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Kid finds dead shark washed up on B.C. beach

"It is not common to see these sharks washed up on shore," says one DFO scientist.

Aliza Cote, four children and a friend were having a beach fire near Stories Beach in Campbell River this week when her son Gavin started shouting that he’d found something unusual. 

“My son’s like, ‘There’s a shark!’ 

“It was just sitting on the beach. It kind of looked like a rock because it was grey.” 

The shark her son stumbled upon is common in B.C. waters, but is normally found on the ocean floor — it’s rare to discover one washed up on shore. 

Conservation officers with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) turned up and confirmed the animal was a Pacific sleeper shark. 

“It’s nothing I’ve ever seen in my lifetime,” said Cote, who noted the shark was about eight feet long and had a big gash on its underbelly. 

“People were really curious. Our kids will probably never see it again in their lifetime.” 

DFO scientist Jackie King says without seeing the shark in person, she can’t determine what caused its death, but fisheries staff on site determined the visible wounds were likely inflicted after death, possibly by scavengers. 

Sleeper sharks are known to inhabit the ocean floor to depths of 245 metres, King said, although they’re sometimes found in shallow mid-water depths. “So it is not common to see these sharks washed up on shore.” 

Gavin Hanke, curator of vertebrate zoology at the Royal B.C. Museum, said Pacific sleeper sharks can grow up to 4.3 metres or 14 feet long. 

“They are known to come up shallow at night — so maybe [it] just zigged when it should have zagged as the tide fell and got stranded,” says Hanke. “[The] jaws would be nice for the museum collection.” 

People who encounter a shark are asked to contact DFO’s Sharks Sighting Network. The data is used by researchers to map sharks and keep track of mortality. 

There are 14 species of sharks in B.C.’s waters. 

Shark sightings can be reported by email to: [email protected], or via toll-free 1-877-50-SHARK (1-877-507-4675) or going online.

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