CORAL GABLES (CBSMiami) – Police are trying to get the word out in a Coral Gables neighborhood after a man was bitten by a crocodile over the weekend–a first in Florida.
The man, identified as Alejandro Jimenez, was visiting friends in the 1300 block of Lugo Avenue when he and a woman decided to go for a swim around 2:30 a.m. Sunday.
As he got into the canal, a croc, believed to be eight to nine foot in length, bit him and his female companion.
“One to the shoulder and one to the hand, ” said Jorge Pino with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “They are very lucky. They are very lucky that they managed to get away from the crocodile with no problem.”
Jimenez was taken to South Miami Hospital. He told the hospital that he wanted no information released about him. Pino said the woman, Lisett Rendon, who was bitten was not hospitalized and is going to be OK.
Residents of the Gables by the Sea community said it was just a matter of time before a croc bit someone. They added that they were surprised that anyone would go into the canal at night because that’s when the crocs likes to feed.
FWC said there are actually three crocodiles in the canal, but they’ve had difficulty locating them. A trapper has been called-in to assist.
“I just told the boys, the kids, not to swim anymore. We used to swim, I used to swim in the canal, but I just told them not to do it any more,” said Claudio Rozen.
“This is part of their habitat. The were here long before we were,” said Fred Santiago.
FWC hired Todd Hardwick, a crocodile expert that’s been tracking the reptiles for 20-years, to locate the crocodiles.
“We’re looking for crocodiles over nine foot and they’ll be removed from the community,” said Hardwick. “One of the preferred methods is we use a very small trouble hook. We cast out to the swimming crocodile. We hook him in his hide. doesn’t even draw blood.”
Hardwick was able to hook an 11-foot long crocodile Monday, but as he and a helper were trying to capture it, it got away.
“I will never be able to tell if this is the one that was involved the other night,” said Hardwick. “What I can tell you is that we’re going to move the animal out of the neighborhood.”
Crocodile sightings are fairly common in the neighborhood which even has warning signs posted advising people not to feed or harass them.
According to the FWC’s website, up until now “There has never been a documented bite on a person by an American crocodile in Florida. Unleashed pets are at some risk from crocodiles, but pets are always at risk near the water because of the more likely presence of alligators.”
“Crrodocodiles are very shy and reclusive animals and they don’t necessarily look at a human as food and target them as a food source,” said Pino.
Veteran boater Gonzalo Sanabria took CBS4’s Peter D’Oench for a ride on the canal and showed him where the attack happened behind a home at 1300 Lugo Avenue.
“We’ve been here since 1999 and we have never had a problem other than a dog being taken,” Sanabria said. “Crocodiles are very shy when it comes to people. This story of an attack by a crocodile is hard to believe.”
“I don’t see the point of going in to a canal like this,” said Sanabria. “I have never heard of anyone jumping into a canal, ever. It makes no sense. It is a habitat, a habitat for crocodiles.”
On Monday, officers went door-to-door handing out flyers, warning people in the neighborhood about the crocs. They also made calls to area residents to let them know what was going on.
American crocodiles live in coastal areas throughout the Caribbean and Southern Florida. They live in brackish or saltwater areas, and can be found in ponds, coves, and creeks in mangrove swamps.
When FWC finds the crocs, it will move them to a wildlife sanctuary because they have protected status in the state.