The Florida population of the American crocodile is a conservation success story. Listed as an endangered species in 1975, crocodile numbers have since recovered from a few hundred individuals to as many as 2,000 adult crocodiles today. The Florida population of this native species is now classified as threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
American crocodiles live in coastal areas throughout the Caribbean and occur at the northern end of their range in south Florida and the Keys. They occur in brackish or saltwater areas and can be found in ponds, coves, and creeks in mangrove swamps. They are occasionally encountered inland in freshwater areas of the southeast Florida coast as a result of the extensive canal system.
American crocodiles are a shy and reclusive species. Like alligators, crocodiles rely on external sources of heat to regulate their body temperature. Crocodiles control their body temperature by basking in the sun or moving to areas with warmer or cooler air or water temperatures.
A basking crocodile may be surprised by an approaching person and quickly (and noisily) enter the water. This behavior might startle the person, but it should not be misunderstood. Crocodiles would normally enter the water quietly; splashing away indicates that the crocodile is frightened.
Crocodiles can also be seen sunning with their mouths open, or "gaping." This behavior is also related to regulating their body temperature and does not mean that the crocodile is acting aggressively.
Tools and Resources
The FWC takes public safety seriously and administers a program designed to be proactive and responsive. People who are concerned about a crocodile should call 866-392-4286 (866-FWC-GATOR), and one of our crocodile response agents will respond. The FWC also provides information to help people can safely co-exist with crocodiles.