'A Reptile Dysfunction:' Florida Crocodile Shuts Down Navy Airfield Runway

A crocodile got into a navy airfield in Florida and "refused to budge," causing disruption to flights.

The Naval Air Station (NAS) in Key West South Florida shared a photograph of the croc on Facebook, as it basked on a runaway. A fighter jet can be seen taking off in the background.

"This airfield resident was soaking up some sun on one of our runways recently and didn't want to budge," NAS wrote in a Facebook post on April 18.

The intruder must have strayed from the nearby Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the Miami Herald reported, adding that the airbase had to change runways because the croc refused to move from its basking spot.

Croc on runway
A crocodile basks in the sun as a plane takes off in the background at the Naval Air Station in Key West, South Florida. The reptile got into the airfield and "refused to budge," causing disruption to flights. Rosa Gonzales

NAS wildlife biologist Rosa Gonzales, who captured the photograph of the crocodile, flagged the situation to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and called for help to move the stray reptile. The 7-foot-long female, weighing about 110 pounds, was eventually moved back across the fence line to the marine sanctuary.

American crocodiles live in coastal areas around South Florida, preferring coves, creeks and swamps. Key West is located at Florida's southernmost point and is surrounded by ideal crocodile habitat.

Florida resident Pamela Diane Adams, commenting on the Facebook picture, said wandering crocodiles had caused more problems than usual in recent months in neighborhoods around the marine sanctuary fence line.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesperson Jason Rafter told the said that the intruder was believed to be a "local crocodile," as she had a tag from four years ago.

"She's got a new tag on her now. That way we can identify her from a distance," he said.

The base has dealt with this sort of intruder before, air station spokeswoman Danette Baso Silvers told the Miami Herald, and crocs have been known to occasionally stray onto the runway.

"Usually, they can make them scurry away. But this one was stubborn," Baso Silvers said.

According to a survey carried out in January, there are six or seven crocodiles living on the base.

The airfield is also home to other native wildlife, including the endangered Lower Keys marsh rabbit.

Natural resources manager for the NAS environmental division Wendy Wheatley-Techmer, said that it is a "really unique experience" on this base.

Pilots flying aircraft in this area have to learn to co-exist with the predators, she said.