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Spectacled Caiman (Caiman crocodilus)


Caiman Crocodile

First year: 1960

Established status: Populations are confirmed breeding and have been self-sustaining for 10 or more consecutive years.

Estimated Florida range: Two counties for at least 10 years, also in two other counties that have not reported breeding

Statewide trend: Stable

Habitats: Freshwater lakes, rivers or streams


Species Account

The native range of the spectacled caiman extends from southern Mexico to northern Argentina, where it may attain lengths of over 2.4 m (8 ft). South Florida specimens were released or escaped from the pet trade and are typically less than 1.8 m (6 ft) long. Breeding populations occur in localized areas of Dade and Broward counties, where they inhabit freshwater marshes, heavily vegetated ponds and lakes, and canals. This "small" crocodilian is secretive but is feisty when cornered. The caiman can be differentiated from native crocodilians by a curved bony ridge across the moderately sharp snout just in front of the eyes. Hatchlings are banded with very dark brown on a dark olive ground color, and the color darkens and the pattern obscures as they grow. It is susceptible to cold weather, and its northern expansion is limited by occasional freezes in south Florida (Bartlett and Bartlett 1999). Extirpation of the caiman population at Homestead Air Force Base, Dade County, was begun in 1977 (Ellis 1980) but caimans are still breeding there (L. J. Hord, FFWCC, Okeechobee, personal communication). In 2001, a nest of 41 eggs was collected (39 hatched) and 2 adults were killed near the junction of Levee No. 67A and Canal No. 123 (Holiday Park), Broward County (L. J. Hord, personal communication).

Threats to Natives

Preys upon a variety of vertebrates (Ellis 1980) and competes for food and space with the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)


Bartlett, R. D., and P. P. Bartlett. 1999. A field guide to Florida reptiles and amphibians. Gulf Publishing Company, Houston, Texas. 278pp.

Ellis, T. M. 1980. Caiman crocodilus: an established exotic in south Florida. Copeia 1980:152-154.

King, F. W., and T. Krakauer. 1966. The exotic herpetofauna of southeast Florida. Quarterly Journal of the Florida Academy of Sciences 29:144-154.