A rarely seen American crocodile has been documented in Central Florida, and it counts as one of the northernmost sightings ever reported.
The crocodile was seen Sunday, Dec. 4, in Brevard County, about 75 miles southeast of Orlando.
It was reported by the Brevard County Environmentally Endangered Lands Program, which called the encounter a “rare sighting” that far north.
“American crocodiles typically live in coastal areas throughout the Caribbean, and southern Florida is at the very north end of their range,” the program posted Dec. 5 on Facebook.
The 8-foot reptile was found “relaxing on the beach in front of the Barrier Island Center” in Melbourne Beach, officials said.
Eight feet is considered a young crocodile. Males can reach up to 20 feet, “but rarely exceed 14 feet in the wild,” according to Everglades National Park.
The sighting comes one month after Tiara Alessandra Weethee of Sebastian, Florida, shared video of another unexpected crocodile encounter, just 25 miles south in Indian River County.
Social media commenters, including Weethee, wondered if it’s the same crocodile making its way north. The one she recorded was about the same length and was also seen on a beach.
“Oh great another thing to worry about,” Ciro A. Morales wrote on Facebook. “This area is too far north for these salt water swimming beasts. ... Hope this croc is just another ‘snow-bird’ staying for the holidays.”
Only 1,500 to 2,000 adult American crocodiles survive in southern Florida’s brackish swamps, the state says. The southern end of Brevard County is believed to be the farthest north the species has been documented, maps show.
Florida is home to crocodiles and alligators, and it’s typically the alligators that show up on public beaches. However, alligators have a preference for fresh water, and don’t stay long, experts say.