EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK (Circa) - There's only one place in the world where alligators and crocodiles live side by side -- Everglades National Park in South Florida. So we made the trip down to Homestead to see them up close and personal and learn some fun facts about these fascinating creatures.
We visited during National Park Week and got a special tour from two knowledgeable park rangers who were eager to talk about the 1.5 million acres of wetland (which is largest subtropical wilderness in the United States). Everglades National Park protects an unparalleled landscape that provides important habitat for numerous rare and endangered species like the manatee, American crocodile, and the elusive Florida panther.
One of the coolest facts about this park is the unique cohabitation of American alligators and American crocodiles. This is because this area has vast expanses of both freshwater habitats and saltwater environments. American crocodiles exist in South Florida because this is the Northern extent of their range. While American alligators exist here because this is the southern most extent of their range. That's why this is the only place their habitats overlap.
Park Ranger, Michelle Collier, gave us a tour and explained their differences.
"The easiest ways to tell American alligators and American crocodiles apart are both the colors that they are and the shape of their snout."
The snout differences may be more difficult to tell from a distance but up close you can easily see the differences. Crocodiles have a pointier V-shaped snout and are lighter in color.
While American alligators have a rounded U-shaped snout and are darker in color.
Crocodiles live in salt water, unlike alligators that are in freshwater. There's also a size difference. A full-grown crocodile will likely be several feet longer than an adult alligator. American crocodiles live between 50-70 years in the wild. Alligators on the other hand don't live quite as long (with a max around 50 years in the wild).
Fun Fact Alert - In terms of speed - gators win that race on land and in water.
On Land: Both can can move quickly on land, but only for short distances. They can both "gallop" or "sprint" but only do it when threatened, and not for long. A crocodile might reach almost 9 mph (14kph), while an alligator might reach a maximum speed of about 11 mph (18 kph).
In Water: They're both much more agile and fast in water where they can use their long, muscular tails to propel their bodies forward. When crocodiles swim, they might reach speeds of about 9 mph (15 kph), while alligators might reach a maximum of 20 mph (32 kph).
Dangers: According to CrocBITE, a database that keeps track of crocodile attacks worldwide, the Nile crocodile is the one humans should be the most afraid of. Since the year 2000, there have been 33 human fatalities caused by American gators and crocodiles combined compared to 268 caused by Nile crocodiles alone.
Learn More: If you're planning on visiting South Florida make sure to check out Everglades National Park. You can take a short walk on the Anhinga Trail to spot abundant wildlife--turtles, herons and alligators! Climb atop Shark Valley's 65-foot observation tower for a bird's eye view of the glades. Glide over Florida Bay by tour boat or kayak for a chance to glimpse a crocodile, manatee, or dolphin. Watch as the sun sets over Flamingo, the southernmost point in mainland Florida. Explore the pinelands by bike, paddle amongst the mangroves on Nine-Mile Pond, or tour the historic Nike Hercules missile base. Join a ranger on a slough slog deep into the heart of a cypress dome. Find solitude on your own on a week-long canoe trip, camping along the 99-mile Wilderness Waterway. With countless opportunities for discovery the following quick links will help you plan an adventure that's right for you!