Wildlife conservation in a developing landscape
Skupien, Gregory Michael
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Development associated with human population growth often places humans and wildlife in close proximity to one another. Top predators are vulnerable to the effects of development because their dietary needs and large home ranges put them in direct conflict with humans. As a result, top predators are often removed from the system to reduce the risk to humans. In the southeastern United States, the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) is an important member of coastal ecosystems where it is a top predator and ecosystem engineer. We conducted a study on Jekyll Island, Georgia that included population surveys, telemetry studies, and public education in order to maintain viable alligator populations while reducing risks to humans. We found that alligators are more likely to inhabit large lagoons with low salinities. Home range sizes for adult alligators ranged from 27.5 – 1093.9 ha. Public education proved successful at changing attitudes and perceptions towards alligators.