A wildlife photographer hunting for a famous crocodile named “Croczilla” in the Florida Everglades finally had her patience pay off when she stumbled across the gigantic creature at a pond.
She had heard from park employees and tour guides that Croczilla is seen every so often at Nine Mile Pond and that it is likely the largest crocodile in the entire park, which spans over 1.5 million acres.
After many failed attempts at spotting Croczilla in 2022 and 2023, Clark recently paid a quick visit to Nine Mile Pond on her way out of the park after another day of no luck. As she drove through the popular kayaking and canoeing area, she was surprised to find Croczilla right on the shore of the pond, basking in the sun and frequently opening its mouth to regulate its body temperature.
“The crocodile almost didn’t look real,” Clark tells PetaPixel. “Living in South Florida, I am fortunate to see amazing wildlife creatures frequently, but this crocodile sighting is in my top three herping experiences of 2023 (including an 18-foot female Burmese Python filled with eggs and an elusive Pine Snake).”
Clark stayed at the pond and photographed Croczilla for over an hour, not knowing if or when she might ever get a chance to photograph the elusive giant again. She made sure to stay at a safe distance, and one can never be sure what a wild animal will do.
“Even though American Crocodiles are extremely timid apex predators, the general rule for most alligators and crocodiles is to remain about 20 feet from them, as they can lunge 6 feet from a resting position,” Clark says.
While there are an estimated 200,000 alligators in the Everglades, crocodiles are much more rare — the population declined to around 300 decades ago and the animal was declared an endangered species in 1975, but numbers have recovered to around 2,000 to 3,000 in the present day.
“I see alligators every day in Florida, but a crocodile is a rare and extraordinary find,” Clark says. “To spot a crocodile this large makes the experience even more special because this is about the largest found in the wild in the U.S.
“In 1975, crocodiles were listed as endangered but fortunately they are successfully reproducing and are now classified as threatened. They can only be found in the southernmost part of Florida, living in brackish and salt water.
While wild crocodiles max out at a length of around 14 feet, captive crocodiles have been known to grow significantly larger.
“Male crocodiles are larger than females and can reach about 20 feet in length but rarely exceed 14 feet in the wild,” the National Park Service writes. “Breeding females are about 8 to 12 feet in length.”
“It wasn’t until I was standing next to the colossal Croczilla that I realized how small and powerless I was in comparison,” Clark tells Insider. “Looking back at all the times I tried but did not find this enormous crocodile, I have no regrets. In fact, I will continue to look for Croczilla on every trip I make to Everglades National Park.
“I love the thrill of the hunt and unexpected surprises.”