Authored by Rodney Southern in Nature and Wildlife
Published on 07-09-2009
The caiman is not supposed to exist here in America, but thanks to a pet trade that released large numbers of them into the wild, they apparently are here to stay. The caiman is a powerful reptile that largely resembles the alligator, and competes for their territory. Due to the caiman being introduced, the alligators are largely being driven away from natural habitats.
The caiman grows up to about nine feet in length and shares the bite strength and power of their cousins in the family; the alligator and the crocodile. In spite of their smaller size, the caiman is known for making up for it with a rather nasty temper and ill disposition. They are masters at adapting to new habitats, and this also contributes to their being able to dominate the alligator for territory. The caiman is the most wide spread member of the Alligatoridae family. They can be found in North America, South America, Central America, and others throughout the world.
Identifying the caiman is rather difficult at times, because they look so much like a mid sized alligator. They are an olive-green color, and they have a bony ridge in between their eyes that specify them as caimans. Alligators do not have this ridge. The caiman is reclusive by nature, but will certainly come out if they have been fed by people. This is where caimans and people run into problems, much like the alligator.
The caiman is more than capable of killing an adult human, and children in particular. They are ambush predators on the whole, and most people will never see them until they have latched onto them. Most of the safety measures that are in place with the alligator applies to the caiman as well.
You should never mess with a caiman, and certainly should never feed them. Feeding a caiman causes them to associate a human with food. This is bad news for the next human that comes along without any food. Other common problems is when you swim in waters that are inhabited by caimans. As mentioned before, caimans are very adaptive, and can be found in lakes, rivers, canals, and any other areas where water and a source of food is present.
The caiman would not even be here if it were not for the pet trade. People would get caimans for pets when they were small, and then when they got too big to be cute anymore, they released them into the wild. This caused the caiman population to explode. Over time, the caiman has become more and more common in American waters.