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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Sanibel Crocodile good-bye

The famous American crocodile at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, succumbed to unseasonal cold.

We had some sad news from our friends on Sanibel Island, that the famous American crocodile that has made her home for many years at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, passed away, most likely due to the cold and old age. Crocodiles are creatures of warm environments, primarily living in Central America, and she was believed to be the most northernmost of her kind. The unseasonal cold that has been hitting FL this winter, may have been just too much for her. There is a memorial service of sorts for her today, complete with a gatorade toast and fond remembrances.

This Crocodile was quite a celebrity and caused much excitement when she would haul herself out of the water and sunbathe on the side of the road on the wildlife drive at Ding Darling, much to the delight of the tourists. The area would be cordoned off and a ranger assigned to "crocodile sit" so visitors did not get too close to her. She never seemed to move that much when sunning, she mostly just lay there, small eyes closed or staring, and her jagged tooth line looking like a smile in need of an orthodontist. We saw her many times and I took these photographs with a telephoto lens.

This crocodile was unique at Ding, the only one, all the rest are American alligators (who are more cold tolerant.) She came a long time ago to Lee County in the late 70's. Experts attempted to move her south, but she came back and settled into Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge. She was the largest breeding female crocodile known in the wild in Florida.

This was a smart crocodile. She did nest several times (but the eggs were infertile), placing the nest under the house (which was on stilts) of Mark "Bird" Westall, famous naturalist and bird guide, who, of all people, would be most likely to be accepting of her, and he was.

In the many, many times we have been through Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge (we used to live on Sanibel), we always would try to point out birds to visitors and get them more deeply interested in the wonderful birds there. More often than not, a visitor would pull their car up, roll down their window and say, "where are the alligators?" That's where the heads of much of the general public were. Alligators trumped the birds, and in her case, this crocodile trumped the alligators.


Kevin said...

Very sad indeed. I enjoyed all the background info on the "Sanibel croc." My wife and I learned about her when we visited Ding Darling last year, but I did not quite appreciate her celebrity status until reading your post.

Joy K. said...

I've heard of her: she was beautiful. That mouthful of teeth!! Stupendous!

Jerry Jourdan said...

That's crushing news. I saw her last November in almost the same spot, and she had her mouth wide open for all the world to see (and fear!):
She was beautiful!