Environment

‘Suspicious’ crocodile killing in Florida Keys

 

Cmorgan@MiamiHerald.com

A crocodile relocated last month after laying its eggs in a Florida Keys neighborhood may have been intentionally killed, Florida wildlife managers said Wednesday.

The carcass of the 8-foot-long female, a long-time denizen of the area that had survived being run over by cars in 2007, was found floating Sunday next to Florida Bay mangroves near Mile Marker 74 in Lower Matecumbe.

Carli Segelson, a spokeswoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said she couldn’t reveal how the protected species was killed but “obviously, it was suspicious to the point where we felt it needed to be investigated.”

State and federal laws prohibit harassing or killing North American crocodiles, a threatened species. But its growing population and expanding range has increased encounters and complaints from coastal residents across South Florida. Concerns have been heightened in the Keys since a croc was blamed for snatching a dog from a Key Largo dock last year.

In April, the female laid eggs in planter box along U.S. 1 in the Tollgate Shore neighborhood, prompting wildlife officers to take the unusual step of moving it four miles away. Unlike alligators, North American crocodiles tend to shy away from humans and have never been documented in an attack in Florida so the agency in the past has been reluctant to relocate them. Crocodiles also tend to be territorial, returning to the same areas repeatedly.

Wildlife officers first encountered the croc in 2007 after it was struck by cars on U.S. 1. The injured reptile, tagged “Blue No. 9,” was taken to a wildlife care facility and recovered. The eggs it laid turned out not to be viable, Segelson said, which is not uncommon for the species.

Killing a croc is a third-degree felony. The FWC and Humane Society are offering rewards of up to $6,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction. To provide information, call the FWC at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or the Crime Stoppers hotline at 800-346-TIPS.

Read more Florida Keys stories from the Miami Herald

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