is a 21,000-acre remnant of the 500,000 acres of wetlands that once dominated Southeast Missouri. With its combination of marshes, swampy waters and seasonally flooded woodlands, the area provides the best opportunity to restore alligator gar to southeastern Missouri.
All the gars Kennedy released have tags that researchers can use to track them. Anglers are encouraged to release any alligator gar they catch and to write down and report its tag number and where and when it was caught.
Researchers also will be radio tracking 20 of the released gar. They will mark the particulars of each gar’s travels—what habitats it prefers, how far it moves and at what times. Radio telemetry also allows scientists to pinpoint a gar’s location so it can be recaptured.
Fisheries biologists consider gar to be big-river fish. But gar also need to get in and out of wetlands and floodplains for spawning. This is hard to do these days. Levees may prevent flooding, but they also prevent gar from reaching typical spawning habitat.
Kennedy and other researchers also will be gathering data on the gar’s impact on the overall fish community at Mingo. An increasing number of fisheries biologists believe that not only can sport fishing and alligator gar coexist, but that the presence of gar might improve sport fish communities.
“Some of the best bass fishing in the southern U.S. is in waters where solid populations of alligator gar exist,” Kennedy says.
Kennedy dips the remaining dark-olive gar into the water. He holds it for a few seconds before letting go, and then the last of the lot disappears quickly. The 10-year veteran of the Department wipes his hands and marks a map where the fish was set free.
Events over the last hundred years have changed this landscape dramatically. From a species point of view, many of those events have marked loss. But today a different kind of event took place. A native species was reintroduced, helping to restore balance and resources for future generations to enjoy.
Visit the Refuge
Visit Mingo National Wildlife Refuge to learn about or observe wetland habitats unique to southeastern Missouri. The refuge’s visitor center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Five observation overlooks are located on refuge roadways, or visitors can hike the mile-long Boardwalk Nature Trail.
During April and May, take the 19-mile, scenic Auto Tour Route to see spring wildflowers and witness spring songbird migration. Take the same route during October and November to view fall foliage and waterfowl migration.
For more information about Mingo National Wildlife Refuge, visit online, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 573-222-3589.