Sunday, 22 April 2012

Crocodile numbers grow in South Florida

Fishing in a canal outside Homestead Bayfront Park not long ago, Ed Castleberry fought hard to catch the biggest jack he’d ever hooked. But something else also wanted his 15-pound trophy, something lurking beneath the murky surface.
As the retired Miami-Dade firefighter reached down to land the fish, a dark shadow passed under it, instantly followed by an explosion of water and the scream of his reel as line zinged out.
An American crocodile at least 12 feet long had grabbed the jack. Ten minutes later, the croc surfaced, crunching the fish between toothy jaws, then gulping it down. It was like a scene fromJurassic Park, Castleberry joked.
“I’m just glad it wasn’t my hand,’’ he said.
Castleberry’s uncomfortably close call a few months ago was just one of an increasing number of croc encounters across South Florida. Last month in Key Largo, a 10-footer in a canal killed a 65-pound dog named Roxie. And last summer, crocs cruised into the canals of upscale Gables-By-The-Sea along Biscayne Bay, prompting the worried community association to add a “crocodile watch’’ to the crime and traffic watches on its website.
The American crocodile, or Crocodylus acutus, a salt-water species once reduced to a few hundred reclusive reptiles hidden among the mangroves of the deep Everglades, remains a rare creature.

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