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Alligator gar (Atractosteus spatula) populations have declined throughout much oftheir range, and one of the reasons for the decline is misconceptions by fisheries managers and thegeneral public. In recent years, directed research and renewed interest by anglers has increasedappreciation of alligator gar, but fisheries managers still lack an understanding of how the generalpublic perceives this species. Using social media, managers can characterize the public’s sentimenttowards alligator gar and identify misconceptions. Biologists and the social media specialist with theOklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation joined Texas Parks and Wildlife in their social mediacampaign, #GARWEEK, to educate the public about alligator gar and gain a better understanding ofthe public’s opinion of alligator gar in Oklahoma. Five posts were made to a variety of social mediaplatforms with Facebook being the most heavily used. Social media analytics and sentiment analysiswere used to evaluate the public’s perception of alligator gar. Overall, the sentiment expressed bythe public was positive indicating a major shift in public perception towards alligator gar. However,misconceptions relating to alligator gar and management remain, though these may be overcomevia communication efforts that include social media. In time, this will lead to a better understandingby the public of alligator gar and the role of alligator gar in the environment and more effective management.
Applied Ecology & Conservation