Some celebrities avoid the spotlight. But "Croczilla" has emerged once again to smile for the paparazzi.
Wildlife photographer Kym Clark spotted one of the Everglades' most reclusive inhabitants, a massive 14-foot-long crocodile nicknamed Croczilla. It's the second time in a year she's crossed paths with what she said is the "largest wild American Crocodile reported in Everglades National Park," and possibly in Florida.
"Croczilla was quite possibly just as happy to see me as I was to see him!" she wrote in an Instagram post. "We only met one other time, but it was definitely love at first sight. This massive American Crocodile is absolutely the king of the Everglades."
Clark said she spotted him basking in the Florida sun by Nine Mile Pond. Her first encounter with the huge reptile was in April 2023. "This Croc has been on my herping (reptile hunting) bucket list for awhile now," she wrote at the time.
"So excited to have finally met him!!!"
Are crocodiles endangered?
The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) calls the Florida population of the American crocodile a "conservation success story." It was listed as an endangered species in 1975 with only a few hundred individuals but now there are an estimated 1,000 to 2,500 crocodiles crawling and swimming around the lower coastal region of Florida as far north as Charlotte County on the Gulf Coast and in the lower Indian River on the Atlantic Coast, according to the FWC. The Florida population is now classified as "threatened" by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
However, with a larger population comes more crocodile sightings. American crocodiles tend to be shy and reclusive, and "conflicts between them and people are extremely rare in Florida," the FWC said. But there were multiple sightings over the summer of a 9-foot crocodile in Satellite Beach and more warning signs went up in the area after reports of a croc swimming away with a small pug dog in its mouth. In September, swimmers at Pompano Beach rushed out of the surf when a crocodile was spotted swimming toward a lifeguard.
Crocodiles are most often spotted in brackish and saltwater habitats such as ponds, coves and tidal creeks lined with mangroves, or inland in freshwater habitats.
What's the difference between crocodiles and alligators?
The American crocodile is one of the largest crocodile species, with males potentially reaching lengths of up to 20 feet and weighing up to a ton. Like alligators or any other large crocodilian, crocodiles can be dangerous to humans but they tend not to be as aggressive as Asian and African crocodiles.
Crocodiles are greyish-green in color with a narrow, tapered snout. Alligators are black with a broad, rounded snout. When a crocodile's mouth is closed, the fourth tooth on its lower jaw is exposed, while alligators expose their upper teeth when their mouths are closed. Young crocodiles are light, with dark stripes. Young alligators are dark, with yellow stripes.
Why do crocodiles open their mouths like that?
Crocodiles often lie along a shore basking in the sun to raise their core body temperatures and boost their metabolisms, according to the FWC, and they may have their mouths open. But it's not meant to be threatening. Crocodiles open their mouths to help regulate their body temperature.
What do I do if I see a crocodile?
American crocodiles are timid and tend to avoid humans, but they are still predatory animals and should be treated with caution. While juvenile alligators and crocodiles eat insects, amphibians, small fish and other invertebrates, according to the FWC, the adult reptiles go after bigger fish, turtles, snakes, birds, and small mammals, which might include dogs and cats if they get too close to the water.
Never feed an alligator or crocodile. It's illegal, and you don't want the gator to start feeling comfortable around humans.
Most of the time you can stay away from it and just let it be. But if you see an alligator or crocodile that poses a threat to people, pets or property, call Call 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286). If there is an immediate threat, call 911.
Can I kill a crocodile in Florida?
No. State law prohibits killing, harassing or possessing alligators or crocodiles or their eggs. It's a third-degree felony.
In Florida, alligators and crocodiles can only be killed if deemed a nuisance by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and then only by a contracted nuisance alligator trapper. Call 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286) if the reptile is at least 4 feet in length and you believe it poses a threat to people, pets or property.
Alligators and crocodiles less than 4 feet in length are not large enough to be dangerous to people or pets, unless handled. Don't handle them. It's dangerous — even small bites can result in serious infection — and illegal.
This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: 'Croczilla': 14-foot crocodile spotted in Florida Everglades