Nonnatives - Spectacled Caiman

Spectacled Caiman - Caiman crocodilus

 Florida's Exotic Wildlife. Species detail.

First year: 1960

Extirpated year:

Established status: Populations are confirmed breeding and apparently self-sustaining for 10 or more consecutive years.

Estimated Florida range: 2 counties  At least 10 years, 2 counties  Not reported breeding

Statewide trend: Stable

Spectacled Caiman
Photograph by Dr. Wayne King © 2003

Threats to natives: Preys upon a variety of vertebrates (Ellis 1980) and competes for food and space with the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)

Species Account: The native range of the spectacled caiman extends from southern Mexico to northern Argentina, where it may attain lengths of over 2.4 m (8 ft). South Florida specimens were released or escaped from the pet trade and are typically less than 1.8 m (6 ft) long. Breeding populations occur in localized areas of Dade and Broward counties, where they inhabit freshwater marshes, heavily vegetated ponds and lakes, and canals. This "small" crocodilian is secretive but is feisty when cornered. The caiman can be differentiated from native crocodilians by a curved bony ridge across the moderately sharp snout just in front of the eyes. Hatchlings are banded with very dark brown on a dark olive ground color, and the color darkens and the pattern obscures as they grow. It is susceptible to cold weather, and its northern expansion is limited by occasional freezes in south Florida (Bartlett and Bartlett 1999). Extirpation of the caiman population at Homestead Air Force Base, Dade County, was begun in 1977 (Ellis 1980) but caimans are still breeding there (L. J. Hord, FFWCC, Okeechobee, personal communication). In 2001, a nest of 41 eggs was collected (39 hatched) and 2 adults were killed near the junction of Levee No. 67A and Canal No. 123 (Holiday Park), Broward County (L. J. Hord, personal communication).

Habitats: Lake, Freshwater river or stream

County First Year Extirpated Year Breeding status Notes
BROWARD 1966 At least 10 years Not reported breeding by King and Krakauer (1966) but caimans are now breeding in Broward County (L. J. Hord, FFWCC, Okeechobee, pers. commun.)
DADE 1960 At least 10 years Observed in Miami canals as early as 1960 (Ellis 1980) but nesting first recorded in 1968 (Wilson and Porras 1983); breeding population on the Homestead Air Force Base discovered in 1974 (Ellis 1980)
PALM BEACH 1966 Not reported breeding Found as far north as Palm Beach County (King and Krakauer 1966)
SEMINOLE 1970s Not reported breeding Lake Jessup (Ellis 1980)


Bartlett, R. D., and P. P. Bartlett. 1999. A field guide to Florida reptiles and amphibians. Gulf Publishing Company, Houston, Texas. 278pp.

Ellis, T. M. 1980. Caiman crocodilus: an established exotic in south Florida. Copeia 1980:152-154.

King, F. W., and T. Krakauer. 1966. The exotic herpetofauna of southeast Florida. Quarterly Journal of the Florida Academy of Sciences 29:144-154.

Links to more information

Pond and Lake animal account

University of Florida Species account

Back to Nonnative Reptiles

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