Study: American crocodile displaced 95 miles found a way to return to the place of capture 2.5 years later

The reptile appears to have covered a lot of ground in the months following the move, indicating ignorance of the environment.

LONG KEY, Florida. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Research Institute recently published a new study on the movement of American crocodiles, with one making a significant journey back almost 100 miles from where it was caught.

In a Facebook post, the study leaders explain that American crocodiles are found in the U.S. coastal areas of South Florida, where population growth of both humans and crocodiles has led to increased conflict.

One way to limit the amount of conflict between humans and crocodiles is to move the animal from where it was captured to another location many miles away.

Back in 2005, the FWC teamed up with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, and the University of Florida to develop what they call “America’s Crocodile-Human Interaction Response Plan.”

To better understand the efficiency of moving the scaly creatures, the researchers captured and attached GPS trackers to 17 crocodiles – seven of them were moved before release and the rest were released back where they were captured as a control group.

“The results showed that while crocodiles have a remarkable ability to return to their original location of capture, distance seems to play a role,” the researchers explain in their post.

Three crocodiles traveled 28 miles or less and returned in less than two weeks, while three others who traveled over 68 miles did not return.

But one female crocodile that was moved 95 miles was recaptured just 1/4 mile from its original location more than 2.5 years after release.

She apparently traveled a long way in the months following her move, indicating ignorance of her surroundings and a search for a familiar place.

Ultimately, the study concluded that crocodile relocation has “limited conservation value” in the Sunshine State and should only be considered if there are no other options.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the American crocodile is one of only two species of crocodile found in Florida. They are listed as endangered by the state and federal government.

They can be found in brackish or salt water, as well as ponds, coves and streams in mangrove swamps, the FWC explains online. They are reported to occasionally occur inland in the freshwater areas of Florida’s southeast coast due to the extensive canal system.

Scaled reptiles are considered a shy and reserved species. Like alligators, crocodiles rely on external heat sources to regulate their body temperature, making Florida the perfect place to live.

“A basking crocodile can be caught off guard by an approaching person and quickly (and noisily) enter the water,” FWC leaders explain online. “This behavior can frighten a person, but it should not be misunderstood.

“Crocodiles usually enter the water quietly; splashes indicate that the crocodile is frightened.”

In June, a homeowner in Plantation Key woke up to find a 10-foot crocodile in his pool.

Video from the pool deck shows a wildlife catcher quickly rescuing a scaly friend, even after its massive spray created a slippery and dangerous situation for foothold.

He was able to get the animal on deck with the help of a hunter’s assistant. That’s when the Monroe County Sheriff’s Deputy helped them move the crocodile to safety for release.

The Office of Wildlife Conservation Against Annoying Creatures has written several tips for coexisting safely with these particular reptiles, including:

  • Keep a safe distance if you see a crocodile. Be aware that crocodiles often bask with their mouths open to regulate their body temperature and there is no reason to be alarmed if you see this behavior.
  • Swim only in designated areas and only during daylight hours. Crocodiles are most active between dusk and dawn.
  • Keep pets on a leash and out of water, even in designated swimming areas, because they may resemble natural crocodile prey.
  • Pet owners who live in water where American crocodiles may be found should consider building a fence on their property that will effectively create a barrier between their pets and crocodiles.
  • Never feed crocodiles – it’s illegal and dangerous. When fed, they can overcome their natural wariness and learn to associate people with food.
  • Dispose of fish waste in special waste containers, as waste entering the water may attract fish. Also, avoid feeding other aquatic animals such as ducks because this can also attract crocodiles.

People concerned about alligators or crocodiles in their area can call the FWC at 866-392-4286.

Click here to learn more about the American crocodile.

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