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Alligator Gar Reintroduction at Mingo NWR
Midwest Region, June 1, 2007
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Joe McMullen and YCC employee backpack shocking.
- FWS photo
Joe McMullen and YCC employee backpack shocking.

- FWS photo

- Photo Credit: n/a
YCC employees preparing to backpack electro-fish.
- FWS photo 
YCC employees preparing to backpack electro-fish.

- FWS photo 

- Photo Credit: n/a
Western Lesser Siren captured from Monopoly Marsh.
- FWS photo
Western Lesser Siren captured from Monopoly Marsh.

- FWS photo

- Photo Credit: n/a

Seventy yearling Alligator Gar were released into Mingo’s Monopoly Marsh on the last week of May 2007.  This event marks the beginning of alligator gar reintroduction efforts in Missouri.  The fish were raised at the Tishomingo National Fish Hatchery in Oklahoma, and transported to Missouri earlier this year.  The Alligator Gar is among the largest freshwater fish in North America.  They are native to southeast Missouri, but the species was extirpated by the 1960’s.  Loss of habitat is the primary cause of their decline; however, suitable habitat still abounds in the swamps of Mingo.  These fish can reach lengths of 12 feet long and weigh as much as 300 pounds.  It is believed that reintroducing this large predatory fish will help to balance biological processes and increase the overall health of the swamp ecosystem.

This year Columbia FRO lead technician Joe McMullen teamed up with Mingo NWR and Missouri Dept. of Conservation (MDC) staff to complete a fish community survey on Mingo NWR. Joe led a group of young men from the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC).  The YCC is a program sponsored by the Missouri Department of Labor.  YCC is dedicated to providing youth with leadership and teamwork experience, while teaching work ethic through work in the field of natural sciences.  The crew sampled fish communities of the Mingo River, Monopoly, and Rockhouse Marshes, and many tributaries, and ditches throughout the refuge.

For the last two summers fish have been sampled on the refuge in an array of habitats using multiple collection methods.   These studies were conducted in order to gain perspective on the entire fish community present on the refuge.  This information can now be used as a basis of comparison, when future studies beg the question, “what affect are Alligator Gar having on the ecosystem?”  To even better understand the fish’s habits, graduate students from SE Missouri State University have fitted these fish with telemetry devices in order to track their movements.  This also allows biologists to more easily recapture the gar so that information about their diets and growth can be obtained. 

This event marks the beginning of what will hopefully be a more productive and healthy swamp, and offers the promise of greater fishing opportunities on the refuge.  Alligator gar reintroduction meets the aquatic species conservation and public use goals of the Fisheries Program Vision for the Future.  With perseverance and hard work this species has a chance at a come back in the swamps of SE Missouri.


Contact Info: Larry Dean, 612-713-5312, Larry_Dean@fws.gov



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