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Wanted: Crocodile handlers, no experience required

Wilfredo Lee / AP file

A wildlife biologist holds a small crocodile to release into a cooling canal in Homestead, Fla.

Looking for a job with a little adventure to it? Florida conservation officials are recruiting "crocodile response agents" to help corral the wayward reptiles. No experience required.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is planning to hire two to four more part-time agents — there is currently just one — to respond to calls when crocodiles stray onto human turf in the Florida Keys, the string of wetland islands at the southern tip of the state.

Crocodile response agents "assist in handling human-American Crocodile conflicts," wrote Carli Segelson, spokesperson for the Florida commission’s south region, in an email response to msnbc.com questions. "Their duties include, site visits, captures, translocations, carcass recoveries, other duties as needed."

The agents apparently are part of an attempt to address an increasing number of crocodile sightings, and calm alarm caused when a 10-foot-long crocodile snatched a family dog near Key Largo in March. The crocodile drowned the pet — as they typically do before eating their prey — before locals chased down the creature and retreived the canine carcass, the Miami Herald reported.

The conservation commission’s challenge is not only to protect humans and their pets from crocodiles, but also to prevent harm to the crocodiles, which are slowly recovering from near extinction.

The saltwater-dwelling American crocodile was listed as endangered in 1975 when numbers dropped as low as 300. It is now considered threatened, numbering around 1,500, according to Segelson.

Florida and other parts of the Southeast U.S. also have a large population of the freshwater American alligator, a cousin of the crocodile, and they also make unwelcome appearances.

According to the conservation commission, learning to handle these reptiles is relatively easy. A crocodile response agent earns $25 an hours and works as needed. Experience is preferred but not required, and training is provided.

"There is inherent danger handling any live crocodilian," wrote Segelson. "However, our (agents) are taught safe handling and transport techniques to protect them and the crocodile from injury. Consequently, the danger is minimal."

Some residents along the shorelines and canals of the Keys are not happy about the re-emergence of the giant reptiles, which can grow up to 15 feet long.

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"Do we wait until a child gets hurt until we do something?" asked Councilman Dave Purdo at a village council meeting in Islamorada on May 30, according to a report by keysnews.com. "Is that what we're waiting for, until a child gets hurt?"

According to the report, state conservation biologist Lindsey Hord told the meeting there has never been a recorded crocodile attack on a human in all of Florida, but he acknowledged that crocodiles present a danger, especially to pets.

He urged people to take precautions such as fencing their dock areas, keeping children and pets away from canals and either not swimming at all or avoiding swimming at night. He also said fishermen should avoid dumping the waste from fish-cleaning along the banks because that tends to attract hungry crocodiles.

"What you are experiencing is the return of the crocodile to its historic range," Lindsey told the council, according to keysnews.com. "We can live with these things. It just requires acceptance of the fact that they are going to be here, and to accommodate that, taking some common sense safety steps."

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