Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 11.djvu/16

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6
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

When, therefore, the writer found himself upon the Illinois River (at Peoria, Illinois), his steps almost instinctively sought the water, in the somewhat unreasonable expectation of being first greeted by a majestic "gar," rather than by some of the many kinds of ordinary fish so abundant in the Western rivers.

The first glance was disappointing. The river here widens into a basin known as Peoria Lake; and from the fishermen's pier, projecting some forty feet from the shore, could be seen no sign, near or remote, of the hoped-for mail-clad fish. The fishermen, who had not yet become acquainted with that unnatural perversity of naturalists which causes them to prize some things inversely as their beauty, their gentleness, and their commercial value, called attention to the "cats," "buffaloes," and other marketable fish swarming in the sunken pens, and promised to bring in some gars from their next haul; adding some emphatic statements as to the superabundance of these and of other such trash.

Just then, gliding slowly about very near the surface, and apparently undisturbed by the splashing of the bulky "cats" and "buffaloes," was seen a slender little fish less than three inches long. It was a young gar-pike. It might easily have escaped between the bars of the tanks, but instead remained within arm's-length of the edge of the open trap, moving gently to and fro as if courting observation.

A tin cup was anxiously brought: it was dipped into the water, slowly approached, and quickly lifted. The gar was there. But, floating as usual at the surface, a slight tilting of the cup spilt it back again into the water. To the astonishment of all, it soon reappeared in its former place, seeming actually to welcome death for the sake of (scientific) immortality.

By a second and more careful effort the young gar was secured, and soon transferred to the basin of water which was destined to be its home for three weeks.

During that time a part of each day was spent in observation of its form and its movements, and in comparing it with other gars, old and young.

Their Habits.—None of the young gars observed by the writer showed any disposition to attack each other or the small fishes placed with them; and the stomachs of the two adults examined with reference to this point contained only a few grasshoppers. But the many and sharp teeth are evidently well fitted for seizing living and active prey, and the fishermen accuse the gars of destroying large numbers of food-fishes. On this account, as also in revenge for the damage done by them when entangled in the nets, the fishermen are said to throw them out upon the bank to die, or to plunge them forcibly head first into the soft mud. More information is needed as to the food of the gar.

The following brief account of their manner of feeding is from a