Wayne Carter may be one of the busiest professionals in the Florida Keys, working as chief executive officer of the Marathon and Lower Keys Association of Realtors.
But he’s a got a side gig: Working as a crocodile response “agent” for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
“As a teenager, I worked for a reptile import house that had crocodiles and alligators,” the 15-year Keys resident said. “I’ve worked for safari attractions and Theater of the Sea [in Islamorada]. Alligators have lived in the Keys a long time. This is their territory, as well.
Response agents are called when someone reports a nuisance crocodile. According to myfwc.com, they help the FWC’s crocodile response coordinator.
“They may be involved in site visits, carcass recoveries and capture and translocations of American crocodiles,” the site reads.
If the FWC deems the animal a continuous threat, agents capture it and relocate it. Crocodolly in Islamorada has been relocated offshore three times over the years but gone back to the neighborhood she calls home each time. They know it’s her because she is tagged.
“We use a noose around the neck or tail, cover the eyes with a towel and use electrical tape on the mouth,” Carter said. “They’re protected animals so we want to take care of them and make sure they don’t go under any undue stress.”
American crocodiles — the local population is mostly in the Upper Keys — are generally shy and docile, unlike their crocodile cousins elsewhere in the world, and alligators. But things happen. A few years back, a croc snatched a dog from a Key Largo dock.
The largest crocodile Carter has helped relocate was 12.5 feet.
FWC officials couldn’t be reached for comment on how many crocodile response agents are in the Keys and how many were moved last year.
But the FWC says “a basking crocodile may be surprised by an approaching person and quickly (and noisily) enter the water. This behavior might startle the person, but it should not be misunderstood. Crocodiles would normally enter the water quietly; splashing away indicates that the crocodile is frightened.”
Anyone who comes across a crocodile near their house should contact the FWC at (888) 404-3922.
“Remember that crocodiles have been here for a long time. They’re not here to hurt anyone,” Carter said. If you leave them alone, they’ll leave you alone.”
Anyone interested in becoming a crocodile response agent should call Liz Barraco at (850) 556-2269.