Photo: American crocodile emerging from water

Critically endangered, the prehistoric-looking American crocodile struggles to survive in pockets of shrinking habitat.

Photograph by Gianfranco Lanzetti

Map

Map: American crocodile range

American Crocodile Range

Fast Facts

Type:
Reptile
Diet:
Carnivore
Average life span in the wild:
Up to 70 years
Size:
Up to 15 ft (4.6 m)
Weight:
Up to 2,000 lbs (907 kg)
Group name:
Bask (on land) or float (in water)
Protection status:
Endangered
Did you know?
One of the largest known populations of American crocodiles is in the Dominican Republic's Lago Enriquillo, a landlocked, hypersaline lake located about 131 ft (40 m) below sea level.
Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man:
Illustration: American crocodile compared with adult man

The American crocodile is considered an endangered species in nearly all parts of its North, Central, and South American range. Survey data, except in the United States, is poor or nonexistent, but conservationists agree that illegal hunting and habitat depletion has reduced populations of this wide-ranging reptile to critical levels.

A small, remnant population lives in southern Florida, but most are found in southern Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and northern South America. Their habitat of choice is the fresh or brackish water of river estuaries, coastal lagoons, and mangrove swamps.

A prehistoric-looking creature, it is distinguishable from its cousin, the American alligator, by its longer, thinner snout, its lighter color, and two long teeth on the lower jaw that are visible when its mouth is closed.

This species is among the largest of the world's crocodiles, with Central and South American males reaching lengths of up to 20 feet (6.1 meters). Males in the U.S. population rarely exceed 13 feet (4 meters), however.

Their diet consists mainly of small mammals, birds, fish, crabs, insects, snails, frogs, and occasionally carrion. They have been known to attack people, but are far more likely to flee at the sight of humans.

Most countries in the American crocodile's range have passed protection laws, but unfortunately, few governments provide adequate enforcement.

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