Do Crocodiles Live in Florida?

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Published: March 13, 2022
Image Credit Kmanoj / Creative Commons
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Is that an alligator or a crocodile? It is most likely an alligator if you are in Florida, but do crocodiles live in Florida too? How can you tell them apart? Do you want to get close enough to tell? Let’s find out if crocodiles live in Florida.

What Is The Difference Between A Crocodile And An Alligator?

Crocodile vs. Alligator
Alligators are smaller, darker-colored, and less aggressive than crocodiles.

A-Z-Animals.com

There are three families in the order of Crocodilia; Crocodylidae (crocodiles), Alligatoridae (alligators and caiman), and Gavialidae (gharial and false gharial). Alligators have eight different species, Gavialidaes have 1, and there are 14 kinds of crocodiles. The difference between these is that alligators are smaller (8-15 feet, 400-800 lbs), have a rounded snout, and are dark green or black. Crocodiles are larger (up to 23 feet and 2,200 pounds), have a v-shaped snout, and are light green, brown, or grey. Gharials look distinctively different with a long skinny snout and bulging eyes. There are only small populations of gharials left in Nepal and northern India.

Are There Crocodiles In The Everglades National Park?

Yes! The Everglades provides an ideal habitat for crocodiles. Because crocodiles need a warm climate, the Everglades’ subtropical conditions provide a great place for crocs. American crocodiles are shy animals (as opposed to the aggressive saltwater crocs of Africa and Australia) and live in more brackish waters and estuaries (where freshwater rivers enter the ocean). They may not be visible like the alligators that may be found in the park at Shark Valley, the Anhinga Trail, and Eco Pond. The Everglades is one place where you can find both alligators and crocodiles.

Why Do Crocodiles Live At The Turkey Point Power Plant In Miami?

A large group of crocodiles lives in the canals at Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant.

Kmanoj / Creative Commons

It may be surprising to learn that 25% of the crocodile population in Florida live at Turkey Point! There are 5,900 acres of man-made cooling canals that wildlife is attracted to due to the protection it provides from the tides and rising water levels. The canal system has raised areas, like berms, that crocodiles lay their eggs on, and the nests are safe from flooding. There is also little human interference. A monitoring program was started in 1978 to help track the crocodile population that at one point was endangered. Due to conservation efforts like that at Turkey Point, the status has been upgraded to threatened.

Do Crocodiles Live In The Florida Keys?

Yes, there are crocodiles living in the canals of the Keys. Islamorada is just south of the Everglades, so it makes sense why crocodiles would cross over. As one of the Upper Keys, there are more sightings of crocodiles here than further south. Crocodiles have been documented in Key West and down to Dry Tortugas. One crocodile was common in that area; they even named him (Cleatus). However, after 14 years, officials decided it would be safer to relocate the crocodile, so in 2017 they transferred it to the Everglades. Crocodiles can live 50-70 years in the wild.

Where Is The Crocodile National Wildlife Refuge?

The Crocodile National Wildlife Refuge is located in the Keys. It has a saltwater mangrove where crocodiles live. The park also has habitats of hardwood hammock, mangrove forest, and salt marsh. Although the park is not open to the public for visits, you can volunteer to join the Crocodile Lake team. Sounds scary to me!

What Crocodiles Live At The Rookery Bay In Naples?

Apex predator: crocodile
Crocodiles can live in freshwater and saltwater and often live in brackish water containing both.

Milan Zygmunt/Shutterstock.com

Rookery Bay is in Naples, in southwest Florida, along the Gulf of Mexico. It is 110,000 acres of mangrove forests, uplands, and estuaries. It borders the western Everglades, so again it makes sense that crocodiles would live here. American crocodiles can live in freshwater and saltwater because they have salt glands that can process sodium, unlike alligators that prefer freshwater. Brackish waters like that in the Rookery Bay estuaries are ideal for crocodiles with a mix of freshwater and saltwater.

Has A Crocodile Ever Made It All The Way Up To Tampa Bay?

Yes! A crocodile tagged by the conservationists at Turkey Point (the Power Plant in Miami) was found in Tampa Bay! That is a distance of 207 miles. Crocodiles can reach speeds of 20mph in short bursts, but if they maintained a steady 10mph pace, it would take them 21 hours (without rest stops) to make it to Tampa. My guess is this croc made a more gradual trip, maybe even over years.

Are There Nile Crocodiles In Florida?

Nile crocodiles are an average of 16 feet long, but some can get as big as 20 feet!

Vicky Baldwin / Creative Commons

Nile crocodiles are large, aggressive crocodiles that live in Africa. They average 16 feet in length, but some have been recorded at 20 feet long! They are typically 500lbs, but some can reach 1,650lbs. Three crocodiles were found in 2009, 2011, and 2014 and confirmed as Nile crocodiles by DNA testing. However, there are no reports today that show there is a population of Nile crocodiles in Florida. It is likely that these crocodiles were brought into the state illegally, maybe as baby crocs, and raised and released. 

Are There Crocodiles Living At The Sanibel Island Golf Club?

Yes! At least there used to be. In January 2017, a golfer reported an odd-looking alligator on hole 3. It turned out to be a crocodile! The news report said Frank Mazzotti, a wildlife ecology professor at the University of Florida, said that there had been more and more sightings of crocodiles outside their normal zone. Sanibel Island is about 50 miles north of Rookery Bay in Naples, where they normally live. That’s quite a swim!

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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share the planet with. I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with a degree in Elementary Education and I am a former teacher. When I am not writing I love going to my kids' soccer games, watching movies, taking on DIY projects and running with our giant Labradoodle "Tango".

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