Wildlife & Habitat

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Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge, operating as a satellite of the National Key Deer Refuge, is on upper Key Largo in Monroe County, Florida, and was established under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (as amended) and the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965 (as amended in 1976). The refuge was established in April 1980 and currently covers 6,700 acres, including 650 acres of open water. It contains a mosaic of habitat types including tropical hardwood hammock, mangrove forest, and salt marsh. These habitats are vital for hundreds of plants and animals, including eight federally listed species.

  • American Crocodile

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    American crocodiles are found throughout the Caribbean Sea, Central and South America along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. Areas that contain breeding populations include Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Turkey Point Power Plant cooling canals, and Everglades National Park. Increasingly, there is also evidence of nesting on areas further south in the Florida Keys and an overall increase in populations.

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  • Key Largo Woodrat

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    Key Largo woodrats are medium-sized rodents that historically occurred throughout the island of Key Largo within tropical hardwood hammocks. Residential and other development along with non-native predators (primarily feral and free-ranging cats) have constricted the range of woodrats to conservation lands on the northern 1/3rd of Key Largo.

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  • Schaus' Swallowtail Butterfly

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    The Schaus’ swallowtail butterfly is a large dark brown and yellow butterfly that can be found in the tropical hardwood hammock of North Key Largo and Elliot Key. Historically, their range extended from south Miami to Lower Matecumbe Key. Their decline can be attributed mainly to habitat loss as well as the spraying of insecticides for mosquito control.

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  • Tropical Hardwood Hammock

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    Tropical hardwood hammocks occur in the highest elevation of Key Largo and are characterized by diverse woody plants, including numerous fruit-producing trees and shrubs, much of West Indian origin.

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  • Mangrove Forests

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    Mangrove forests are very productive ecological communities that occur in southern parts of Florida along shorelines. They serve important ecological roles, including acting as habitat for a diversity of wildlife, shoreline protection from storms, and improving water quality by stabilizing substrate.

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