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Nest success and hatchling survival of American alligators within inland wetlands of east Texas

Authors

  • David T. Saalfeld,

    Corresponding author
    1. Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture, Stephen F. Austin State University, P.O. Box 6109 SFA Station, Nacogdoches, TX 75965-6109, USA
    • Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture, Stephen F. Austin State University, P.O. Box 6109 SFA Station, Nacogdoches, TX 75965-6109, USA
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  • Warren C. Conway,

    1. Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture, Stephen F. Austin State University, P.O. Box 6109 SFA Station, Nacogdoches, TX 75965-6109, USA
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  • Gary E. Calkins

    1. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 1342 S. Wheeler, Jasper, TX 75951, USA
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  • Associate Editor: John Maerz

Abstract

Because of liberalization of American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) harvest management in Texas, estimates of nest success and hatchling survival for inland populations are essential for long-term, sustainable population and harvest management. To date, few studies have examined American alligator nest success and hatchling survival. We initiated a 3-year study from 2006 to 2008 to document alligator nest success and hatchling survival within several wetlands in east Texas. From June 2006 to August 2008, we located 30 nests from 3 wetlands within east Texas, where overall nest success was 44.2% (95% CI = 25.1–63.1%), irrespective of year. Nest circumference and day during the nesting season exerted the greatest influence on nest success. Additionally, from August 2006 to August 2008 we captured, marked, and released 271 hatchling alligators at Little Sandy National Wildlife Refuge, and recaptured an additional 192 hatchling alligators during this time. We estimated yearly apparent survival at 6.0% (95% CI = 2.0–14.6%) for hatchling alligators born in 2006 and 43.0% (95% CI = 28.4–57.8%) for those hatched in 2007. Variation in nest success and hatchling survival was likely attributed to fluctuating water levels and habitat management practices. Alligator harvest regulations need to account for variability in nest success and hatchling survival by including site-specific estimates of these metrics into harvest models. Failing to account for spatial and temporal variation in nest success and hatchling survival may result in unsustainable harvest and/or overharvest. © 2012 The Wildlife Society.

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