Forget Gators. Coral Gables is Home to a Sizable Population of American Crocodiles
Visiting golfers at Deering Bay Yacht and Country Club don’t think their round is complete unless they’ve had a sighting. Of a crocodile, that is, because it’s a favorite spot for the reptiles; since the Coral Gables Waterway is the northern boundary of the Biscayne Bay Estuary, and canals and shorelines are their favorite habitats, it is no surprise to find crocs in the area. They have been spotted sunning on golf fairways, swimming in neighborhood canals and lagoons, and visiting the UM campus.
The American crocodile was first documented on Biscayne Bay in 1869. In 1926, the Coral Gables commission voted to update their city seal with the head of a crocodile in one quadrant. (In today’s seal, it’s been replaced by a pelican.)
American crocs grow to between seven and 15 feet, and weigh up to 450 lbs. Unlike alligators, they are grayish-green in color, not black. They also have a more tapered snout, with a fourth tooth that sticks out when their mouth is closed. When the mouth is open, by the way, the croc is not inviting a meal to drop in, but just adjusting body temperature.
Rest assured that our local crocs are consistently studied and many are tagged and monitored. It’s hard to pin down an exact population number. One study published in 2011 documented sightings of more than 600 crocs in the Biscayne Bay Estuary .
If you see a crocodile (or alligator) keep a safe distance away. If you have a problem call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 1.866.392.4286.
–– Karen Buchsbaum