Beachgoers surprised to spot crocodile swimming by Pompano Beach pier

A crocodile had Pompano Beach’s waterfront all to itself Monday, shutting down the water for swimmers and surfers.

The city’s crew of lifeguards started their shift at 8 a.m. with a morning run, and a swim by the pier, but one of them was running late and wound up trailing behind his colleagues in the water, city spokeswoman Sandra King said. While he was headed to shore, a woman on the pier started to try to get his attention about the danger below, King said.

“It was swimming toward him as he was getting out of the water,” she said. When the lifeguards realized what was lurking, they hoisted double red flags, which means no swimming at all but the beach is still open. They also got swimmers out of the water, King said.

The city contacted the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, who sent an officer and “determined to let it be,” King said. King said the crocodile is tagged, and spent much of the morning underneath the pier in the shade.

A lifeguard has an eye on the croc at all times, said lifeguard Thomas O’Neill.

“It was so cool to see a saltwater crocodile,” he said. “It’s doing its crocodile thing.”

“It’s a great show, absolutely awesome,” he said, “not an everyday thing here in southeast Florida.”

City leaders said the thinking — or maybe the hope — is that eventually the croc will move on.

American crocodiles, which can grow to 16 feet, live in brackish and salt water in coastal areas. Their U.S. population is strongest in Florida Bay, Everglades National Park and the Upper Florida Keys.

“This crocodile is likely having a great day hanging out in Pompano Beach,” King said.

Lisa J. Huriash can be reached Follow on Twitter @LisaHuriash