- Five caves were surveyed by wading (up to waist deep) and kayaking
- Trail cameras used to monitor crocodiles and prey species in most flooded caves
- Crocodiles were observed in two caves
- A trail camera captured a crocodile exiting a third cave
- ≥16 potential prey species identified via direct observation and trail cameras
We provide the results on the first systematic effort to study cave-dwelling crocodiles in central Belize. For nearly three decades, managers at Runaway Creek Nature Reserve have frequently observed crocodile tracks and trackways in caves, while subterranean observations of crocodiles were less frequent. We surveyed five caves previously identified as crocodile habitat by wading (up to waist deep) and kayaking; we also deployed trail cameras in five of six flooded caves. Crocodiles were directly observed in two caves and trail camera footage was captured of a crocodile exiting a third cave. Given that introgression between Morelet’s Crocodile (Crocodylus moreletii (A.H.A. Duméril & Bibron, 1851)) and the American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus Cuvier, 1807) is high throughout their sympatric range and none of the crocodiles were captured, all individuals were identified as Crocodylus acutus x C. moreletii?. Additionally, in the five caves previously identified as crocodile habitat, we identified at least 16 potential prey species including two invertebrate, four fish, one turtle, one bird, several bat, and eight non-bat mammal species via direct observation and trail cameras. Capture, examination, and stomach flushes of cave-dwelling crocodiles, as well as continued monitoring of vertebrates via trail cameras, additional prey species surveys, monitoring of cave temperatures, and developing detailed cave maps of crocodile caves are highly recommended to obtain the information to both characterize crocodile cave use and optimally manage cave resources.
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Wynne, J.J., Tellez, M., Hartwell, K., Reneau, S., Welch, G., Voyles, K.D., Cal, M., Cal, R., Castillo, D., Champion, J., 2023. Cave-dwelling crocodiles of Central Belize. International Journal of Speleology, 52(1), 75-81. https://doi.org/10.5038/1827-806X.52.1.2470