Crocodiles escape Mexican refuge after hurricane

MEXICO CITY Tue Sep 21, 2010 2:10pm EDT

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - At least 280 crocodiles have escaped from a Mexican refuge near the Gulf of Mexico after heavy flooding caused by Hurricane Karl, Mexican media said Tuesday.

The endangered Morelet crocodiles were on the roam in six coastal areas in the Mexican state of Veracruz and residents were told not to try to capture or kill them, El Economista reported.

The governor of Veracruz told reporters about 280 crocodiles were missing from the reserve in La Antigua, although some media put the number of reptiles at closer to 400.

Morelet crocodiles can grow to nearly 10 feet and are found in freshwater swamps, lakes and rivers, and the brackish coastal waters of eastern Mexico, Belize and Guatemala.

Federal authorities from the agency charged with environmental protection said crocodile experts would be sent to the region to try to recapture the animals.

At least 15 people were killed and thousands displaced by the hurricane, which ripped through the Yucatan peninsula and slammed into Mexico's Gulf coast this past weekend.

(Reporting by Alexandria Sage; Editing by Eric Beech)

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