The sharp-eyed may have noticed a rare American crocodile visiting a beach in Florida, a state where sightings of alligators are all too common.
The crocodile was spotted “hanging around” Melbourne Beach last week, the Melbourne Beach Police said in a statement, estimating that the reptile is about 10 years old.
Florida is home to over a million alligators, which live in waterways across the state, but it is very unusual to spot American crocodiles this far north in the state. Alligators are darker in color than crocodiles, and have a broad, rounded snout. While alligators prefer freshwater, crocodiles are usually found in salt water areas.
The American crocodile lives in southern Florida and the Keys, usually in brackish or saltwater areas. They can also be found in coastal areas of the Caribbean. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), they are protected as a threatened species. Their population began declining in Florida mostly due to habitat loss.
The Melbourne Beach Police said the crocodile has been tagged with a telemetry unit so that they can track his movements.
“There are less than 12 statewide that are wearing this unit. They picked him because he’s one of the northernmost American crocodiles, and they want to follow where he goes in the winter,” the police said in a statement.
The police warned people not to mess with, or feed the crocodile.
“It is a Felony,” the statement said.
Although crocodile sightings in this area are rare, it is not the first time they have been spotted. A crocodile has been sighted in this area at least three times in the last six months. It isn’t clear whether all of the sightings were of the same crocodile.
A local drone pilot and photographer, Ian Gronosky, said on Facebook last month that he had spotted a crocodile in his “backyard” in Melbourne Beach.
A video shows the crocodile floating in the water.
According to Gronosky, the nine-foot crocodile was born in Key Largo, which is around 240 miles to the south. Although it’s rare to see crocodiles as far north as Melbourne Beach, they have been known to stray north before.
“When he was a juvenile, he was hit twice by cars back to back and spent some time in rehab before being released,” Gronosky said in a caption to the video. “Since being released he traveled from Key Largo over the years and ended up on our beachside around December this last year. FWC said he got pretty beat up when trying to live in the ocean and ended up being captured, had a transmitter added and released in Archie Carr.”
Officials haven’t confirmed whether the recent sighting in Melbourne Beach is the same crocodile, however it is likely.
A crocodile was also spotted at Melbourne beach in December 2022.
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