“You’re not going to see any monkeys today,” an experienced outfitter told us at the launch ramp before we started out. “It’s too cold and dank.”
My advice is to take local knowledge — usually quite helpful — with a grain of salt. We came across lots of monkeys.
After snapping the cormorant (Cormorants) while paddling the Silver River in Florida, we rounded a bend and found the first troop of monkeys cavorting near the edge of the water. They were creating quite a ruckus deeper in the woods, swinging from the trees and challenging one another.
There were about twenty individuals, ranging from the dominant male and young-buck upstarts, to teenagers, and pairs like this adorable mother and child. Here, the mother is taking a break from grooming the young one long enough to warm him up. Just on the other side of the tree, the dominant male was posing and bouncing up and down on a fallen tree, warning other troop members not to approach.
You might ask: Why are there wild monkeys in Florida?
At the Silver Springs headwaters, you can find a number of attractions, including the famous glass-bottomed boat rides. In the 1930s, the operator of the Silver Springs Jungle Cruise put the monkeys on a small island in the river in order to spice up the ride for customers.
He didn’t realize that monkeys are excellent swimmers.
The monkeys escaped the island, of course, and began to populate the surrounding woods. As civilization approaches closer to the Springs, some monkeys have been seen in the nearby city of Ocala, or raiding citrus groves, or free-ranging on livestock farms. Some people have claimed that the monkeys pose a threat to humans, as they can carry the Herpes-B virus, fatal to humans, though the threat is surely overblown.
An animal shelter worker studying the monkeys once stopped 15 tourists in the park and asked them what drew them there. Fourteen said they came to see the monkeys (as did we.)