If you’ve thought that crocodiles in Florida were looking a little bigger and uh, hungrier for people lately, you may be onto something.
Three reptiles captured between 2000 and 2014 in South Florida were Nile crocodiles, University of Florida researchers confirm in a report published in April in the Journal of Herpetological Conservation and Biology.
Nile crocodiles, native to Africa, can reach 20 feet in length and weigh up to 1,650 pounds, according to National Geographic. An average length and weight, however, is more like 16 feet and 500 pounds. For comparison, American crocodiles can also reach up to 20 feet in length, but “rarely” get longer than 14 feet in the wild, according to the National Park Service.
And while American crocodiles are reclusive and typically shy away from people, Nile crocodiles have a rep for chowing down on humans.
And don’t take too much comfort in the fact that researchers only found three of them.
"The odds that the few of us who study Florida reptiles have found all of the Nile crocs out there is probably unlikely," herpetology collections manager at the Florida Museum of Natural History said in a University of Florida news release.
So how the heck did these potentially human-flesh-hungry crocs get to the wilds of Florida? Dumb humans, most likely. Plenty of the crocodiles have been imported into the U.S. not only to live at places like zoos and Disney’s Animal Kingdom, but also for the exotic pet trade (because a person-eating, 20-foot croc sounds like a great pet!). Researchers suspect those “pets” ended up in the wild, either by escaping, or from people releasing them.