DRY TORTUGAS NATIONAL PARK, Fla. (AP) - A crocodile that mysteriously appeared in the remote islands of Florida's Dry Tortugas National Park 14 years ago has been relocated to the Everglades after getting too friendly with food-bearing visitors.
The Miami Herald reports park staff and Florida wildlife officials lassoed the American crocodile nicknamed Cleatus, taped its mouth shut, and loaded it into a sea plane Sunday.
Cleatus was released Monday in Everglades National Park.
Tortugas park manager Glenn Simpson said they took the safety of tourists and the health of the croc into consideration before moving it.
“We were starting to see a strong connection between people and food for the croc. It would start following people. When we start to see a change in behavior like that, it’s an indicator that the risk is a lot higher,” he told the Herald.
Indiana tourists Shannon and Robin Collingsworth shot video of the crocodile’s capture at Dry Tortugas National Park on Sunday. Their footage shows dozens of park visitors looking on as staffers and trappers carried Cleatus from a moat to the waiting plane.
“That was amazing,” one onlooker can be heard saying in the video.
Cleatus had become something of a local celebrity, increasingly turning up in tourists’ social media posts from the park. But officials still aren’t sure how Cleatus initially arrived on the Dry Tortugas, which is 70 miles west of Key West.
Simpson said he was sad to see Cleatus leave, but pointed out that the coral reef was an odd home for the crocodile.