Seeing an alligator is a unique sight for many people because these reptiles are not common in many regions.
Florida tends to be a hotbed for reptiles, although they’re not present in many portions of the state.
Both alligators and crocodiles can be found in Key Largo because the city has the perfect climate for these animals.
During a recent trip to the area, I found that Key Largo is warm even during the winter months and provides all necessities for crocodiles.
Below, I will provide you with more details about the types of alligators living in Key Largo and the primary differences between alligators and crocodiles.
What Type Of Alligators And Crocodiles Live In Key Largo?
One unique thing about alligators and crocodiles is that there are several species. In terms of alligators, the number is much lower since there are only two species. As for crocodiles, I have found 24 officially recognized species. (Source)
Each species has specific requirements meaning they cannot thrive in the same regions. As a result, not all species are going to be found in Key Largo, Florida.
When I visited Key Largo, I learned that the only alligator species living in the city is the American alligator or the alligator mississippiensis.
I was unable to encounter Chinese alligators when I was traveling through Key Largo. I was also able to see the American crocodile which is considered an endangered species.
I found it rather amusing that Key Largo residents often see American crocodiles lounging on boat ramps in their neighborhoods.
While American crocodiles are regularly found in South and Central America, we also found them living in Florida’s southernmost regions.
They play an important role in the ecosystem and prey on small mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish.
What’s The Difference Between An Alligator And A Crocodile
I am often asked about the differences between alligators and crocodiles because these reptiles are so similar.
Once you’ve learned the differences, I am confident you will be able to identify the correct species within seconds.
The biggest difference I’ve found is the appearance of these reptiles.
1. Their Colors
First, I can determine which animal I am looking at based on its colors. Alligators tend to be darker than crocodiles.
I also tell people that they have a grey-blackish color whereas crocodiles are brown or olive green. Regardless, the crocodiles in Key Largo are lighter than their cousins.
2. Check The Snout
I believe that the easiest way to identify the animal is by looking at its snout. I can always spot the difference because the shape of the snout is dramatically different.
A crocodile’s snout is going to be sharper and pointier while alligators have wider snouts.
If I see a snout that resembles a U, I know that I am dealing with an alligator. If the snout has a V-shape, I am looking at a crocodile.
3. Their Environment
I recommend using the local environment to determine which animal you’re currently looking at.
When it comes to alligators and crocodiles, I can tell you that some prefer saltwater environments while others only live in freshwater.
When I find myself looking at a reptile lounging in freshwater, I know immediately that it is an alligator since they prefer freshwater.
If I want to look at crocs in Key Largo, I would need to check brackish waters and saltwater areas. Crocodiles can thrive in saltwater because they have glands that help them remove salt from their bodies. Surprisingly, I’ve read that these glands are on the animal’s tongue. (Source)
4. Level Of Aggression
Finally, it is sometimes possible to determine the animal depending on its aggressiveness.
While I can say that both are aggressive, the crocodile is usually more aggressive.
Zookeepers can often move around captive alligators without being attacked, but crocodiles will snap most of the time.
When visiting in person, I strongly recommend staying a good distance from these reptiles because both are aggressive and capable of seriously hurting you.
Are Alligators And Crocodiles In Key Largo Dangerous?
I must stress the fact that the alligators and crocodiles living in Key Largo are equally dangerous. If I get too close to either animal, I am probably going to get attacked.
I would advise tourists to keep their dogs on a leash and always keep an eye out for these reptiles. Be aware of your surroundings to avoid problems.
We’ve found that crocodiles are more eager to attack, but there are reports of alligator attacks too.
What To Do If You Encounter An Alligator Or Crocodile In Key Largo
If I was worried about being attacked by alligators or crocodiles in Key Largo, I would stay away from their known habitats.
We always speak to locals and park rangers to find out where these animals live in the area so we don’t enter their waters.
Once we’ve found out where they live, we can avoid them or watch them from a distance.
If I am going to be close to the living quarters of crocodiles, I would use extreme caution to avoid being caught off-guard.
Whether we’re boating or gathering water, we would always assign someone to keep a lookout for crocodiles and alligators.
If one is spotted, we’d immediately move back slowly and avoid threatening the animal. Another thing I should point out is that crocs tend to be most aggressive at dusk and night.
Stay away from their habitats before the sun goes down to remain safe.
Where Can You See Alligators And Crocodiles In The Key Largo Area
When we visit Key Largo, we know that crocodiles are abundant in the area so we usually don’t have to look far to find them. However, we recommend tourists visit specific areas to observe these creatures in their natural habitats.
If we wanted to watch crocodiles in Key Largo, we’d visit the Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge or John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.
I suggest dropping by the visitor center to learn more about these interesting reptiles. When we want to see alligators, we visit one of the local alligator farms as well as Blue Hole.
What Other Dangerous Creatures Can You Find In Key Largo
I always tell Key Largo tourists to be careful because there are other dangerous creatures in the area.
If you don’t take preventative measures, there is a risk that you’re going to encounter issues and your trip may be ruined.
I would use bug spray to protect myself from mosquitoes and no-see-ums since they can spread disease.
If you’re going to jump into the water or go diving, I have to warn you about the local jellyfish.
Some jellyfish will sting so I would stay away from them. When I go swimming in Key Largo, I always have sharks in the back of my mind.
I would suggest doing the same to avoid becoming a victim of a shark attack.
Other dangerous creatures that I might encounter in Key Largo include snakes, spiders, and scorpions.
Why Pets And Gators Don’t Get Along
Unfortunately, I have read about several incidents in which alligators and crocodiles have attacked dogs.
Nobody wants to lose their precious pet because they didn’t keep an eye out for alligators.
If I was going to take my dog for a walk in Key Largo, I would take steps to protect him from potential encounters with crocodiles and alligators.
Dogs may be tempted to approach these animals so it is best to keep them on a short lease.
Never get within 60 feet of alligators. While I am sometimes anxious around alligators, I have to remember that the animal is equally afraid so it likely isn’t going to approach me either.
If I and my dog are approached by a gator, I would walk back in a straight line to ensure I get as far away as possible.
When an alligator attacks a dog, it will fight viciously to keep its prey. The animal would need to be hit with rocks, sticks, and other objects to stop it.
I think it is best to stay away from alligators and crocodiles in the first place. I would carefully observe the area, stay aware of my surroundings, and keep my dog on a short leash.
I would also bring a water bottle so I don’t have to let my pooch get too close to the water. By using these tips, I should be able to avoid all dangerous encounters.
Why You Shouldn’t Feed Wild Crocodiles And Alligators
Although it can be tempting to feed wild animals, I do not recommend it. Feeding wild crocs and alligators is going to make the animal more aggressive.
It will begin associating humans with food. Before long, the animal will begin attacking humans thinking they’re food.
I also have to point out that you’re likely going to get attacked when you attempt to feed an alligator. If I reach out my hand, I am likely going to get bitten.
Key Largo is home to nearly 12,500 people (2020) and 2,000 crocodiles (2018). (Source) The people of Key Largo began reporting more croc sightings in 2012.
Experts contributed the higher number of sightings to Upper Keys’ increased American Crocodile population.
Like any animal species, crocodiles are pushed out of their habitats as their population grows exponentially.
Today, a crocodile basking in the sun in the middle of a golf course or near Sombrero Beach’s fishing pier is no longer uncommon.
In other words, locals rarely give crocodiles a second thought unless they feel threatened by them.