The Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge is part of the United States National Wildlife Refuge System, located in north Key Largo, less than 40 miles south of Miami off SR 905 . The 6,686 acre refuge opened during the year of 1980, under the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973. It was established in order to protect critical breeding and nesting habitat for the threatened American crocodile and other wildlife. This area also includes 650 acres of open water in and around the refuge. In addition to being one of only three breeding populations of the American crocodile, the refuge is home to tropical hardwood hammock, mangrove forest, and salt marsh. It is administered as part of the National Key Deer Refuge which is also located in the Florida Keys.
Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge was once entirely platted for residential development; however, accumulated deposits of dredge-spoils on the bayside of North Key Largo became an important nesting area for some of the country's remaining American crocodiles which have recovered in recent years from a low, in 1975, of approximately 200 in population size. The American crocodile had nearly been extirpated by hunting for export of its hide as an exotic leather. The government took protective action and listed the US population due to this hunting and, also, due to loss of habitat in the area. Due to its recovery trend, on March 20, 2007, the federal government downlisted the American crocodile from endangered to threatened, though the capturing and hunting of the crocodile is still forbidden.
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