How a Florida nuclear power plant became a crocodile nursery
For nearly 45 years, crocodiles have called the man-made cooling canals at the Turkey Point Nuclear Plant in Homestead, Florida home
Crocodiles. Nuclear energy. Florida.
It seems like the makings of the next mutant superhero origin story.
Located just south of Miami, American crocodiles have come to call the Florida Power and Light Company’s Turkey Point Nuclear Plant home. Since the first hatchlings were discovered at the plant in 1978, it has become a popular nesting ground for the area’s reptilian residents.
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FOX Weather multimedia journalist Brandy Campbell visited the power plant and spoke with FPL wildlife biologist Mike Lloret to see how the plant became a favorite stomping ground for crocodiles.
"It’s prime crocodile habitat," Lloret said. "Essentially, they're attracted to come into our areas thanks to our raised berms, which allow the females to nest away from flooding."
These berms are a common feature of nuclear plants, such as Turkey Point. The earthen barriers are built to help protect the plants from floodwaters.
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Also, 40 ponds created on the power plant grounds hold freshwater for the hatchling crocodiles. These freshwater nurseries are important for the hatchlings as, according to Lloret, the reptiles take about three months to develop salt glands that would allow them to tolerate and live in saltwater habitats as adults.
After the hatchlings leave the ponds, their growth and progress are tracked.
"We'll go out four times a year and try to catch them again to monitor how much they've grown, how much they've moved, and just find out the overall health of the crocodiles here in the cooling canal systems," Lloret said.
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Their efforts are part of a larger initiative by FPL to manage the crocodiles on the plant property. According to Campbell, these efforts have led to a positive impact.
"The crocodiles' population growth led them to being declared by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a threatened species instead of endangered," she said.
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