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Large Predator - Probably Shark - Roaming
Off Oregon Coast
|Staff ready the harbor seal to be picked up off the beach
(Seaside, Oregon) – With hints of the movie “Jaws,”
there is apparently a run of shark attacks on sea mammals on Oregon beaches,
causing officials to say there seems to be a “large predator working
the north Oregon coast.”
This last weekend was a busy one for staff at the Seaside
Aquarium, who comprise the Marine Mammal Stranding Network for the
north coast. Two mammals washed up with appear to be major shark bites.
Friday, a dead harbor seal drifted onto the beach at Seaside,
with a two-foot chunk taken out of its back. And since Saturday, an extremely
unhappy California Sea Lion has been resting on a beach with a sizable
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In both cases, officials believe it was a shark –
likely a great white shark.
|Boothe stands over the dead seal and its enormous wound
Early on Friday morning, a dead harbor seal washed ashore
in Seaside with a gaping hole in its back. Members of the network retrieved
it late that afternoon. This time, an enormous, two-foot hole in the body
set this deceased seal apart from the numerous others that wash up periodically
throughout the year.
The seal was about four and a half feet long, and a full-grown
adult, probably around six years old.
“It could have been an orca,” said Keith Chandler,
with the Seaside Aquarium. “But it’s more likely a shark.
A killer whale would likely mess the thing up a lot more, or eat the whole
A necropsy done later on the seal revealed the bite hole
to be 25 inches in length – more than two feet.
|Chandler and Boothe putting the seal on a stretcher
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Chandler said by looking at the size of the bite it had
to be something about the size of a great white. Although salmon sharks
are not known for eating mammals, and that aspect of their existence is
somewhat debated, he said he believed it still could be a salmon shark
that chomped on the seal. “Just because a lot of people don’t
think it’s likely they eat mammals, doesn’t mean it’s
true,” