Croc captured, relocated from golf course

This crocodile was relocated.
This crocodile was relocated.

A Key West-area golf course just lost 202 pounds.

That’s how much a female crocodile weighed in after a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission crocodile hunter and an animal control officer from the Florida Keys SPCA captured the 9-foot-1-inch reptile about 4 a.m. Saturday morning, a two-hour job.

“We pulled it out of the water,” said Chris Guinto, the FWC’s crocodile response agent and nuisance alligator trapper since 2006. “I was going and tracking this crocodile for a few days at night in a pond. She got used to seeing me and she’d take off.”

At the request of the Key West Golf Club on Stock Island, the wildlife officials spent the past few weeks searching for the croc, which was relocated after its capture.

“The golf course is over 200 acres and has a minimum of two dozen ponds,” Guinto said. “I’m still finding water sources around.”

The crocodile, for which Guinto couldn’t estimate an exact age but clocked at a young adult, at first didn’t want to come out of the water but she eventually cooperated. Matt Royer of the local SPCA helped with the capture.

“We put ropes on her and pulled her out, you don’t want to hurt the croc at all,” Guinto said. “Make it as stress-free as possible. She’s in excellent shape and health.”

Officials won’t say where the croc was relocated to but Guinto said it was in the Keys in an unpopulated area. People complain if they make public the new spot, he added.

“American crocodiles are extremely rare,” Guinto said. “They’re very shy and want nothing to do with people.”

They nearly became extinct by the mid-1970s when only a handful of breeding females — all in the Keys — were known to exist.

Habitat conservation on North Key Largo and the Everglades, along with endangered-species protection, helped the crocodile population recover to current estimates of about 2,000 adults. In 2007, the American crocodile’s protected status was changed to “threatened.”

For now, the local golf course is crocodile-free but crocs can sometimes find their way back if they want.

“A lot of times they come back,” Guinto said. “It’s not uncommon for them to say, I like this spot.”