One of the more unusual stories to break during the last 12 months dealt with monkeys that mysteriously began turning up across the county and, just as mysteriously, disappeared.
In December 2015, spotted running loose on Alligator Point, was an animal believed to be a rhesus or macaque monkey, standing about two feet tall. A similar monkey in Lanark Village was reported to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
After County Coordinator Michael Morón told the board about the sightings, Commissioner Cheryl Sanders said the monkey was not permitted in Franklin County and suggested a cast net be used to capture the animal. She and Commissioner William Massey said there was evidence that the monkey originated in Crawfordville based on sightings over time.
The monkey was seen around the county’s east end through the holiday season. Two of the six monkey sightings reported to the FWC occurred the same day, one on Riverview Drive in Carrabelle, and one on Alligator Drive at Alligator Point. The sightings occurred more than 28 miles apart, raising the possibility that two monkeys were on the loose.
FWC staff canvassed door-to-door on Alligator Point to try and track down the hirsute tourist. FWC said the monkey or monkeys do not appear to have been properly licensed as exotic pets so there is no way to trace the owner.
At the start of the year, Times reader Paul Cowan emailed the paper two photographs of a monkey investigating a bird feeder in Carrabelle, and said he and his wife saw the monkey several times in the yard of their riverfront Carrabelle home.
"It's very shy. It runs away as soon as it sees you. It would be very hard for someone to catch it," Cowan said.
In early February, Bill Libby captured several photographs of what appears to be a rhesus monkey at his home near High Bluffs hiking trail. At the time that was the westernmost point at which a monkey had been photographed although an ape was reportedly been observed up County Road 65.
Libby said he first noticed birdseed was disappearing unusually fast from his birdfeeder. He believed initially that a raccoon was stealing the food, and then noticed the roof was ripped off the feeder. Later, he and wife Pat spotted the monkey sitting in the feeder with one leg slung over the side eating enthusiastically.
Describing the furry visitor, he said, "It looks healthy," he said. "I don't mind it eating. I just wish it wouldn't rip the roof off the feeder."
Libby’s son said he, a workmate and a Carrabelle police officer watched a monkey jump from the bridge to a tree on the spoil island in the Carrabelle River, and that later in the day, FWC officers were seen "walking the island" in search of the primate.
Massey said about 40 people had gathered to watch, and that the monkey launched from the bridge into a tall pine tree and a number of observers attempted to pursue it. It then jumped back onto the bridge and when the crowd moved again, it jumped back into the tree and retreated swinging from limb to limb.
On Wednesday, Feb. 10, Chamber of Commerce Director John Solomon reported seeing a two-foot ape cross South Bayshore Avenue from the bay side and enter the Las Brisas community in Eastpoint. An ape was also observed feeding on birdseed in the same general area.
The animals continued to be spotted apparently heading north up CR 65 for about a month after the Eastpoint sighting.