The alligator gar are in the water, hundreds of them, with teeth.
But despite the teeth, these babies are pretty docile.
The metro-east saw the return of the native species about noon Thursday when about 350 alligator gar were reintroduced at Horseshoe Lake State Recreation Area near Granite City and hundreds more into the Kaskaskia River south of New Athens. The gar were about a foot long, but elsewhere in the U.S. have grown to 10 feet and 300 pounds.
There has never been a documented case of alligator gar attacking people in the water. Humans aren’t on the gar’s menu, biologists with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources said.
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But gars are on people’s menus. They can be eaten and are considered a trophy fish.
The prehistoric-looking alligator gar is the largest fish native to Illinois. It has not been seen in the state since 1966 and was officially declared extinct in Illinois in the 1990s.
A few alligator gar were released in 2010 into the Kaskaskia, but biologists do not believe they survived. The department recently obtained 10,000 alligator gar fry from other states and grew them at a hatchery, which led to Thursday’s release.
It could be more than a decade before biologists know whether the reintroduction was a success. Female gar do not reach sexual maturity until they are at least 11 years old.