Harvest of crocodilian eggs and young for captive rearing (ranching) has been used worldwide as an option for producing crocodilian skins and meat from wild stock. The long-term effects of harvesting a certain proportion of early age class, wild American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) without repatriation is unknown. We removed an estimated 50% of annual production of alligators on Lakes Griffin and Jesup in central Florida over an 11-year period and monitored population levels via night-light counts. Densities of the total alligator population increased (P < 0.037) on all areas. Count densities of adult (???183 cm total length [TL]) alligators increased (P < 0.003) on harvest areas but remained stable (P = 0.830) on the control (no harvest) area, Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge (Lake Woodruff NWR). Observed densities of juvenile (<122 cm TL) alligators remained stable (P > 0.117), and subadult (122-182 cm TL) alligators increased (P < 0.011) on harvest areas. The density of juveniles on the control area increased (P = 0.006), and the density of subadults showed some evidence of increasing (P = 0.088). No changes were detected in size distributions on the treatment areas. Nest production, as observed from aerial helicopter surveys, increased (P < 0.039) on Lake Woodruff NWR and Lake Jesup and showed some evidence of an increase on Lake Griffin (P = 0.098) during 1983-91. A 50% harvest rate of eggs or hatchlings did not adversely affect recruitment into the subadult or adult size classes.
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Effects of egg and hatchling harvest on American alligators in Florida