So there I was today, fresh out of my Practical Plant Taxonomy mid-term and getting ready to go hunt. All my gear was lined up: Bow, tree stand, back pack, fishing rod, and cooler. I planned to spend the whole rest of the day out in the woods.
Until I face planted in my bed and slept for four and a half hours.
Once I finally snapped out of my coma, I really wanted to be in my stand. However, the last thing I wanted to do was fill up the Jeep with gas, drive out to the woods, and haul all my gear to the back of the swamp…Then back out. So instead of going hunting/fishing today, I sat on my butt and played video games and relaxed for the first time in almost two weeks. I’ll chase deer and catfish Thursday.
I didn’t forget Tuesday Terrors though (even if I am writing this at 12:30 am Wednesday morning).
This week’s Tuesday Terror is the American Crocodile. A surprisingly large amount of people are unaware of the fact that the US does, in fact, have crocodiles. The most common thing I hear is someone calling an Alligator, a crocodile.
|Gator in the Glades|
They are two completely different species and Florida is the only state in the US that has Crocodiles. However, their range is extremely restricted. I certainly won’t be walking along the beach in Pensacola and run into one…Unless of course it escaped from the zoo.
|Map taken from nationalgeographic.co.uk|
The American Crocodile is restricted to the Everglades and 10,000 Islands region in South-Southeast Florida. It ventures into saltwater a bit more frequently than Alligators and primarily inhabits the Mangrove swamps in this region of the state. Mention a true Saltwater Crocodile and many people envision Steve Irwin wrangling a ferocious Croc in his khakis. The American Crocodile is actually a different species and thank God. They aren’t nearly as aggressive as the Saltwater Crocodile located in places such as Australia. To give you an idea of the aggressiveness of those guys, I heard this story on the radio and found a couple of reports online.
Apparently the Croc jumped out of the water, and snatched a fisherman up to his shoulder WHILE HE WAS IN THE BOAT.
You can scratch “Kayak fish in Australia” off my Bucket List…Unless of course, I’ve already reached the end of my Bucket List.
The American Crocodile is apparently a little more…Chill (Though it’s not something to go hug). There are a couple of key identifying features that one can use to distinguish omnipresent Alligator from the American Crocodile. I think the most obvious feature are their teeth. When an Alligator has its mouth closed, most of its teeth aren’t visible. When the American Crocodile, on the other hand, has its mouth closed, almost all of its razor sharp teeth are visibly sticking out. Another key feature is the snout shape. Gators have blunt, rounded snouts. Crocodiles have very long, almost pointed snouts.
|Photo taken from scienceray.com|
Finally, the scales on a Crocodile’s back can give it away. Unlike the a Gator’s back which is kinda lumpy and the spikes on the tail aren’t all that sharp, the Croc has near spikes sticking from its back and tail.
I of course, had only read these things for some of my classes like Wildlife of Florida. Given a bleach white skull on a lab desk, I could tell you the difference between a Croc and a Gator. But last spring I got a chance to see one of these American Crocodiles in the wild, and it was obvious it was a Croc.
While on a kayak fishing trip in the Everglades last February, I paddled into a small pond to start casting around. Immediately upon entering the pond, I noticed what looked like a giant gray pile of dirt on the far end. As I got closer, I realized that it wasn’t a pile of dirt, but rather a Gator. A HUGE gator. I then did the only logical thing to do in such a situation…
I paddled closer.
Once I got within about 60 yards of the living dinosaur, I realized that it wasn’t an Alligator. It was 100% an American Crocodile. Visible teeth on the outside of the mouth, huge sharp tail spikes, and a narrow snout. He was also gargantuan. I paddle a 16 foot kayak and I certainly didn’t feel like the longest thing in the pond.
|American Crocodile while on a kayak fishing trip|
Even laying on his stomach, the Croc’s back came a good 2 1/2 foot high. I then snapped a few pictures, and decided to be on my way before it decided to move off the bank. It was a pretty cold day, so I doubt he really felt like moving, but I didn’t want to push my luck.
I did a quick search to see whether or not there had been any documented attacks by American Crocodiles in the US. Though I did find many in Mexico, and some South American countries, I couldn’t find anything about attacks in the US. That certainly doesn’t mean it can’t happen. It just means it hasn’t happened yet. With conservation awareness growing for the species, and human population/expansion on the rise, an attack on a human in the coming years wouldn’t surprise me in the least.
If you’re ever lucky enough to see one, just remember to give it space. Please don’t EVER feed one and have it start associating humans with food. And I wouldn’t advise swimming near it. Other than that, you should be well prepared to encounter one.
Oh, and never go kayak fish in Australia.
I’ve still got quite a bit of catching up to do with my reports, so hopefully I can knock those out later this week. And if you haven’t done so already, please vote in the poll on the upper right side of the web page. Stay tuned!