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Crocodiles thrive as neighbors of Florida nuclear plant

The Associated Press reports from HOMESTEAD, Florida:

An unexpected but fruitful relationship has blossomed between two potent forces in the swamps of South Florida: the American crocodile and a nuclear power plant.

Wilfredo Lee / AP

A wildlife biologist holds a small crocodile that will be released into one of the cooling canals adjacent to the Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant during a nighttime crocodile survey in Homestead, Fla., on Nov. 28, 2011.

The reptile has made it off the endangered species list thanks in part to 168 miles of manmade cooling canals surrounding Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant in the southeastern corner of the Florida peninsula. It turns out that Florida Power and Light was building prime croc habitat just as virtually every other developer was paving it over.

Federal wildlife officials give the state's largest public utility part of the credit for a five-fold increase in the species' population in Florida. There are only two other sanctuaries for the crocodiles, which are still considered threatened.

Wilfredo Lee / AP

Wildlife biologist Rafael Crespo measures a small crocodile captured in a cooling canal adjacent to the nuclear plant on Nov. 28, 2011.

Wilfredo Lee / AP

Wildlife biologists Michael Cherkiss, left, and Joseph Wasilewski weigh a small crocodile that they captured in a cooling canal adjacent to the nuclear plant on Nov. 28, 2011.

"The way the cooling canal system was designed actually turned out to be pretty good for crocodile nesting," said John Wrublik, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "It wasn't designed for crocodiles, but they've done a very good job of maintaining that area."

Hundreds of crocodiles, as long as 15 feet and as heavy as one ton, roam the swampland surrounding the power plant. They're monitored by wildlife biologists hired by the utility, who sometimes need quick reflexes to keep all their fingers. Continue reading.

Wilfredo Lee / AP

Wildlife biologists on an airboat head out on a cooling canal adjacent to the nuclear plant during a nighttime crocodile survey on Nov. 28, 2011.

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