The Effects of Wildfires on Alligator Nests on Rockefeller Refuge

Environmental factors such as flooding, drought, and predation can adversely affect alligator nesting success. No prior studies have documented the effects of wildfires on alligator nesting ecology. In July 1995, wildfires burned over 1,300 ha of alligator nesting habitat on Rockefeller Refuge in southern Louisiana. Although most alligator eggs from nests in the burned area had previously been removed by staff biologists, the burned area was searched to evaluate fire damage to remaining nests and eggs. Twentynine (46.0%) of 63 nests located were not damaged by the wildfires, due probably to water and moist vegetation adjacent to the nest site. Fourteen nests (22.2%) were deeply burned, with the nest cavity exposed and damaged. Uncontrolled summer wildfires can limit alligator nesting success. Management implications for alligator egg ranching programs are discussed.

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