BY MONIQUE O. MADAN
Coral Gables authorities on Monday were combing a canal for a crocodile that went on the attack over the weekend. They're also handing out warnings to area residents.
Two people were bitten by a crocodile while they were swimming in a Coral Gables canal around 2 a.m. Sunday, said Jorge Pino, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation.
Both were taken to South Miami Hospital with non-life threatening injuries and were released Monday, Pino said. The victims were identified as Alejandro Jimenez, 26, of Doral and Lisset Rendon, 23, of Miami.
Jimenez and Rendon were swimming in a canal in the 1300 block on Lugo Avenue during a party when a croc, described as eight to nine feet, bit the man in the arm, shoulder and back, Pino said.
Both were in the water when the croc first bit Rendon. She managed to escape its grasp and swam to the dock, according to Pino. She was bitten in the back and shoulder area.
Partygoers all ran to shore and dragged her out. Then Jimenez tried swimming back to the dock. The croc bit his hands and torso.
“The bite happened right behind the residence. We don’t know why these two individuals would be in a canal that’s known to have crocodiles at such hour,” Pino said.
Coral Gables police responded to an animal bite at around 2:30 a.m., said spokeswoman Kelly Denham.
On Monday, police were going door to door, handing out guides on “living with crocodiles," Denham said.
“We need to pass this out because crocodiles were here way before these houses were built,” she said.
According to Pino, this is the first time an American crocodile has attacked a human in Florida, according to his records.
Authorities will continue the search for the crocodile Monday night, when croc activity is at its peak. Because crocs are federally protected. officials will will "relocate the croc to its natural habitat," which is usually at the reserve between Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.
Melinda Wild, 45, was walking her two dogs Ginger and Luna, Monday afternoon. She lives on the next block.
She said she typically careful when she walks the dogs.
" I always make sure they're on a tight leash because of the signs posted everywhere," Wild said. "I'd say jumping in the canal might have been a bit reckless. But on the other hand, you always see people paddle boarding, so I don't know."
Said Pino: “This area is known to have crocodiles, but we’ve had one bite a human," he said. "However, we’ve had several reports of dogs going missing in Coral Gables.”
Crocodile warning signs are posted throughout the area.
“There are signs that are clearly in the area,” Pino said. “The homeowner’s association is very progressive with letting people know that is a crocodile sanctuary.”