Are There Crocodiles In Florida? What To Do If You Spot One

Florida Crocodile
Photo credit: Chris J Walker via Unsplash

When people mention Florida, most people will associate it with ‘the happiest place on earth’ which is of course none other than Disneyland. Little do people know that Florida is home to some amazing animals including dolphins, bats and Florida panthers. But what you’re here to find out is are there crocodiles in Florida?

In this article we’ll talk you through how many crocodiles there are, what species can be found and most importantly, what to do if you see a crocodile.

So, before we have a look at some of the main crocs you might see, let’s find out whether or not if there are crocodiles in Florida.

Are There Crocodiles in Florida?

crocodile in the wild
Image by Budgme from Pixabay

We know this is the main question on your lips so before we start talking about anything else, we’re here to answer that all important question. The answer to that question is yes! Crocodiles live in the tropics of Asia, Africa, Australia and America.

You’ll be able to find a crocodile and its friends and family living lakes, wetlands, rivers and saltwater. Crocodiles will always be near water that has salt in it because they have a special gland that helps their bodies deal with brackish water (saltwater) but they can also be found in fresh water, just like the alligators who only live in fresh water.

So, now you’ve found out if there are any crocodiles in Florida, let’s have a look and see what the differences are between crocodiles and alligators in more detail.

What’s the Difference Between Crocodiles and Alligators?

You might be sat there thinking to yourself that there aren’t any differences between crocodiles and alligators because they’re the same thing? Well in this instance you would be mistaken.

  • Family: The main difference that these reptiles have is that crocodiles and alligators come from different families. They are both members of the Crocodylia, but crocodiles are from the Crocodylidae family, while alligators come from the Alligatordae family.
  • Where they live: As we touched on previously, crocodiles live near saltwater whilst you’ll find alligators swimming in freshwater areas. Fun fact – The Florida Everglades is the only place on earth in which both alligators and crocodiles coexist.
  • Appearance: Crocodiles have longer and more pointed snouts and are lighter in colour and alligators have shorter and more rounded snouts which are stronger than a crocodile, they are also darker in colour.
  • Skills: Both crocodiles and alligators have an incredible sense of smell which is why they’re such great hunters! Crocodiles are carnivores so they will eat animals such as fish, birds, frogs and crustaceans whereas alligators will eat fish, birds, turtles, snakes, frogs and small mammals. They both have above-water vision, night vision, sensitive hearing and vertical pupils that take in additional light so these are two reptiles that you really wouldn’t want to come across on your Florida holiday.
  • Lifespan: On average, the lifespan of a crocodile will be 70-100 years and alligators is 30-50 years, not bad for a reptile!

So, now you know the main differences between crocodiles and alligators, let’s see what type of crocodile you might (but hopefully won’t) see on your holiday.

Alligator
Photo credit: Vish K via Unsplash

What Crocodiles Live in Florida?

So, you know that there are crocodiles the live in Florida, but before you jet off to the Sunshine State, you’re probably going to want to know what type of crocodiles live over there, right? Well, there’s no need to panic as we’ve got you covered! Read on to find out about which crocodile is native to Florida!

American Crocodile:

The American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) are a shy and reclusive species which can be found in the tropical areas of North, Central and South America, with many of them found in South Florida. You will usually find the American crocodile living in lakes, ponds and mangrove swamps (wetlands found in tropical areas which are surrounded by trees. The American crocodile is also protected as a threatened species by the Federal Endangered Species Act.

So, you’ve learnt a little more about the American crocodile, but let’s get a more detailed look at some of its features.

American Crocodile Features:

We don’t mean to scare you with all of these American crocodile features but we’re telling you so that by the end of this ‘are there crocodiles in Florida?’ article, you’ll be a crocodile expert in the making!

