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The American crocodile, once among the most imperiled animals in the United States, has rebounded so robustly that the federal government plans to cease classifying it as endangered.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed upgrading the crocodile's status from endangered to threatened, a change that would recognize the crocodile's improved prospects while leaving its legal protection intact.

Once reduced to a last stronghold in northeastern Florida Bay, the crocodile has reclaimed some of its old territory, extending its range up both coasts of Florida. A crocodile recently showed up in a lake at the University of Miami's campus in Coral Gables. The number of crocodiles in South Florida rose to as many as 1,000 from a low point in the 1970s of fewer than 300.

"The population as a whole appears to be doing better," said Britta Muiznieks, Upper Keys recovery biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "We no longer believe the species is in imminent danger of extinction."

-- South Florida Sun-Sentinel