Florida wildlife: Crocodile, 8- to 10-feet-long, spotted on dock in Indialantic

Jennifer Sangalang
Florida Today
Walton Sun

Sara Sutton got quite the animal encounter.

The 18-year-old spotted a crocodile in the backyard of her Indialantic home: “He’s been on the dock at my house.”

Curious, she had to get a closer look. Like 20 feet closer.

She wanted to get good pictures of the reptile sunning on the dock, so she hopped in a kayak.

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“I knew if he saw me he would just swim away,” said the Melbourne Central Catholic graduate, who lives near the Sanctuary in Indialantic. “If you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you. Gators are much more aggressive than crocodiles.

"Like most of my neighbors, I found the appearance of a crocodile both intriguing and frightening," she added, guessing the beachside crocodile measures 8 to 10 feet. The experience with the crocodile left a mark on Sutton, a student at the University of Florida, and she recently wrote a report about co-existing with crocodiles.

A "living with crocodiles" guide on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website states, "Due to the American crocodile’s shy and reclusive nature, conflicts between them and people are extremely rare in Florida. However, as with any predatory animal, people should use caution when near them."

Sutton and her family first spotted the creature in December and have seen it enough — as many as four times in one week — to study his habits.

"He likes to bask at certain times of the day, we usually see him in the afternoon," said Sutton.

Previous sighting

In December, J.D. Mott told FLORIDA TODAY he saw what he thought was an alligator floating in the Berkeley Street canal near his neighbor's home by South Patrick Drive on beachside.

"I just kind of alerted him: 'You've got a gator swimming around your dock. Be careful.' Came back in. A couple hours later, I go outside and it had actually climbed on top of his dock and into his yard," Mott recalled. "We quickly realized that it wasn't an alligator. It was a crocodile — which is completely dumbfounding to me," he said.

"I've lived here my whole life, almost 30 years. And I've never, never before ran across a crocodile," he said.

Photos and posts about the "South Patrick Shores crocodile" popped up on Facebook and social media in December.

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A threatened species

Crocodile sightings on the Space Coast are extremely rare. There are 2 million alligators in Florida and about 1,500 American crocodiles. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service classifies crocodiles as a threatened species.

Before the beachside or South Patrick Shores crocodile sighting, the last reported sighting here was in June 2009, when a crocodile was captured by a trapper near the Cocoa Beach Pier.

“Most people think it’s so dangerous we should get it removed and taken to the Keys,” said Sutton. Some people “ask why haven’t you gotten it taken away?”

Her response? “It’s just so unusual.”

If you are concerned about a crocodile in your area, call 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286) or visit myfwc.com/crocodile.

Contributing: Rick Neale, FLORIDA TODAY; Chad Gillis, News-Press