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Oklahoma Alligator (GAR that is)

Oklahoma Alligator (GAR that is)

Jim took this picture of an Alligator Gar in a small stream near Canton Lake, Oklahoma, a couple of months ago. We had gone out for a day’s outing, driving our little car on outback tracks that would have been better navigated in a 4-wheel drive vehicle. Wheel placement was a serious issue in several instances to keep from bogging the car in deep ruts and mud holes. Finally, we reached the dead-end of that track and found this clear-water, free-flowing stream. We watched in wonder as groups of Alligator Gars thrashed about in the shallows, coming almost up on the creek bank. Some of those strange looking fish were a couple of feet long. Jim got this picture of one as it came up to the toes of his shoes as he was wading in to get closer to the olive-green swimmers. This fish didn’t seem to pay him any heed, and concentrated on its’ cruise downstream. Later, after returning home, we looked up the fish on the National Geographic website. We found that the eggs of that particular fish are poisonous to humans if ingested. Since neither of us likes fish roe in any form, that wouldn’t be a problem for us! These very scaly bodied, long-lived fish, which can reach ten-feet in length and up to 300 pounds in weight, have few natural predators. They, however, are opportunistic feeders and will take waterfowl, small turtles and even carrion as a meal. They prefer slow-moving waters, but have experienced serious population declines because of flood-control measures such as dams and dikes. Those structures have eliminated a lot of their preferred spawning habitats. The Gars need wide floodplains with reedy, shallow waters to provide hatchlings with protection from predators such as herons, alligators, hawks, etc. These fish, with their tooth-filled mouths and wide alligator-like snouts, provided us with an unusual, unexpected, and enlightening encounter.

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