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Variation in home range size and patterns in adult female American crocodiles Crocodylus acutus

June 15, 2018

The American crocodile Crocodylus acutus is a threatened species that uses relatively deep, open-water habitats with low salinity. Adult female American crocodiles nest on sandy coastal beaches, islands or human-made berms, assist in the hatching process, and can travel long distances to nesting habitat. We satellite-tracked 15 adult female American crocodiles in 2 hydrologically distinct areas in Everglades National Park, Florida, USA, to quantify the home range sizes, test for intraspecific differences in home range and core area size and structure, and identify important crocodile high-use areas. Overall home ranges (95% kernel density estimate; KDE) for adult female crocodiles in South Florida ranged from 30.0 to 141.9 km2 (mean ± SD, 84.4 ± 32.3 km2), and core areas (50% KDE) ranged from 4.7 to 27.4 km2(17.8 ± 7.3 km2). We identified patterns in home range and core area overlap, seasonally shifting patterns in core area use, and the Fox Lake complex as an important crocodile high-use area. As the population of American crocodiles continues to grow and expand into new areas, it is important for conservation managers to understand individual crocodile habitat-use patterns and spatial resource requirements.