When you think of Florida big reptilian beasts, you probably think of the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis). That certainly makes sense given how many massive alligators we have sprawled out and lumbering across the peninsula. What you might not think of (but probably also should) is the American crocodile, Crocodylus acutus. That’s right, Florida is also home to bona fide species of croc.
The American crocodile ranges throughout the southern portion of Florida’s coasts and the coastal regions of central and South America (plus Cuba and other Caribbean isles). Males can average up to around 20 feet in length or so, which is rather considerable and a bit larger than myself. Females are a bit smaller but still clock in around 12 feet in length, which is also somewhat considerable and later than myself. For contrast, American alligators can average up to around 12 to 15 feet in length. A big, adult male croc, then, is something pretty remarkable (and massive) to behold, and female crocs are still nothing but impressive.
Though crocodiles are generally considered to be more of a global risk to humans than alligators, the American crocodile doesn’t carry too much of a Big-Bad reputation, especially in Florida. The species is a bit more reclusive and tends to hang out in more secluded salt- or brackish-water habitats. Personally, I think an eight foot American alligator that’s been fed by hapless humans poses far more risk to people than a sixteen foot American crocodile quietly scratching out a living on the edge of the Florida Everglades. Attacks in Florida are extremely rare. That being said, they can happen, so people should always be extremely mindful and respectful of the crocodile’s presence.
If you really, really want to see an American crocodile, one of the best places to go is Flamingo on the southern end of Main Park Road in the Florida Keys. Flamingo is home to a fairly stable group of crocs (and mosquitos) that tend to float about and bask near the marina at Flamingo. Though I’ve seen people provide and pour freshwater from a hose to the crocs (which will lean up out of the water to snag the fresh water, as photographed below), I have not seen people actually feeding the crocs — which is probably a good thing. I’d rather these big crocs not associate people with food.