  • Length: The length of a crocodile will vary depending on the age and gender of the crocodile. An adult male can reach lengths of up to 20ft (6.1m) and can weigh up to 907kg (2,000lb) – did we just see your jaw drop? You’ll be (slightly) pleased to know that mature crocodiles are small than adults and they can reach lengths of 9ft 6in – 13.5inch ( 2.9 to 4.1 m) and weigh up to 400 kg (880 lb). Females are the smallest as they will rarely even reach the length of 12 ft 6 in (3.8m) and will weigh up to 300kg (660lbs) but they can of course still be a very dangerous reptile to mess with.
  • Mouth: Every crocodile has the same mouth but it’s important that we tell you what it looks like. The crocodile will its fourth tooth on lower jaw exposed when its mouth is closed – if you’ve seen pictures online then it might look like the crocodile is giving you a sly smile.
  • Speed: One feature that we couldn’t believe was the speed at which American crocodiles travel! You wouldn’t want to get caught up in any danger with these as they can travel up to 20mph (32 km/h) – just think back to your first driving lesson, doesn’t seem so slow now, does it? Although, this species tends not to be as aggressive as others, that’s not to say that they’re not dangerous though! American crocodiles usually crawl on their belly, but they can also high walk too.
And Finally:
  • Body temperature: Crocodiles are unable to maintain a constant body temperature as they’re cold-blooded (ectothermic). They do however have a ‘preferred’ body temperature of around 30-33C. To get themselves to this temperature, crocodiles will move around to different areas depending on what time of year it it. In the summer, crocodiles will swim around to find shade so they avoid over-heating, and, in the winter, they will bask in the sun to keep their body temperatures to 30-33C.
  • Nests: American crocodiles will start to breed in early winter. In February or March, the female crocodiles will start to build nests of sand, mud and dead vegetation along the water’s edge. When crocodiles choose where they’re building their nests, they must make a good choice about this as the eggs will develop within a small temperature range. Fun fact – A crocodile’s gender is temperature dependent so when temperatures change, there could be a risk of having all male or all female crocodiles which might harm the crocodile population. In late April, the female will lay around 30-70 eggs but these can fall prey to racoons, foxes and skunks! In July/August the eggs will hatch and new baby crocodiles will come into the world.

So, there you have a detailed description about everything you need to know about American crocodiles in Florida. Read on to discover more about crocodiles!

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Crocodile mouth
Photo credit: David Clode via Unsplash

How Many Crocodiles Are in Florida?

Crocodiles are mainly found in Southern Florida and there are an estimated 500-1,200 four tooth crocs living there. Of course, you’re only likely to bump into one if you’re swimming or walking in a saltwater area but even still, there will be signs around telling you if there is a massive risk of crocodiles in that area.

History lesson time! Millions of years before Vikings crossed the Atlantic, crocodiles swam thousands of kilometres from Africa to colonise the Americas. In 2009, 2011 and 2014, Nile crocodiles were said to be living in Florida swamps and were confirmed as Nile crocodiles by a DNA test – it is unclear how they made the 6,000-mile journey but sources think that they were brought over illegally.

If you are interested in seeing crocodiles in a safe environment then the Everglades National Park is the place to see them and if you’re lucky, then you might even get to see an American alligator too as we previously mentioned at the beginning, the Everglades is the only place on earth in which both alligators and crocodiles coexist.

At the Everglades, you’re able to go on an airboat tour which will take you far out into the water where you’ll get to see American alligators and American crocodiles, just make sure you hold on tight as the airboat can reach speeds of up to 60mph!

Are Crocodiles Dangerous in Florida?

crocodiles in florida
Image by TeeFarm from Pixabay

Probably the most important question that you have been waiting for us to answer! Are crocodile dangerous in Florida? The answer? Yes! But just because we’re answering if they’re dangerous in Florida, it doesn’t make them any less dangerous anywhere else in the world.

American crocodiles are at the top of the food chain meaning that any animal (or human) that they come into contact with could be potential prey for them! These crocodiles are even more dangerous than the lemon shark as they avoid swimming in areas that American crocodiles are in.

Crocodiles are very active in the water and are regarded as more aggressive than alligators. A crocodile may attack just because someone or something is near them and they don’t like it. We mentioned in the last section about Nile crocodiles being found in Florida and it is thought that Nile and saltwater crocodiles are the most dangerous in the world.

