Residents in Central Florida are used to seeing alligators, but when a rare and endangered nine-foot American crocodile lumbered out of a community pond in St. Petersburg this week, members of the community took note.
Only about 1,500 crocodiles remain in Florida, primarily in the warmer waters of the Florida Keys some 300 miles to the south. Authorities say that it is the first of its kind in Pinellas County.
These animals are so rare, that wildlife officials didn't believe Shondra Farner when she initially reported the wandering croc.
He said, 'No, ma'am, you have an alligator,' and I said 'No, I know the difference, Farner told The Associated Press.
That big boy was just about 8 feet from our patio, Farner added. It's terribly scary looking. And fast. When he turned to leave, I couldn't believe how quick he was.
She eyed the rare reptile over the weekend in her community pond and ventured close to the croc to snap some toothy photos before it slipped back into the water.
By Thursday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was called in to set baited traps in hopes of capturing the large reptile that, unlike an alligator, is illegal to kill.
The rare crocodile, whose gender remains unclear, is still lingering in the community pond - and moving it may prove tricky.
Relocating crocodiles is seldom successful, Lindsey Hord, of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Alligator Management Program at Lake Okeechobee, told the Tampa Tribune.
Crocodiles tend to try and get back to where they were captured and may die trying.
We hope it stays away, but if it comes back, we'll deal with it, Hord said.
Though they have a violent reputation, Florida has no documented incidents of a crocodile biting a human. Neighbors in the gated community of Caya Costa are more concerned about their pets.
Crocodiles thrive in South and Central America and the Caribbean. They are known to prowl the rivers, lakes, ponds, and estuaries along the Florida Keys and up the west coast as far as Naples.