Tampa, Florida -- The elusive rhesus macaque monkey has spawned Facebook pages, is on Wikipedia and has much of the Tampa Bay area on alert. People aren't exactly hoping to catch it -- just put an eyeball on it.
Well, now the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is getting in the game and they hope you take their warning seriously.
The FWC warns rhesus macaques are bad-tempered, powerful monkeys that -- if cornered -- can injure or even kill an adult human.
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Of particular concern to wildlife officials is that some people are trying to feed or catch this animal with their hands, a very risky and foolish undertaking, according to the FWC.
The Centers for Disease Control reports about 80 percent of rhesus macaques carry the simian herpes-B virus. If the animal bites, scratches or even spits on you, you could become infected.
"Although this marauding monkey makes for humorous reading and anecdotes around the water cooler, people should not lose sight of what's best for the animal and for public safety," said Dr. David Murphy, staff veterinarian at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo.
According to the FWC, feeding wildlife is the primary factor causing wildlife to destroy property and to attack pets and humans. Monkeys are no exception.
"Encouraging this animal to approach or remain close to humans for any reason can lead to a defensive attack if the animal feels trapped or otherwise threatened by miscued human body language," said Capt. John West, who deals with captive wildlife issues for the FWC's Division of Law Enforcement.
If you spot the monkey, call the FWC's Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922, and FWC says leave the monkey business to them.
10 Connects News and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission