MELBOURNE BEACH, FLORIDA — On Sunday, an eight-foot American Crocodile was found “relaxing on the beach” in front of the Barrier Island Center in Melbourne Beach. The rare sighting was reported by the Brevard County Environmentally Endangered Lands Program, which said that it was uncommon to see crocodiles that far north.
“American crocodiles typically live in coastal areas throughout the Caribbean, and southern Florida is at the very north end of their range,” the organization wrote on Facebook. Several people commented on the post and said that they’ve seen the reptiles moving north – out of their normal habitats – possibly due to the recent hurricanes.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Map below highlights where crocodiles usually live in Florida. Occasionally, crocodiles make their way further inland into freshwater regions along the southern coast of Florida.
At eight feet, the reptile is considered a young crocodile. Male American crocodiles can grow up to 20 feet, but according to Everglades National Park, they rarely exceed 14 feet in the wild.
Last month, a video shared on Facebook documented another crocodile on the beach about 25 miles south of Indian River County. In the video, a crocodile of similar length is seen wading into the shallow waves.
In 1975, the American Crocodile was endangered, and at one point, Florida was home to around 300 crocodiles at the southern tip of the Everglades. But due to environmental protections and habitat restoration, the population has grown close to 2,000 in Florida’s brackish waterways and swamps. The reptile is now listed as “vulnerable” with an increasing population.
Crocodiles may evacuate their normal nesting area in response to changing environmental conditions, such as declining barometric pressure during hurricanes and tropical storms. Both saltwater crocodiles and alligators are native to Florida. But it’s usually alligators that are found on public beaches. They normally don’t stay long due to their preference for fresh water.