Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Vilella, Francisco

Committee Member

Leopold, Bruce D.

Committee Member

Belant, Jerrold L.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Graduate Thesis - Open Access


Wildlife and Fisheries Science

Degree Name

Master of Science


College of Forest Resources


Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture


Wildlife management and conservation frequently rely on understanding mechanisms that influence distribution and abundance of animals. I quantified space use for a population of inland riverine adult male alligators in Mississippi. Results indicated habitat selection is a scale-dependent process and aquatic vegetation, water depth, and water temperature may be important factors influencing alligator foraging and thermoregulation. Apparent habitat suitability and low alligator density did not manifest in an observed body size-based dominance hierarchy. I also analyzed long-term Mississippi alligator spotlight survey data for trends and effects of environmental covariates on counts. Model results indicated alligator counts have increased over time. This response likely reflects benefits accrued from decades of protection and wetland conservation. Distance sampling does not appear to be a feasible monitoring technique for riverine alligator populations. Nevertheless, it is important that survey protocols and monitoring programs account for imperfect detection and model important covariates.



American alligator||dominance||resource selection||population estimation||distance sampling