Alligator Gar do not attack large animals. They will only go after bait and fish that they can swallow.

Alligator Gar Species

Alligator Gar is one of those fish that you never forget once you see it. So strange in appearance that it looks like a fosile from the time of the dinosaurs. In fact, the Alligator Gar as a sprcies is far older than the human race, going back as far as 100 million years.

And like a prehistoric creature, it has features built for a time when everything had big sharp teeth. It’s scales are so sharp and hard that if you do not hold it properly, they can easily cut your skin. The scales are made from a super hard enamel called ganoine with a diamond-shaped appearance. Unfortunately, while the Aligator Gar has survived over 100 million years, these scales have done little to protect itself from humans, which have almost driven it to extinstion in the last 100 years.

The Alligator gar’s distribution once covered all of North America but can only be found south of the Missouri line. They could be found as far north as Canada, but are now extinct from that country, though they can still be found in the United States and Mexico.

There are five species of gar, but the Alligator Gar is the biggest and longest. This is the gar that is the poster child for the species.

The five species are the Spotted Gar (Lepisosteus oculatus), Florida Gar (Lepisosteus platyrhincus), Alligator gar (Atractosteus spatula), Shortnose Gar (Lepisosteus platostomus) and Longnose Gar (Lepisosteus osseus). Unlike the other gar, the Alligator Gar can grow over 10 feet long and reach over 360 pounds being one of the largest freshwater fish in North America.

Elizabeth Granger Attacked by 7 Foot Gar

Little was know about the Aligator Gar by early setters of North America. People feared them, but more or less left them alone. However, that all changed in the early part of the twentieth century. The Alligator Gar was blamed for attacking people and there was one story that changed everything for the species. A young girl, called Elizabeth Granger, was attached while she was dangling her feet in the water. Her brother George came by to help but the creature in question was gone.

George claimed that the alligator was some seven feet long. The wound indicated that rows of teeth had penetrated the skin that looked like course needles. You can imagine the fright and fear of the experience. Despite many attacks by aligators in the area with the same style of attack, the Aligator Gar became infamous.

Shortly after the incident, the press took hold of the story and wrote stories of the aggressive nature of the fish calling for people to eradicate them from the waterways. In 1933, the Texas Game and Fish Commission even set up a campaign to eliminate the fish. In just over 30 years, it is estimated that close to one million Alligator Gar were exterminated. Texas Game and Fish is now looking to conserve and protect the Alligator Gar. Its hard to believe that a population could so turn against a fish when the bite marks and attack are so clearly that of an aligator.

Alligator Gar Feeding Habits

The Alligator Gar has a reputation that is not deserved. Unlike the claims against the fish, they do not eat large animals, cutting them in half. In fact they are rather timid creatures avoid conflict rather than seeking it out.

While they do have several rows of razor sharp teeth, they are designed for holding things in its mouth and not tearing the flesh. In fact, Alligator Gar are very hard fish to catch because of the way they eat.

Alligator Gar do not go after anything that they cannot swallow and their head does not change shape to allow large animals to be swallowed. Once an Alligator Gar does grab a hold of a fish or bait, it holds onto it for a long time partly to make sure it is dead and to be sure if it safe to swallow. Hardly what one would expect from an aggressive killer!

For any fisherman that has tried to catch one, if he tries to set the hook before the Alligator Gar attempts to swallow, the bait just comes loose. In the legend behind Elizabeth Granger, the animal in question would not let go. Also, the Alligator gar can hold onto the bait for as long as ten 10 to 20 minutes before attempting to swallow the bait.

Fact behind the Alligator Gar Myth

Alligator Gar do not attack large animals. They will only go after bait and fish that they can swallow. Several years ago, biologist Jeremy Wade, who likes to seek out strange and dangerous creatures, got into a pond filled with Alligator Gar, swimming with them. Whenever he got close to one, they Alligator Gar just swam away. The Alligator Gar is actually quite shy and avoids confrontation when it is presented. There are several video clips of this sequence of Yout Tube, but for copyright reasons, I cannot play here.

What Animal is Responsible for the Myths?

The alligator is most likely the animal responsible for the many rumours of Alligator Gar attacking people. It has the same shaped head and it is possible to confuse the two when they are in murky water. Teeth marks from an Alligator Gar and an alligator are very similar.

When is the last time someone got into a tank filled with hungry alligators. The Alligator also lives in the same habitats as the Alligator Gar and the alligator will go after large animals, people included and are responsible for several hundred human deaths every year.