherif El-Shami told Daytona Beach News-Journal.
“The biggest message we’d like residents to heed is that it could be very dangerous,” he continued. “Don’t feed it. Don’t pet it. It’s not your average animal at the zoo.”
“Every time we get a new sighting, it’s somewhere different,” Mr El-Shami said.