TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. - When Wanda Vekasi saw a long object floating in Lake Tarpon on Monday evening, she knew it wasn't an alligator.
She'd heard rumors of a crocodile living in the freshwater lake in Tarpon Springs. So she called a trapper she had been working with to get rid of alligators near her home.
It took Mike Amyx and his crew more than four hours but they finally pulled the 700-pound, 11-foot-long American crocodile from the water.
"He had big spikes sticking out of his tail. It just looked evil," Vekasi told the Tampa Bay Times.
Officials from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission say they haven't captured a crocodile this far north. The crocodile is on the federal endangered list and officials say there are only about 2,000 in Florida. They are found in South Florida, South America, Central America and the Caribbean.
Gary Morse, a fish and wildlife spokesman, said they've been aware of the crocodile in Lake Tarpon for about a year.
Rumors of the crocodile circulated for more than a year. He said it's likely that the croc used culverts, creeks, rivers and land to get to the lake. "Wildlife tends to move around a lot," he said. "Animals sometimes get wanderlust and that was the case here."
The crocodile was sent to a rehabilitation facility in South Florida and will likely be released back into the wild.
Vekasi, who enjoys life on the lake, said the crocodile capture has given her some peace of mind.
"Man, after seeing that thing and how big it was," she said, "I'm just not afraid of gators anymore."
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