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Can sharks survive in a river? This species can and they often do

Can sharks survive in a river? This species can and they often do
Can sharks survive in a river? This species can and they often do


“In tropical waters, bull sharks are probably the most dangerous sharks, followed by tiger sharks. When you see a big bull shark in the water, you realize how fearsome they are.”

Tik Tok viewers were shocked when a video was recently posted of a man catching a bull shark in what was allegedly the Guadalupe River in Texas.

A shark in freshwater? Can that be true? Yes, and it’s probably more common than you think.

“They often go into rivers,” said Jose Castro, scientific research editor at NOAA Fisheries and author of “The Sharks of North America.”

“They reproduce in brackish water,” said Castro. “The young animals constantly go into rivers. In the Amazon, they have already migrated hundreds of kilometers.”

They have also been found in rivers in North America hundreds of kilometers from salt water. Castro said one was found 2,800 kilometers, or 1,740 miles, up the Mississippi River. Another was found 4,000 kilometers, or 2,485 miles, inland from the Atlantic Ocean.

“They go quite far up the rivers,” Castro said.

A bull shark in the Pearl River?

Two fishermen from Mississippi encountered a suspected bull shark in the Pearl River in 2014.

Dave Harville of Waveland and Caden Comer, then 15, of Bay St. Louis, were fishing and Comer had a fish estimated to weigh 25 pounds on his line. As he reeled it in, a bull shark, believed to be a bull shark, bit him in half.

“It was an exceptionally large shark,” Harville told the Clarion-Ledger in 2015. “It was not a small blacktip reef shark.”

“He had a good set of teeth. He was the kind of guy who could tear your leg off.”

Although the shark had only penetrated about 2.5 kilometers inland, Harville saw no reason why it could not have penetrated further inland.

Sharks in MS: Fifteen of the largest fish caught in Mississippi, including some giants

How do bull sharks survive in freshwater?

Other shark species live in salt water, so what is it that causes bull sharks to move to fresh water?

“That’s the $64,000 question,” Castro said. “Nobody knows.”

“The only hypothesis I’ve ever heard is that they go into freshwater to get rid of parasites. Adults generally don’t go into rivers. Usually it’s juveniles and young animals.”

The key word is “in general”.

More: Leebeth, 2,600-pound great white shark that swam through MS waters: Where is she now?

Have bull sharks attacked people in rivers?

Shark attacks are statistically rare events. According to the Florida Museum’s annual worldwide shark attack survey, 36 unprovoked attacks occurred in the United States in 2023 and 41 in 2022.

Unfortunately, many of these bites are caused by bull sharks, which can grow quite large. According to the International Game Fish Association, the world record fish caught by a fisherman weighed 318 kilograms. It was caught in Malindi, Kenya, in 2001.

“In tropical waters, bull sharks are probably the most dangerous sharks, followed by tiger sharks,” Castro said. “When you see a big bull shark in the water, you realize how scary they are.”

Attacks in rivers are even rarer, but they do happen. The Times of India reported in February that a man wading in the Vaitarna River was attacked by a bull shark. The shark was over 7 feet long and bit off most of the man’s left calf and ankle.

Further freshwater attacks have been reported worldwide.

In the USA, one of the most famous attacks occurred in 1916 in Matawan Creek in New Jersey. According to the Matawan Historical Society, three people were attacked in the creek and two died.

The species of the shark, estimated to be 2.44 meters long, is unknown, but some believe it was most likely a bull shark.

Quick tips to avoid a shark attack

Below are six tips from the Florida Museum’s International Shark Attack File to help you avoid a shark attack and what to do if a shark comes too close or tries to bite.

  • Swimming with a buddy
  • Stay close to the shore
  • Do not swim at dawn or dusk
  • Do not swim near schools of fish or where people are fishing
  • Avoid wearing jewelry
  • Avoid excessive spraying

What happens if a shark comes too close to me?

  • Maintain eye contact with the shark
  • Move away slowly and, if possible, leave the water

What if a shark tries to bite me?

  • Hit the shark in the eyes and gills (sensitive areas that can be injured regardless of personal strength)
  • Hit the shark on the snout and push it away

Have a story idea? Contact Brian Broom at 601-961-7225 or [email protected].

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