Alligator Gar

Alligator Gar

Atractosteus spatula

About This Animal

SIZE: Up to 10 feet in the wild

RANGE: Found in the waters of the Mississippi River basin from southwestern Ohio and southern Illinois south to the Gulf of Mexico.

HABITAT: Freshwater; brackish

DIET: Juveniles feed on plankton, invertebrates, amphibians, and fish before transitioning to almost exclusively fish.

ON EXHIBIT:  River Giants exhibit in River Journey

This North American fish can reach lengths of up to 10 feet in the wild. These toothy fish can attain beastly sizes. In 2011, an alligator gar was caught that tipped the scales at an astounding 327 pounds! According to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, this was the largest alligator gar ever caught, beating a 302-pound gar caught in 1963. 

Recent surveys suggest populations are far below historic levels and could be declining further. In some northern states, they are believed to have been extirpated or reduced in number to non- viable populations requiring reintroductions through stockings in some locations. For these reasons they have been identified as an imperiled species by the American Fisheries Society and a focal species of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Numerous states have already or are in the process of increasing conservation and management through regulation, habitat restoration and stocking.