What A Croc!

The most action students usually see at Lake Osceola is a fish jumping out of the water or a bird skimming across the surface in search of food. But Monday saw a frenzy of news reporters, video cameras and curious students who gathered around the lake in hopes of witnessing the removal of a crocodile that has taken residence there.

“The University, with the permission of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission is working to humanely capture the wild animal and relocate it to a proper habitat,” said Margot Winick, executive director of UM Media Relations.

Signs surrounding the lake misleadingly warn of alligators in its waters, which are known to be more aggressive than crocodiles. To date, there is no record of a crocodile attacking a person, since they are usually scared off by human activity.

“I’ve seen them here every once in a while,” Tom Mattison, junior, said. “They’re real small. They’re not doing any damage. [The lake] is their habitat and we’re just building around it.”

“Why would they suddenly say take it out? Hasn’t it been here for, like, a year?” Kaleigh Renard, freshman, said.

Crocodiles have long, pointy snouts. Alligators have broad, short snouts.
Crocodiles are olive brown. Alligators are more blackish.
Crocodiles lay eggs in a mud or sand nest. Alligators lay eggs in a mound of vegetation.
American crocodiles are endangered. Alligators are found all over Southeastern U.S.
source: National Park Service, www.nps.gov

In fact, there were three crocodiles in the lake in February which the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was hired to remove. As crocodiles are known to do, one of them has returned to Lake Osceola. This time, the state hired Todd Hardwick of Pesky Critters, who specializes in removing wildlife animals from residences and other places where they may be a nuisance.

The “critter” is actually a nine-foot-long, 250-pound American crocodile, believed to have reached the lake through Coral Gables waterways. American crocodiles are endangered and it is against the law to feed, harass or approach them in any way.

“Even though it is not an immediate threat to people, [the lake] is not the safest place for him,” Winick said. “We’re not trying to harm the animal – we just want him relocated.”

According to Hardwick, the crocodile is being removed because it has gotten too comfortable with the students, oftentimes seen onshore. However, many students enjoy sitting around the lake because of its tranquility and don’t see the crocodile as a disturbance.

“I’d rather have them around,” Jason Lefert, senior, said. “They’re just cool to look at. Every now and then they move.”

Pesky Critters will be returning to campus until the crocodile is removed, though it may be difficult since all the media attention on campus may have scared it off.

“He’s very shy and timid now because of the media,” Hardwick said. “The danger [of the crocodile] has been reduced – a scaredy-cat crocodile is a good crocodile.”

Natalia Maldonado can be contacted at n.maldonado@umiami.edu.