American crocodiles making a comeback in Florida

Posted 12/28/22

The American crocodile is making a comeback in Florida, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

This story requires a subscription for $5.99/month.
Already a subscriber? Log in to continue. Otherwise, click here to subscribe.

Please log in to continue

Log in
I am anchor

American crocodiles making a comeback in Florida

Posted

The American crocodile is making a comeback in Florida, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). The native species, classified as “threatened” by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has grown from a state population of about 300 in 1975 to more than 1,500 adult crocodiles.

According to the FWC, it can be difficult for inexperienced people to tell the difference between an American crocodile and the other native crocodilian, the more common American alligator. But there are some noticeable differences:

• Crocodiles are a grayish green color. Alligators are black.
• Crocodiles have the fourth tooth on the lower jaw exposed when the mouth is closed. When an alligator’s mouth is closed, only the upper teeth are exposed.
• Crocodiles have a narrow, tapered snout. Alligators have a broad, rounded snout.

• Young crocodiles are light with dark stripes. Young alligators are dark with yellow stripes.

In addition to native alligators and American crocodiles, the common or spectacled caiman can also be found in Florida. This is an exotic species, not native to Florida. According to FWC, “The common or spectacled caiman (Caiman crocodilus) looks more like the American crocodile than the American alligator. Its color is similar to the crocodile’s but with a shorter more rounded snout. Caiman are found primarily in freshwater canals and lakes and rarely exceed 5 feet in length.” Caimans are native to Central and South America. Like other invasive species, they were likely introduced to Florida through the exotic pet trade.

According to FWC, “American crocodiles are a shy and reclusive species. They live in coastal areas throughout the Caribbean, and occur at the northern end of their range in south Florida. They live in brackish or saltwater areas, and can be found in ponds, coves, and creeks in mangrove swamps. They are occasionally being encountered inland in freshwater areas of the SE Florida coast as a result of the extensive canal system.

“The American crocodile inhabits brackish or saltwater areas and can be found in ponds, coves, and creeks in mangrove swamps. American crocodiles occur in South Florida and also can be found in Hispaniola, Cuba, Jamaica, along the Caribbean coast from southern Mexico to Venezuela, and along the Pacific coast from Mexico to Peru. The northern end of the crocodile’s range is in South Florida. Occasionally, crocodiles are encountered inland in freshwater areas along the southern Florida coast.”

Crocodiles are ectothermic – they rely on external sources of heat to regulate their body temperature. Like alligators, they do this by basking in the sun or moving to areas with warmer or cooler air or water temperatures. Crocodiles may open their mouths while basking in the sun. This also helps them regulate their body temperature.

If a basking crocodile quickly splashes into the water, it is likely because the crocodile is frightened, the FWC website explains. Normally, crocs enter the water quietly.

American crocodiles primarily eat small mammals, birds, frogs, turtles and fish.

American crocodile mating season is in January and February. Nesting occurs in late April or early May. Females will lay 20 to 60 eggs that incubate for about 85 days. When incubation period is complete, female crocodiles will dig the nest up and carry the young to water.
Historically, American crocodiles were hunted almost to extinction. Currently, they are threatened by habitat destruction. According to FWC, “Hydrological alterations in their habitats can cause damage to their eggs as they cannot withstand conditions that are too dry or too wet.”

crocodiles, FWC

Comments

x