You aren't likely to see many crocodiles in 48 of the states, but if you are lucky enough to be vacationing in a sunny southeastern locale, you may indeed catch a glimpse of Crocodylus acutus. These rough-skinned, greenish-brown carnivores are found in a very tiny portion of the United States -- think Florida and, on at least one occasion, a second state as well.
Crocodiles in Florida live mostly in Everglades and Biscayne national parks. It is extremely rare for people to see these crocodiles, much less to have any interaction with them. These are some very timid reptiles, after all. Crocodiles also frequently live in canals close to the Turkey Point Power Plant in Homestead, Florida, quite close to Biscayne. The Ten Thousand Islands, Collier Seminole State Park and Sanibel Island also have croc residents.
In 2008, a 6-foot American crocodile made a rare appearance outside Florida -- at South Carolina's Isle of Palms, a common spot for vacationing. The large reptile was caught in the surf and may actually have made his way up the southeastern coast -- from Florida -- by swimming, plain and simple. After being caught, the croc -- an endangered species, exempt from dispatch -- was sent back to Florida to live in the wild or an alligator park.
Outside of the States, these large creatures carve out homes in the tropics and subtropics of the Americas. Crocodiles inhabit Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, Belize, Ecuador, Panama, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Venezuela and Ecuador.
Common environments for crocodiles include mangrove swamps, creeks, lagoons on coasts, tidal estuaries, mouths of rivers, lakes, damp wetlands, bays with ample mangrove trees, coves and ponds. These relatively meek creatures exist in saltwater and freshwater settings alike.
The population of existing American crocodiles is labeled as "vulnerable" on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Loss of habitat in their native range from urban development and pressure from shrimp farming are problematic for the species. Shrimp farming often ruins mangrove swamps, and these swamps are a choice croc habitat.
- Defenders of Wildlife: Basic Facts About Crocodiles
- The Post and Courier: Crocodile Cruises IOP Beach
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: American Crocodile
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Crocodylus acutus
- Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission: American Crocodiles
- Central Florida Zoo: American Crocodile
- IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Crocodylus acutus