Invasive monkeys multiply in Central Florida

There are more concerns that invasive monkeys in Central Florida may be multiplying fast.

Researchers, including University of Florida Wildlife Ecology Professor, Dr. Steve Johnson estimate that the population of Rhesus Macaques in the state could double to about 400 monkeys by 2022.

Johnson said his team observed the monkeys in the area of Silver Springs State Park and they believe, without intervention, the monkey problem will only continue to grow.

"There hasn't been active management of the monkeys, that I'm aware of, for a while; since a trapper was in there a number of years ago,” said Dr. Johnson.

MORE NEWS: Monkey spotted picking oranges outside Florida home

Right now the state Fish and Wildlife Commission bans people from feeding wild monkeys in the state and encourages people to report sightings. However, Dr. Johnson said population control can be a bit more challenging and raise controversy. In Johnson’s words, ‘the state’s in a really difficult spot.’

The Rhesus Macaques were first dropped in Silver Springs as a tourist attraction nearly a century ago. Since then the animals have caused a nuisance as the populations have grown and encounters with tourists have raised alarm. In recent months the monkeys have even been spotted wandering as far north as Jacksonville.

RELATED: Monkey encounter near Florida state park

Dr. Johnson said his team identified about 5 major groups of the monkeys living in the area of the park, but as numbers grow he said so too will the potential for more of those sightings throughout the state.

"It stands to reason that as the groups get bigger and fracture, new groups will form and they're going to have to go somewhere."