A massive alligator gar has been caught in Kansas for first time in state history — and puzzled biologists are now probing how it got there in the first place, wildlife officials said.
The 4.5-foot, 39.5-pound gar – often referred to as a “living fossil fish” because its lineage dates back nearly 100 million years — was pulled from the Neosho River last month by angler Danny Lee “Butch” Smith, Kansas Wildlife and Parks officials revealed this week.
It marks the first time ever that an alligator gar has been found in Kansas, the officials said.
Alligator gar are usually only found in parts of southwestern Ohio and southeastern Missouri and Illinois.
Biologists are investigating how the predatory fish ended up in Kansas.
The most likely scenario is that the alligator gar was released from an aquarium into the river after it became too large.
“It’s not unlikely that this fish was once somebody’s pet or purchased from a pet store, and simply released into the river once it became too large,” Doug Nygren, KDWP Fisheries Division director, said.
Officials said it’s unlikely the gar made its own way into the river because of the distance to the nearest population, but they aren’t ruling anything out just yet.
They plan to study the gar’s fins to work out if it had been tagged and came from another state’s population.
“Because most populations of this species can be distinguished from one another with a sample of the fish’s fins, another option we’re considering is genetic identification,” said KDWP assistant director of Fisheries research, Jeff Koch.
“This will tell us if the fish came from an existing population in another state.”