Florida residents have reported multiple sightings of two separate crocodile species in recent months. And scientists aren’t sure where they’re coming from.
Nile crocodiles and American crocodiles, which were recently thought to be nearly extinct, have been stalking around the coastal regions of the Sunshine State. And people aren’t exactly happy to see them.
Despite the unnerving realization that Floridians now have sharks, alligators, and crocodiles to fear, news about the American variety isn’t exactly bad. In 1975, only around 300 remained in the wild. And the grim number gave them protection from the Endangered Species Act.
In recent years, the reptile has rebounded. And while it is still federally classified as endangered, it is only listed as threatened in Florida. But despite the population growth, seeing an American crocodile is still considered “rare.” So the sightings mean that the animals are continuing to rebound.
An American Crocodiles was Reported in Brevard County, Florida
People have reported numerous croc sightings near beaches. But because they can also live in brackish waters, which is a mix of salt and freshwater, officials warn that they could also be living around inland canals. In fact, one was spotted on Dec. 4 sunning itself in Brevard County, which is about 75 miles southeast of Orlando. That is the furthest north an American crocodile has ever been seen.
Fortunately, American crocodiles are less aggressive toward humans than alligators. They’re typically reclusive and will hide if a person comes nearby. However, they will target pets. So officials ask residents to be extra precautious while walking dogs around waterways.
The Nile crocodile, however, isn’t a positive sign. The animal is native to Africa. So it could cause significant damage to the ecosystem if it were to establish a population in Florida.
Animal control officers have captured at least three of the reptiles since 2009. Scientists know that the creatures are making their way to the United States illegally. But they aren’t quite sure how people are sneaking them through customs.
People can easily differentiate between American and Nile crocs in the wild. The native reptile is much larger. It can grow to be 450 to 600 pounds and will be about 13 feet long. The other only weighs 150 to 220 pounds and averages about 8 feet long.
Nile crocodiles also have short, rounded snouts. And if you see one in the wild, it won’t be as shy. The invasive creature is much more aggressive.