Rumors of an alligator living in Lake Osceola [Lake O] have been around for decades, and no one really knew if the stories and supposed eye-witness accounts were true.
Recently, however, the Miami Hurricane has discovered that a seven-foot American crocodile [not an alligator] has been in Lake O for the past three weeks and has been traveling through the Coral Gables waterways for over six months.
“This is a rare event – it’s the same as having a bald eagle on campus,” said Tim Regan, biologist for the Division of Wildlife of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “Enjoy it while you have it.”
According to experts, most Americans don’t know the difference between an alligator and a crocodile – for this reason, many are referring to the crocodile in the lake as a “croco-gator.”
Crocodiles are larger and more aggressive than alligators and have narrow, pointed snouts.
Alligators are darker with broader snouts.
According to Henry Christensen, director of Public Safety, UM administration has requested to remove the crocodile, but the state refused the request.
“We tried to get rid of it, but this type of crocodile is a protected endangered species,” Christensen said. “The only way we can remove it is through permission by the state.”
However, Christensen says that the state informed him that the crocodile is not dangerous and that they are relatively timid animals when it comes to interactions with humans.
“The state says there has never been a case of an American crocodile attacking a human being in the United States,” Christensen said.
Regan says that if crocodiles are removed from an area they like, they will usually end up wandering back.
According to Public Safety records, small alligators and manatees have periodically been spotted in the lake.
Usually, these animals migrate somewhere else or are removed by Pesky Critters, a company that specializes in removing dangerous animals from residences, businesses and other areas where the animals pose a threat to people.
“We get calls about alligators and crocodiles every blue moon,” said Dedrick Watson, telecommunications officer for Public Safety. “They don’t really hurt anybody.”
“I was walking around the lake one afternoon when a Public Safety officer, who was patrolling the campus, pointed out to me in the middle of the lake an alligator,” said Sarah Artecona, assistant vice-president for Media Relations. “I would estimate it was about 4 feet in length. I barely saw it, but it came up and skimmed the surface and then went back down.”
Some are fond of the animal and think it is a welcomed addition to the renovations going on around campus.
“I think he should become our new mascot,” junior Evelyn Vilaboy said.
Most students, however, see the crocodile for what it is: a wild, cold-blooded predator.
“The best way to escape a crocodile is to run in zig-zags because it gets them dizzy and they can’t chase you because their legs aren’t built that way,” junior Lauren Kellner said.
“My biggest concern is that people are going to have a few too many [drinks] and get a little ‘liquid courage’ in them and start playing crocodile hunter,” said Todd Hardwick, owner of Pesky Critters. “If someone gets hurt, no one’s really going to ask the crocodile what happened.”
“Crocs are cool, but not in our lake,” junior Grace Dyjak said. “I can hear it now: ‘Oh, how cute; look at the little croc in the pathway.’ Yeah, right!”
“I haven’t noticed too many ducks lately,” said Rachel Williams, a Coral Gables resident who frequents the lake. “In fact, I think I’m going to be keeping my kids away from here for a while.”
The Miami Hurricane will continue to investigate popular urban legends at UM through the month of February.
For suggestions of urban legends to be researched, please contact Jorge Arauz, News Editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.