Researchers have confirmed the presence of Nile crocodiles in Florida. However, the question remains: how the heck did they get there?
A paper just released by researchers from the University of Florida's Florida Museum of Natural History confirms the presence of Nile crocodiles in Florida. Specifically, the paper states that 3 crocodiles captured near Miami over the last decade were all genetically related. So, how did they get there?
According to University of Florida herpetologist Kenneth Krysko:
They didn't swim from Africa. But we really don't know how they got into the wild.
The first confirmed instance of a Nile crocodile in Florida was a small hatchling found on the front porch of a house in 2009. The second was a 4-foot long female captured in a park in 2011. The third was another female captured in Everglades National Park in 2014. All three crocodiles were captured in southern Florida. The first two are now housed in research facilities while the third was euthanized.
While genetic testing confirmed the captured crocodiles were related to each other, it also confirms that the captured crocodiles were genetically distinct from those housed at all licensed facilities in the state, such as Disney's Animal Kingdom. This indicates that the crocodiles did not escape from a place authorized to have them.
Perhaps these crocodiles escaped from an unlicensed reptile collector. Perhaps they were intentionally released by someone hoping they would get established in the Florida Everglades. Either way, the appearance of yet another invasive species is bad news for the state.
Crocodiles, which can grow to over 16 feet in length and weigh over 1,000 pounds, are significantly larger and more aggressive than the alligators native to Florida. They are also responsible for hundreds of deaths each year in Africa.
Though they can't interbreed with alligators, they may be able to crossbreed with the endangered American Crocodile, which would be very bad for the species to say the least.
Hopefully, these are isolated incidents and there is not actually an established breeding population of Nile Crocodiles in Florida. If there is, the presence of such a large and dangerous invasive species would make the problems posed by the Burmese Python look like child's play.