State wildlife officials do not plan relocate a crocodile that has been hanging around Smather’s Beach, but instead warning people to stay away from and not feed or harass the federally protected reptile.
The American species of crocodile is “pretty transient” and “they move on pretty quickly,” Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Crocodile Response Coordinator Jason Waller said.
“They get tired of us quicker than we do of them,” Waller said. “Give them the respect and space they deserve.”
Crocodiles may look menacing, but are generally far more docile than alligators and tend to stay away from humans, Waller said.
American crocodiles are listed as “endangered” on the federal Endangered Species List. The large animals are a shy and reclusive species. They live in coastal areas throughout the Caribbean, according to the FWC, primarily in brackish or saltwater areas, and can be found in ponds, coves, and creeks in mangrove swamps.
Like alligators, crocodiles are ectothermic, meaning they rely on external sources of heat to regulate their body temperature. A basking crocodile may be surprised by an approaching person and quickly enter the water.
Crocodiles can also be seen sunning with their mouths open, or “gaping.” This behavior is also related to regulating their body temperature, and does not mean that the crocodile is acting aggressively toward people, according to the National Park Service.
American crocs are known as being shy and encounters with humans are very rare. A couple who received non-life threatening injuries from being bitten in the Miami area in August 2014 were the first and only reported crocodile bites in America. According to the Miami Herald, the couple ignored warning signs about the reptiles and were swimming in a canal at 2 a.m. in an area where several crocodiles had lived for more than a decade, and had even been named by local residents. The Herald reported officials as saying the crocodiles were likely startled by the couple and protecting their territory.
It might be good to keep in mind, though, that adult crocodiles do eat meat — typically small birds, fish, crabs, turtles and the like, and FWC officials recommend keeping your distance.