Are there alligators in Key West, Florida?

Are you planning a trip to Key West, Florida, and want to know if alligators or crocodiles are present in this area? In this article, we will explore this topic.

Now to answer your question: both alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) and crocodiles (Crocodylus acutus) are present in Key West, Florida.

Since there isn’t a lot of freshwater habitat in Key West, alligators are rarely seen. However, in the last couple of years, their number seems to be increasing.

The local alligators have somehow begun to acclimate to the saltwater habitat, but they can’t tolerate high salinity for very long.

Related: Are there alligators or crocodiles in Hawaii?

Nevertheless, 99% of the time, the one you will mostly spot here is the American crocodile. 

Are alligators and crocodiles in Key West dangerous?

Although there have been instances when gators have attacked people in Florida, I can’t say that alligators and crocodiles are dangerous if you keep your distance from them.

The American crocodile from Key West is a different species than the crocodile encountered in Asia. The American crocodile is not aggressive toward humans. They don’t chase people on sight like the ones in India.

The American crocodile is shy, and it will try to avoid people. 

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission states that an average of eight people are bitten each year in Florida by alligators in unprovoked attacks and fatalities are very rare.

They also mention that the likelihood of a person getting seriously injured in an attack is one in 3.1 million -source.

If it makes you feel better, you have a much better chance of being struck by lightning than being attacked by an alligator or crocodile.

The statistic covers all of the state of Florida, meaning that the chance of getting attacked in Key West is even lower.

What to do if you encounter a crocodile in Key West

First of all, don’t panic. Although crocodiles can achieve a speed of 22 mph, they can maintain this speed for only 25-30 feet.

A fit person can sprint at around 15 mph.

However, I feel that once a person sees a crocodile running toward him, he or she will easily exceed 15 mph.

The fact that a crocodile can mathematically outrun a person does not matter since it can’t maintain its maximum speed.

In the worst-case scenario, the crocodile will sprint for one to two seconds and then stop. Crocodiles are ambush predators that rely on their camouflage and grab-and-run tactics.

Avoid turning your back to the water if you are near one in which crocodiles may be present. You never know when a gator may decide to try its luck.

The best advice I can give is that if you encounter a crocodile in Key West, back away slowly; most of the time, the crocodile will do the same.

Whatever you do, don’t get near the crocodile and try to take close-up photos. You can find plenty of them online.

Never let your guard down

The chance of a crocodile running towards you in Key West is slim to none, but not beyond the realm of possibility.

There have been a couple of instances when people dumped their pet crocodile into the local lake once it got big, without thinking of the consequences.

These alligators are not afraid of humans and will come running to be fed when they see a person. If you don’t have snacks for them, they might compromise and snatch your hand instead. 

Be careful at dusk and dawn since these are periods when gators are active. If you are a swimmer, you should know that the risk of attack is very low during the daytime. If you have children, you shouldn’t let them play unattended.

If an alligator bites you or you need to make one release its prey, remember that their eyes are their most sensitive spot. Hitting or poking it in the eyes might cause the gator to open its jaws –source

Pets are on the menu

Be on guard if you have a dog or a cat– crocodiles and alligators see pets as prey. Dogs are snatched very easily since they are curious and may go toward alligators to investigate.

When you walk your dog, you shouldn’t go near water, and don’t let them run free.

There isn’t a statistic about the number of pets killed by gators in the Key West area every year, but if I had to guess, the number would be in the thousands.

Do not feed the wild animals

Be aware that you are not allowed to feed alligators or crocodiles in Key West. Feeding them makes them lose their natural fear of humans.

Their normal behavior is to avoid people and move in the opposite direction, but when they are fed, they lose their natural fearful instinct.

Not to mention that feeding them constitutes a level two violation, and the fine starts at $500 or a few days in jail.

The list of wild creatures you are not allowed to feed in Key West is so big that I wouldn’t even know where to start. But as a tourist, you only need to know one thing: resist the urge and do not feed an animal here, regardless of its cuteness level.

Where can you see alligators or crocodiles in Key West?

Alligators can be found in the Blue Hole Pond, also known as Gator Alley, on Big Pine Key. Visit the Blue Hole Pond Observation Platform to see alligators in their natural environment.

Alligators are just one of the creatures you can spot from there since the whole area is packed with wildlife.

Crocodiles can be found in any place where saltwater habitats exist.

In 2022, Hurricane Ian caused saltwater to spill into the street of Stillwright Point in Key Largo, Florida. Crocodiles were spotted swimming in the streets.

In another instance, a croc blocked the runway at the U.S. Navy base in Key West- source.

The better way to find a crocodile is to ask the locals. They will point you in the right direction.

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Sorin Susanu
Sorin, the primary writer for this site, launched it in 2019 as a hobby and a means to refine his English. With a passion for travel ignited by a trip to Italy at age twelve, Sorin has been exploring the world and sharing his adventures ever since.