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American Black Bears Depredate American Alligator Nests in South Florida

Darcy Doran-Myers1,*, Mark Parry2, Sean M. McHugh3, Matthew McCollister4, Brian K. Scheick5, and Shelby Shiver5

1Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611. 2South Florida Natural Resource Center, National Park Service, Homestead, FL 33034. 3Habitat and Species Conservation, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Immokalee, FL 34142. 4National Park Service, Big Cypress National Preserve, Ochopee, FL 34141. 5Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Gainesville, FL 32601. *Corresponding author.

Southeastern Naturalist, Volume 22, Issue 3 (2023): N58–N66

Ursus americanus (American Black Bear) and Alligator mississippiensis (American Alligator) are sympatric in areas of Florida. During summer, alligators build nest mounds for eggs on freshwater shores, shallow marshes, and tree islands. Biologists have speculated that bears might prey upon alligator nests because of their opportunistic and generalist diet, though such predation in Florida has not been documented in peer-reviewed literature. Herein, we report 3 photographed events of American Black Bear predation on American Alligator nests in Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, and Dinner Island Ranch Wildlife Management Area, FL. During each event, bears dug into alligator nests and consumed egg contents. The predation events varied in duration from 36 minutes to nearly 5 hours. During 1 event, a female bear consumed alligator eggs alongside 2 cubs of the year. Future research might explore the extent and effect of nest predation on American Alligator populations and the benefits to American Black Bears.

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