It starts with recent reports of sharks in the swamps of Louisiana:
Walker has pictures of bull sharks that were caught among the inland waters in Louisiana. He says sharks have likely been around these parts for decades. However, they're noticing them more because they now take huge samples of species in different waterways in Louisiana and that's turning up sharks. It's no surprise for long time Atchafalaya swamp tour guide Curtis Allemond. "Oh, I used to catch 'em up on the river when the river's low, yeah (laughs)," he said when asked if he had ever seen any sharks in the swamp.
The bull shark is particularly troubling for Walker, in part due to their natural threatening nature. "They're fairly aggressive sharks. They're probably responsible for the majority of the attacks on human beings." Walker says there are no known inland shark attacks in Louisiana. The bull sharks are not just hanging around the bayous and swamps. They have been caught some 900 miles up the Mississippi River.
"They have been captured in St. Louis. They have traveled 2500 miles up the Amazon. They have some mechanism in their make-up that allows them to process freshwater and not require high salinity to live." It may seem hard to believe that in the deep swamp of Louisiana bull sharks, one of the most dangerous species of shark, are swimming in the swamp.
That "St. Louis shark" was actually caught upriver in Alton, Illinois:
According to the Illinois Department of Conservation, two commercial fishermen from Alton, Herbert Cope and Dudge Collins, caught a bull shark in 1937. They found something troubling their wood and mesh traps late that summer. Concluding that it was a fish, they built a strong wire trap and baited it with chicken guts.
The next morning, they caught a 5-foot 84-pound shark, which they displayed in the Calhoun Fish Market where it attracted crowds for days. Although some folks suspected a hoax, the catch was considered authentic. Biologists later concluded from photos that it was a bull shark. Recently, Clint Smith of Alton supplied an old photo of the catch, with the present-day ADM flourmill in the background.
Bull sharks can live a long time in freshwater. In 1972, one was caught 2,500 miles up the Amazon. The journey from New Orleans to Alton is about 1,750 miles. Dams now prevent sharks from entering Illinois.
Minneapolis, MN -- Shortly after Jaws opened in Minneapolis theatres back in the summer of 1975, the number of swimmers using our area lakes and pools plunged significantly. So, when a 10 year-old Minneapolis student approached Minnesota DNR biologist Dan Marais about three fossilized shark's teeth she had found in Minnehaha Creek, he could only smile to himself. More shark tales, he thought. That is, until he actually saw the teeth.
They did, in fact, come from sharks. However, two of the specimens were clearly not fossils, but teeth shed from a contemporary shark. Curious about the origins, Marais called a colleague at the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife to help identify the teeth and perhaps avoid falling victim to a hoax. What he learned made the small hairs on the back of his neck stand up.
After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita last year, a report by Gulf marine scientists had warned that the enormous amount of pollution back-flushed into the Gulf of Mexico would cause many species of marine animals to either relocate or perish. That expected decimation of the food chain led to warnings of a possible migration of coastal sharks into rivers where a higher oxygen content would support more aquatic life. Specifically, they were watching for the common Bull Shark (Carcharhinus leucas). The stuff of legends, this aggressive shark was already known for its ability to live, feed, and even breed in extremely shallow fresh waters. Bull Sharks had previously been documented as far north as the Ohio River. They have also been attributed to most of the attacks on humans worldwide.
Lab technicians positively identified these two teeth as having come from a two-to-three year-old Bull Shark. However, it was a semi-classified document dated February 12, 2006 from the Wisconsin DNR that really set the wheels in motion. On that date, ice-diving biologists captured a nearly comatose five-foot Bull Shark in Lake Pepin, a widening of the Mississippi River. They were responding to reports from several startled salvage divers of a sleeping, "shark-like fish" in the open cab of a pickup truck that had gone through the ice a few weeks earlier. The Wisconsin divers located the truck in approximately 18' of water with the shark still inside, apparently hiding from the swift current. But the cold water had slowed its respiration and metabolism so much that it was barely alive. After an examination, the fish was tagged with a radio location device and released back into the river (Wisconsin regulations do not allow the keeping or transport of live, non-game fish). Sadly, marine biologists doubt the fish will survive until summer without the needed quantity of minerals and trace elements found in saltwater.
Frankly I'm not sure which is scarier: The sharks themselves or the fact that "Jaws" kept eligible voters out of swimming pools.