Sharks are known to attack each other, often during mating season, but one found on the Outer Banks this week had a wound defying easy explanation: It was missing its tail.
Photos of the mutilated shark were posted Monday on the OBX, NC Facebook page, an Outer Banks fan group with 45,000 members. Kaitlyn Nicole, who is a member of the page, reported the 4-foot dead shark appeared Monday morning on Hatteras Island.
Beachgoers eventually threw the deceased shark back into the ocean.
Multiple commenters identified the critter as a sand tiger shark, a species that grows up to 10.5 feet and weighs up to 350 pounds, according to Oceana.org.
But it was how the shark died that ignited the fiercest debate — with some calling it animal cruelty and others deeming it an act of nature.
“Must be a bigger killer shark out there,” one group member wrote.
“Too clean to be bitten off. This was cut off. Makes me sick just why people do that,” another said.
“As a fisherman, I’ve seen plenty of clean cuts from other sharks,” another wrote in disagreement. “Just because you want to believe people did this doesn’t mean that they actually did.”
Shark researcher James Sulikowski of the Sulikowski Shark and Fish Conservation Lab says the photos appear to show a sand tiger shark. He told McClatchy News it likely died one of two ways: “Looks like another shark ate it or (a) boat prop. It’s a clean cut.”
The wound is reminiscent of a high profile animal cruelty case that was reported in June off Greenland. Crewmen on a fishing boat were seen on a video “hacking the tail off of a shark and throwing the fish back into the ocean,” Fox News reported. The video brought international condemnation and two crewmen were later fired.
Sand tiger sharks are common off North Carolina. A Duke University study revealed last year that some females have favorite shipwrecks off the coast they return to “year after year,” McClatchy News reported.
The Duke University study noted photos taken by scuba divers helped prove the same sharks were showing up at the same shipwrecks, according to a press release published by Science Daily. North Carolina’s Atlantic coast is known as “The Graveyard of the Atlantic” due to “more than 2,000 shipwrecks sunk off the coast,” OuterBank.com reports.