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Crocodile attacks dog in Key Largo

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By KEVIN WADLOW KEYSNET.COM:

A pit bulldog named Tyson escaped from an unusual crocodile attack in a Key Largo canal Tuesday.
 
The American crocodile -- an aggressive juvenile male measuring about 5 feet, 6 inches -- was captured by state wildlife agents for relocation.
 
Dog owner Emilie Stewart said wildlife agents told her: "If it was a smaller dog or a bigger crocodile, Tyson would not have survived."
 
As it turned out, the muscular 65-pound Tyson escaped with puncture bite wounds on his left shoulder and ankle. He was treated by Dr. Martha Edwards at the Island Hammock Pet Hospital and released.
 
The crocodile, weighing about 40 pounds, came up from beneath Tyson as the dog went for one of his regular midday swims in the Center Lane Canal, a waterway in the Stillwright Point subdivision off the mile marker 105.3 bayside.
 
Tyson was bitten and pulled under, but turned to snap at the toothy reptile and broke free.
 
As the dog swam back to a backyard boat ramp, the crocodile "literally chased him," Stewart said. Stewart distracted the crocodile by snapping a towel at it while Tyson climbed out of the water.
 
"This crocodile did not act normally," Stewart said. "It was a fairly little thing, but it was not afraid of humans. It was hissing at the FWC officers trying to catch it."
 
Lindsey Hord, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologist in charge of dealing with South Florida's nuisance alligators and crocodiles, agreed.
 
"Usually crocodiles don't try to go after an animal bigger than they are," Hord said Wednesday. 
 
 "Although the circumstances are unusual, it's a lesson that Florida has alligators and crocodiles," Hord said.
"It can be dangerous for dogs near the water, but the vast majority of bites to pets are avoidable," he said. "I don't let my dogs go near the water."
 
Stewart said Tyson, age 9, has gone swimming in the backyard canal "three or four days a week" all his life.  
 
"I'll never let him swim in there again," said the Key Largo resident since 1995. "I've gone swimming in there, too, but not again."
 
While there are no confirmed attacks on humans by the normally docile American crocodile, Hord cautioned residents "not to be ignorant of the possibilities."
 
"There are some big crocs around there, and there is a chance that one 9 feet or over could see a human as a prey item," he said.
 
Key Largo has the highest density of American crocodiles outside of Everglades National Park, Hord said. They seem to prefer bayside mangroves and creeks more than the open Atlantic Ocean waters, but they do roam.
 
Nearly extinct a few decades ago, American crocodiles have rebounded to an estimated population of about 2,000 animals larger than hatchlings. 
 
They are a protected species, and FWC agents try not to remove a nuisance crocodile unless it measures 9 feet or longer.
 
A 10-foot crocodile killed a Key Largo family's 65-pound dog near mile marker 103 in March 2012.
 
Some Florida Keys residents would prefer to see all American crocodiles removed. Hord called that "unrealistic."
 
"Thirty years ago, we didn't have very many crocs. Now we do," he said. "We have to accept that reality, use common sense and make some lifestyle changes."

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