American Crocodile

Crocodylus acutus
croc profile pic

One of the primary reasons that the Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1980 was to protect and preserve critical habitat for the American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus).  The American crocodile historically occurred throughout mangrove and estuarine areas of South Florida including the Florida Keys. Worldwide, 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.

American crocodiles have been known to reach lengths of 20 feet, though within populations in the US, they are typically smaller.  Female crocodiles become sexually mature at 10-13 years.  Mating season usually occurs late February through March.  To dig nests, female crocodiles excavate holes in marl and sand, and typically lay 20-60 eggs.  The female periodically visits the nest during the 86 day incubation period.  Nests typically hatch from July to August when female crocodiles excavate the nests to free the hatchlings.  Hatchlings typically stay in the vicinity of the nest for several days to a couple weeks and face a tough road to survive.  Hatchlings may be eaten by wading birds, gulls, blue crabs, and predatory fish.

The American crocodile is typically active from shortly before sunset to shortly after sunrise.  Crocodiles forage opportunistically eating fish, snakes, crabs, turtles, birds, and small mammals.  In the daytime, crocodiles bask in the sun in cooler months and spend warmer months in shaded areas or underwater dens.

More information on identifying and co-existing with crocodiles here.

Facts About American Crocodile

In the United States, the American crocodile is federally listed as a threatened species after being down-listed from endangered in 2007.