Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Long-rumored crocodile captured in Lake Tarpon

TARPON SPRINGS — Wanda Vekasi had been hearing stories about a crocodile in Lake Tarpon for almost a year. But that wasn't the first thing that came to mind when she saw a long, peculiar object floating behind her waterfront home Monday evening.

An alligator? Vekasi has seen "more than enough" gators after living in the area for 13 years. But this was different.

"He didn't look anything like a gator. He had big spikes sticking out of his tail. It just looked evil," she said. "When I saw its mouth open, I just knew I didn't want to go out looking for it."

What Vekasi saw floating in the big freshwater lake turned out to be a 700-pound, 11-foot-long American crocodile.

No other crocodile has been captured this far north, a wildlife official said, though one was photographed in northeast St. Petersburg in 2011.

Vekasi called a trapper she'd been working with recently to capture alligators near her home. It took Mike Amyx and three crew members more than four hours to capture the creature, Vekasi said.

The crocodile was sent to a rehabilitation facility in South Florida and will most likely be released back into the wild.

State officials had been aware of the crocodile in Lake Tarpon for more than a year, said Gary Morse, spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

American crocodiles, which are on the federal endangered species list, are found in South Florida, Central America, South America and the Caribbean. Experts estimate there are approximately 2,000 crocodiles statewide.

Morse said it's "not beyond reason" that a crocodile could make it to the Tampa Bay region.

"Wildlife tends to move around a lot. We've seen manatees in Massachusetts before. Animals sometimes get wanderlust and that was the case here," he said.

Morse said the crocodile probably used a combination of culverts, creeks, rivers and land to travel to Lake Tarpon, a 2,534-acre lake known for boating, bass fishing and waterfront parks.

For Vekasi, who enjoys swimming there and frequently walks her dog in the back yard, the crocodile capture provided peace of mind in more than one way.

"Man, after seeing that thing and how big it was," she said, "I'm just not afraid of gators anymore."

Matt McKinney can be reached at (727) 445-4156 or mmckinney@tampabay.com. Twitter: Mmckinne17.

Long-rumored crocodile captured in Lake Tarpon 07/11/13 [Last modified: Friday, July 12, 2013 11:42am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Winner and loser of the week in Florida politics

    Blogs

     Winner of the week

    Peter Antonacci. Gov. Rick Scott tapped his go-to utility player to lead his Florida job recruiting agency, Enterprise Florida, having previously picked him for his general counsel, to lead the South Florida Water Management District and to serve as Palm Beach state …

  2. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 19: A peregrina spends the whole day under the weather, and part of the day under the table

    Travel

    Day 19: El Burgo Ranero to Puente Villarente: 25.4 km, 7.5 hours (Total for Days 1-19 = 454 km (282 miles)

    This list pretty much sums up my day:

    Eat two bananas

    Walk 13.1 kilometers

    Nap

    Walk 6.2 kilometers

    Nap

    Eat half an apple

    Walk 6.1 kilometers

    Crash< …

  3. Storm routs Cleveland

    Storm

    TAMPA — Alvin Ray Jackson intercepted two passes, returning one for a touchdown, and recovered two fumbles as the Storm routed Cleveland 57-27 Saturday night in its home regular-season finale at Amalie Arena.

  4. Miscue sends Rays to another stinging loss to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays gave away DJ Kitty onesies Saturday night. Then they gave away the game.

    Rays centerfielder Mallex Smith misses a drive hit by Adrian Beltre with two outs in the sixth, allowing the tying runs to score. Beltre puts Texas ahead 4-3 when he scores after two wild pitches.
  5. Rowdies shut out Charleston

    Soccer

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rowdies know a thing or two about stalemates, with five of their past 10 games ending in a draw.

    Rowdies in the first half during the game between Tampa Bay Rowdies and the Charleston Battery at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Saturday, Jul 22, 2017.