Is it possible to have something more terrifying than a Burmese Python taking up residence in Florida? Apparently, it is as the Nile Crocodile has now been captured twice around Miami, Florida. If you did not know, Nile Crocodiles are primarily found in the Nile River in Africa. They are the American Aligator’s violent cousin and are not to be taken lightly. These beasts have a bad habit of being overly aggressive and carnivorous. We will get to that, though and that’s basically the least of the problems they present to South Florida. So far, they have only been spotted or caught in the South, South-Eastern, and South-Western regions of Florida.
What Is The Big Difference?
First off, There are two different species of alligators in the State of Florida. The American Alligator is smaller and generally keeps to itself in the wild. The Everglades Alligators are larger but still typically keep to themselves except for territorial disputes. However, if they grow large enough, either can consider humans to be good but that is very rare. There are also American Crocodiles in South Florida and they don’t go farther north than Fort Myers or Miami, Florida. Both types of alligators have round snouts and are typically darker than crocodiles in color. Crocodiles, in general, are lighter colored and have more pointed snouts. As for temperaments, Alligators are typically not very aggressive save for in mating season and naturally, large male alligators are best avoided at all times. However, the Everglades Alligator is definitely more aggressive than its smaller cousin and should not be trifled with. American Crocodiles, while still more aggressive than American Alligators, can be safely compared to Everglades Alligators. This all changes with Nile Crocodiles. These are the same beasts that we once watched Steve Irwin wrangle on TV. They are mean, nasty and all around just generally avoided at all costs. It is also important to note that while both generally occupy two different types of bodies of water, they can venture into each other’s territory. Nile Crocs also have a real sweet tooth for cattle, which will be a problem for farmers whose land borders the Everglades or any body of water, which is popular for cattle farmers. Some of the largest Nile Crocs on record were in excess of twenty feet long!
How Did They Come To Florida?
It is not a popular belief that these Nile Crocodiles swam across the Atlantic Ocean. It isn’t entirely impossible but it is highly unlikely without them being spotted elsewhere in the Atlantic Basin first. No, it is far more likely that they were illegally smuggled into the United States by an exotic pet owner. Then, either they couldn’t handle the animal and it escaped, or they knowingly released it into the wild. Of course, two Nile Crocodiles have been captured so that means they had more than one. Other sightings have been reported as well. Given how large the Nile Crocs were when captured, they could have been here for quite some time. It has not yet been reported if the two captured crocs were of opposite genders. There are some Nile Crocs currently in zoos and theme parks around Florida but DNA taken from the two captured crocs do not match that of any currently in captivity. With that ruled out, this may continue to be a mystery for quite some time.
The Impact Of Nile Crocodiles On Florida’s Delicate Ecosystem
In the short term, these Nile Crocodiles are simply a threat to people. They are renowned man-eaters in Africa, taking around two-hundred lives a year. Alligators in the United States have only claimed twenty-four lives since records were kept in the 1960s. Six of those occurred in Lee and Charlotte Counties in Florida. The long term effects are certain to be the bigger issue. Nile Crocs can easily access estuaries, lakes, rivers, and naturally, the ocean. This includes coral reefs. While this is interesting, you were probably wondering what in the world it had to do with coral reefs and this is it. Florida is home to many natural and man-made coral reefs. Most notable is the Florida Reef, which is only smaller than the Great Barrier Reef and the Belize Barrier Reef. The “Great” Florida Reef as it is sometimes called is located just seaward of the Florida Keys. These Nile Crocodiles can easily access it and can easily wreak havoc on the ecosystem there. There are already enough predators in the Gulf Of Mexico’s waters in this area and they do not need one more with a large appetite. Furthermore, Nile Crocs can travel easily through the Florida Everglades and possibly cross-breed with any of the American Crocs, or the other two species of Alligators.
A Possible Big Problem All Around
Whether it be coral reefs or the Everglades inland, Florida will have a serious problem if Nile Crocodiles take up residence there. Burmese Pythons have already caused South Florida a plethora of problems over the last few years. Other invasive species like Africanized Bees in Florida have also been a problem for both the population and the ecosystem as of late. While some things can’t be readily controlled now that it is too late, others can. Exotic pet owners are asked to surrender their animals, without penalty of law, rather than releasing them in the state. Sadly, such things come a little too late. There is even rumored to be a small population of King Cobras living in the Everglades closest to Miami, FL. The question now isn’t “How do we stop them”, it is “How do we deal with these invasive species?” and that is more troubling than ever before.