Florida wildlife officials captured a 5.5-foot Nile crocodile in Everglades National Park on Sunday, concluding a nearly two-year-long hunt for the creature. According to the park, the 37-pound juvenile crocodile was corralled into a small section of a canal and removed after it was spotted by ecologists conducting Burmese python surveys.

The Nile crocodile is native to Africa and is the second-largest living reptile in the world, after the saltwater crocodile. It can grow past 16 feet in length and weigh more than 2,000 pounds, and has a notorious reputation as a man eater. Unlike the smaller American alligator, Nile crocodiles are responsible for hundreds of attacks on humans every year and experts consider the animal to be one of the most dangerous to humans in the wild.

Officer Jorge Pino, a spokesman Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), stated that the recently-captured animal was the third crocodile believed to have escaped from a south Miami-Dade County facility. Nile crocodiles are considered an exotic species in Florida, and intentionally releasing the animal or allowing them to escape is illegal. Pino added that the FWC is conducting DNA sampling on the animal to see if it came from the stock of reptiles housed at the Miami-Dade facility, which is under investigation.

Although the juvenile crocodile is not yet of breeding age, park officials stress that the Everglades is especially vulnerable to invasive species.

“Exotic reptiles continue to challenge the health of south Florida ecosystems we are charged with protecting,” said park Superintendent Dan Kimball. “Unfortunately federal and state agencies in Florida spend over 80 million dollars a year to remove invasive plants and animals to protect our natural resources. Our ongoing partnership with federal and state agencies and volunteers to remove exotic plants and animals from protected areas is essential!”

According to the Miami Herald, the crocodile is currently being housed at the Everglades Alligator Farm in Homestead. The young crocodile was first spotted in 2012 by a wildlife ecologist.

Image courtesy Everglades National Park

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