Hatchling American Alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) produced from artificially incubated wild eggs were returned to their natal areas (repatriated). We compared artificially incubated and repatriated hatchlings released within and outside the maternal alligator's home range with naturally incubated hatchlings captured and released within the maternal alligator's home range on Lake Apopka, Lake Griffin, and Orange Lake in Florida. We used probability of recapture and total length at approximately nine months after hatching as indices of survival and growth rates. Artificially incubated hatchlings released outside of the maternal alligator's home range had lower recapture probabilities than either naturally incubated hatchlings or artificially incubated hatchlings released near the original nest site. Recapture probabilities of other treatments did not differ significantly. Artificially incubated hatchlings were approximately 6% shorter than naturally incubated hatchlings at approximately nine months after hatching. We concluded that repatriation of hatchlings probably would not have long-term effects on populations because of the resiliency of alligator populations to alterations of early age-class survival and growth rates of the magnitude that we observed. Repatriation of hatchlings may be an economical alternative to repatriation of older juveniles for population restoration. However, the location of release may affect subsequent survival and growth. Copyright 2006 Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles.
Additional publication details
Survival and growth of American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) hatchlings after artificial incubation and repatriation