By Bonnie Chasteen
Each month, we highlight research MDC uses to improve fish, forest, and wildlife management.
It looks virtually indestructible, but the big, toothy alligator gar is critically imperiled in Missouri. “Like many top predators, it has fallen victim to overharvest and habitat loss,” said MDC Fisheries Management Biologist Salvador Mondragon.
In 2007, MDC and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service launched Missouri’s Alligator Gar Management and Restoration Plan.
“This is an effort to restore a species that has declined not only in our state but throughout its entire range,” Mondragon said.
To support the restoration plan, Southeast Missouri University (SEMO) graduate student Kevin Lambert worked with staff at MDC’s Big Rivers and Wetlands Field Station (BRWFS) in Cape Girardeau to evaluate the equipment managers use to detect the presence of alligator gar.
“We’ve had a hard time figuring out what gear is most effective,” Mondragon said.
Lambert’s study began in March 2018. His team included SEMO and BRWFS staff. They tested five different techniques in different habitats, at different times of the year, and in different weather. When the study ended in February 2019, the team determined that trammel nets do the best job of catching alligator gar in the most habitats and in the most weather conditions.
“Trammel net sets were responsible for detecting the smallest, longest, and heaviest specimens, while the lightest-weight fish was captured with electrofishing,” Lambert said.
Mondragon is excited about the study’s results. “This information will help us develop a standard sampling protocol that will improve our efforts to track the fish’s recovery in our state,” he said.
MDC • Southeast Missouri State University
March 2018– February 2019
Marquette North Lake near Cape Girardeau
Trammel net sets detected the most specimens.
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