Though the American crocodile has a wide range of habitats extending into North, South, and Central America, it is still an endangered species throughout all these territories. Those surviving populations are often found in coastal areas, and they also enjoy river systems with higher salinity as well as brackish lakes, lagoons, and mangrove swamps.
Cousins to the American alligator, it can be distinguished from the alligator by its lighter color, longer, thinner snout, and two teeth protruding from its lower jaw visible even when its mouth is closed. The American crocodile stands as the largest of the world’s crocodiles, and those inhabiting the South and Central American males growing up to 20 feet in length. The U.S. crocodiles populating southern Florida seldom grow larger than 13 feet in height, however.
Like many other reptiles, American crocodiles enjoy spending most of their days in inactivity, either resting in their self-created burrows, lounging on a bank enjoying the sun, or calmly waiting in wait for prey. Of course, basking in the sun is actually productive in a sense, as it raises the animal’s body temperature to levels required to digest their food and remain active.
Although crocodiles are opportunistic hunters, they are also strategic and known to set a trap. Although they can eat fish, crabs, frogs, snails, and even insects, they have been seen balancing twigs on top of their head to tempt birds who seek building supplies for their nests.
In some ways, crocodiles are fastidious eaters who appreciate eating at their own pace and in bite-sized pieces. If the crocodiles take down larger mammals from the shoreline, they drag the prey into the water and drown it. Once there, the crocodile grabs hold of a single body part and rolls its own body until the attached part is twisted off. As such, they are able to enjoy bite-sized pieces that are more easily ingested.
American crocodiles also do not like stuffing themselves. If the crocodile preys upon an animal too large to consume in a single meal, the crocodile finds a hiding place to store its food. They often choose an overhanging bank or a partially submerged log to serve as this storage container, and they will return to their hiding spot to resume their meal when they’re ready.