Crocodile Tears: The familiar reptiles in Lake Osceola take a hike

After a welcome stay at UM, the crocodiles that called Lake Osceola home are being removed and relocated to the Everglades.

The Hurricane reported on the discovery of the crocodiles approximately one year ago. Since then, one crocodile has become three. The smallest of the crocodiles is 5.5 feet in length, while the largest is approximately eight feet long.

The crocodiles have become a sort of icon for UM’s Lake Osceola. In fact, many are sad to see them go.

“They are taking out the crocodiles? No – I love the crocodiles,” Deeda Payton, freshman, said upon news of their removal. “Actually, they’re alligators, right?”

In fact, contrary to what most everyone on campus believes, the reptiles in the lake are endangered American crocodiles. Contributing to the confusion is the sign by the lake that warns students not to swim in the lake because “Alligators have been seen in the lake and waterways.”

According to Victor Atherton, associate vice president of Facilities Administration, their endangered status is the reason that the crocodiles have not been removed from the lake until now. Atherton made the final approval on the decision to relocate the crocodiles.

“We were perfectly willing to pay for a trapper to come do it, but that’s not allowable,” Atherton said. “Fish and Game said they were the only ones who were allowed to do it.”

Atherton was referring to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission [FFWCC], which has been out on the lake everyday since Wednesday in attempt to catch the crocodiles. The crocodiles can only be removed through the permission of the state.

The method used to catch alligators cannot be used for crocodiles because there is a possibility that they could die, according to Tim Regan, wildlife biologist for FFWCC. Instead, FFWCC is trying to throw a snatch hook into the crocodiles’ thick hide to capture them. Regan stressed that because the hide is so thick, they would not be injuring the animals.

“Unlike alligators, crocodiles are shy and hard to catch,” Regan said. “This is also why they haven’t been as much of a problem [as alligators].”

On record, in Florida there have been 16 fatalities caused by alligators, and hundreds of reported bitings. There is not a single known case of a crocodile injuring or killing a person.

This brings into question whether there is really a need to remove the crocodiles from the lake at all. According to Atherton, even though there have not been any problems caused by the crocodiles, they are still a potential danger.

“Why would we wait till [there is a problem]?” Atherton said. “This is not appropriate. This is not the Everglades. This is a residential area – there are students here.”

Recently, the canoe race for Sportsfest was cancelled because of the presence of the crocodiles.

“In one regard, it’s kind of neat to see something like that up close, but it’s just too risky,” Atherton said. “I just think this is better for everybody that they put them in their natural habitat and get them out of our lake.”

However, Regan does not believe it is imperative that the crocodiles be removed from the lake, noting that crocodiles are relatively timid when it comes to interactions with humans.

“Part of the problem is that we relocate them and they come back,” Regan said, mentioning a case in which a crocodile traveled 140 miles to return to the place from which it had been removed. “Somehow they navigate their way back.”

FFWCC will be out on the lake until the crocodiles are removed or until they get orders from the Tallahassee office to stop the search.

Regan said the situation could have been much worse for UM students. “This could have been a Florida Gator.”

Megha Garg can be contacted at