At the University of Miami, out-of-state students arrive on campus each fall and get their first glimpses of one of the most quintessential images of Floridian wildlife: the American Crocodile.
The university’s Lake Osceola is home to two crocodiles; one five feet in length, and the other, six to eight feet in length. The reptiles are an attraction of their own; entertaining students such as Mackenzie Ann Green, a sophomore who named the two crocodiles “Winthrop” and “Winifred.”
But lately the two crocodiles have been making unusually bold appearances, including emerging out of the water, occasionally on pedestrian walkways. Last February, a crocodile took an evening stroll on a university sidewalk before engaging in a violent confrontation with another crocodile.
The University of Miami Police Department believes the crocodiles’ aggressive behavior is a result of their annual mating season, which begins in spring and continues until late May.
Crocodiles on university grounds fall under the jurisdiction of UMPD, which has taken measures to relocate them and keep larger ones out of Lake Osceola. Because the lake is connected to Biscayne Bay under U.S. 1, authorities have installed grating to keep crocodiles from entering campus, and fences have been built to corral them. Rocks have been laid down around the lake shore to prevent the crocodiles from climbing out of the water, where they could potentially be in close range to students.
Russell Clusman, deputy chief of UMPD, mentioned that eventually police would like to move the crocodiles to an off-campus location. But the reptiles, who seem to enjoy the sheltered nature of Lake Osceola and its abundance of waterfowl and fish to dine on, always seem to find their way back.
“Although there has never been a recorded attack, you never know what this kind of animal is thinking,” Clusman said.
Though they are generally docile creatures, the crocodiles are becoming increasingly accustomed to the presence of students, which concerns UMPD officers.
Working with Mike Cherchlis of the Florida Wildlife Commission and Todd Hardwick of the wildlife control company Pesky Critters, the UM Police continue to educate students about the crocodiles on campus by posting informational signs, tabling or distributing pamphlets.
“We’re seeing less and less wariness, so please stay away from the crocodiles,” Clusman said.
Valerie Marks may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.