Nature Lab

By Bonnie Chasteen | August 1, 2019
From Missouri Conservationist: August 2019

Each month, we highlight research MDC uses to improve fish, forest, and wildlife management.

Fisheries Management

Alligator Gar Restoration

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.

Alligator Gar Study at a Glance

Project Partners

MDC • Southeast Missouri State University

Study Dates

March 2018– February 2019

Study Area

Marquette North Lake near Cape Girardeau


Trammel net sets detected the most specimens.

  • Trammel net sets: 39
  • Gill net sets: 16
  • Electrofishing surveys: 1
  • Mini-fyke sets: 0
  • Jugline sets: 0

This Issue's Staff

Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld

Associate Editor - Larry Archer

Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek

Creative Director - Stephanie Thurber

Art Director - Cliff White

Designer - Les Fortenberry
Designer - Marci Porter

Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner

Circulation - Laura Scheuler