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What to do if You See a Crocodile in Florida?

Hopefully you won’t get into any of these situations, but if this does happen, by reading our tips below, you should be able to keep safe on your holiday.

  • If you’re out walking and you spot a crocodile, make sure you keep as far away from it as possible, The minimum safe distance from crocodiles on the water is at least 82 ft (about 25m) and boats should stay at least 33ft (25m) away as crocodiles can travel up to speeds of 20mph, if it is going to attack you should be at a good distance to get to safety.
  • If you end up falling in the water however difficult this may seem, you mustn’t splash around and make lots of noise. When a crocodile hears the noise then it’ll more than likely draw bad attention and the crocodile may attack! Swim to shore quietly and calmly.

If you spot a Crocodile on land, stay calm and move away from the area slowly without making too much noise. You must never approach it, attack it or try to move it. If the crocodile snaps or charges at you then RUN away from it as fast as you possibly can! Although crocodiles are super quick swimming in water, their top land speed is 10mph (17kph) – still fast but it gives you a better chance of getting away. It goes without saying, don’t run into water and run in a straight line, we say a straight line as humans run faster this way.

Florida crocodile
Photo credit: David Clode via Unsplash

How to Survive an Attack:

So, now you know what to do if you see a crocodile in Florida, but if the unthinkable happens and you do get attacked by one, here’s our tips for surviving a crocodile attack.

  • Stay as calm as you can (easier said than done) as this could save your life! If the crocodile bites you and then lets go of you, DON’T fight back, instead run for the hills and get out of there. If the crocodile keeps hold of you however then there is a risk that it will drag you into the water, in this instance attack the crocodiles eyes as that’s the most vulnerable part of its body. Attempt to gouge, kick, or poke the animal in the eye with your hands or whatever you can grab – it may sound cruel but this can help to save your life.
  • Attacking the crocodiles head is also something that could help! Hitting the crocodile with sticks, poles and oars means that there is a higher chance that the crocodile will let go.
  • After your attack, make sure you seek medical attention immediately! You could have a lot of tissue damage and blood lose as well as a fatal infection. Crocodiles harbour a massive amount of bacteria in their mouths and even a minor bite from a small Crocodile can quickly lead to infection if not treated right away.

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How Common are Crocodile Attacks in Florida?

If you’re staying near a lake or visiting the Everglades for a day then you’re probably going to be interested to know if crocodile attacks are a common thing in Florida? You’ll be delighted to know that the chances of being attacked by a crocodile in Florida are low with the likelihood of being seriously injured in a random attack is roughly one in 2.4 million – phew!

Crocodiles can attack at any time of the day but they are most active and dangerous at night time – when they want food.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have stated that on average there are around seven unproved crocodile and alligator attacks each year – a figure that is rising by 3%. If you’ve just read that and cancelled your holiday, don’t panic! You’re more likely to be trampled on and killed by a cow than you are being eaten up by a hungry crocodile.

Real Life Crocodile Attacks in Florida:

With such great news there always has to be something not so great. Although crocodile attacks are extremely rare in Florida, that’s not to say that they don’t happen… WARNING – these stories might be upsetting for you.

In 2011, two kayakers in the Florida Keys region set off for a calm relaxing morning of kayaking but instead came home injured from what they though was a crocodile bite. State officials later concluded there was no evidence of multiple bite pattern consistent with crocodiles or alligators.

In 2014, two swimmers, a male and a female came face-to-face with a 9ft American crocodile as they went swimming during a house party in Gables by the Sea, South Miami, a saltwater area where crocodiles are prevalent. The pair were lucky enough to only get away with some bite marks to their shoulders, torso and hands.

In 2016, a 2-year-old boy was pulled by an alligator into a lagoon near a Walt Disney World hotel and his body was found the next day, near to where he was pulled from. His body had been discovered with a few puncture wounds, but the main cause of death was by drowning as the alligator had tragically pulled the boy under the water.

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article and haven’t been put off going to Florida! If you’ve now become a David Attenborough in the making and are curious to find out more about dangerous animals, then check out the article below!

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