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Crocodile numbers rise in south Florida, but at what risk to dogs?

April 7, 2009 |  4:14 pm


These are scary times in South Florida--if you're a small dog or a dog owner and live near the coast.

That's because American crocodiles, once near the brink of extinction because of hunting and habitat loss, now flourish so at the tip of the Sunshine State that they've been downgraded from endangered to threatened status by the U.S. Fish  and Wildlife Service.

South Florida is the species' only U.S. habitat and it might be no coincidence that with crocodile numbers up to about 2,000, more dogs and other small pets are vanishing.

Chris Marin told the Associated Press that he's moving from a canal property south of of Miami after losing poodles named Spotty, Luna and Angel to an estimated 11-foot crocodile.

"When we first moved in, I even put a swing on a tree here for my kids to plunge into the canal," Marin said.

Florida has more than a million alligators, but crocodiles are establishing an increasingly ominous presence in brackish coastal areas, where habitat restoration and protection have allowed for a population boom.

There have been no documented attacks by American crocodiles on people (gators, on the other hand, are responsible for several each year). But their crocodilian relatives in Central America have attacked and killed people, so Floridians--and their canine companions--have just cause for concern.

--Pete Thomas

Photo by Associated Press