Thanks to conservation measures, Florida's endangered crocodile population has grown the past 20 years from 300 to about 2,000, a wildlife official said.
Still, it was rare to have one cavorting as far north as the Tampa Bay area, much less in Lake Tarpon in northwest Pinellas County.
That's where one was nabbed this week by an alligator trapper from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
FWC spokesman Gary Morse said officials believe the 11-foot, 700-pound crocodile had been in the area over the past year, possibly making its way north via rivers and other waterways.
Still, he said, it was "very unusual" to see an American crocodile north of Fort Myers. Previously, no crocodile had been captured as far north as Tarpon Springs.
The trapper was looking for reported nuisance alligators in the 2,500-acre lake when he found the crocodile. He and three crew members needed about four hours to capture the reptile, which was seen and reported by a resident Monday night.
The crocodile was sent to an unnamed rehabilitation facility until it can be released in South Florida, Morse said.
Morse said the crocodile was a "good size" but noted that they tend to grow much larger than alligators.
TBO.com producer Rick Mayer contributed to this report.