Florida Keys

Rare crocodile walking on the highway killed by a passing truck

A female crocodile, similar to one killed in a U.S. 1 accident early Wednesday, digs a nest on North Key Largo in June 2016 in this wildlife-camera image.
A female crocodile, similar to one killed in a U.S. 1 accident early Wednesday, digs a nest on North Key Largo in June 2016 in this wildlife-camera image.

An American crocodile killed in pre-dawn traffic in Key Largo may have been looking for a nest.

A Freightliner truck was headed south on U.S. 1 near mile marker 106 when it struck the female crocodile that walked onto the highway at 4:20 a.m. Wednesday.

“The driver ...stated the [crocodile] crossed into their path and they couldn’t avoid it,” the Florida Highway Patrol reported.

No charges were filed against the driver, Ronnie Ramaro of Miramar, who stopped and called authorities. Early reports identified the large reptile as an alligator.

“The driver is to be commended for reporting the incident,” said William Billings of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Crocodile Response Program.

“Post-mortem examination of the carcass, as well as knowledge of the animal’s death, provide valuable data to the FWC and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about Monroe County’s crocodile population,” Billings said.

The crocodile, measured at 8 feet, 2 inches in length, might have been carrying eggs. “It sounds like maybe she was looking for a place to nest,” said Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge manager Jeremy Dixon.

American crocodiles nearly became extinct by the mid-1970s when only a handful of breeding females — all in the Keys — were known to exist.

Habitat conservation on North Key Largo and the Everglades, along with endangered-species protection, helped the crocodile population recover to current estimates of about 2,000 adults. In 2007, the American crocodile’s protected status was changed to “threatened.”

It remains illegal to intentionally harm American crocodiles, which are a distinct species different from more aggressive crocodiles in Africa and Australia.

“Conflict with humans rarely occurs because of the shy nature of American crocodiles,” says the National Park Service.

Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206

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