UF biologists spent months surveying the coast of south Florida counting the elusive American crocodile, and found it's rebounding. Crocodiles live mostly in estuaries that combine fresh water with salt water.
Now scientists are using the reptile to measure the success of the $7 billion everglades restoration project.
Wildlife experts call the recovery of the American crocodile remarkable. In 1975 when it was first listed as endangered, there were only 20 nesting females in the entire country, today there are 50.
Population: There are approximately 500 to 1,200 American crocodiles in Florida.
Threats: Once hunted intensively for their hides, today poaching and the loss of habitat to human development are the greatest threats faced by American crocodiles.
Survival: Crocodiles can reach 50 to 60 years of age
- American crocodiles have long, slender snouts, which distinguish them from their cousin the alligator. Also unlike the alligator, the fourth tooth on the bottom jaw of the American crocodile is visible when its mouth is closed. Adult crocodiles are 7 to 15 feet long and weigh 150 to 450 pounds.
- American crocodiles inhabit areas where fresh and salt waters mix, such as coastal wetlands and canals. They are found in southern Florida, the Caribbean, southern Mexico, and along the Central American coast south to Venezuela.
- Decidedly less aggressive than the infamous Nile and Australian crocodiles, American crocodiles are rarely seen by people. They eat a variety of crabs, fish, waterfowl and small mammals.
Alligator and Crocodile Safety Tips
- Alligators live in freshwater lakes, rivers, and swamps. They occasionally live in brackish water.
- Never get closer than 15 feet (five meters) to an alligator.
- If it hisses or opens its mouth in defense, you should back away even farther
- If an alligator attacks you, you should run away in a straight line. Alligators will outrun you for about 30 feet or so (up to 20 mph) after which they will need a bit of a lie down. They will out swim you all day long.
- If an alligator grabs you, hit it repeatedly on its relatively sensitive nose and scream. Gators don't like resistance.
- Don't try to pry the jaws open. You won't be able to.
- Don't play dead, they like that.
Source: A compilation of Web reports contributed to this report.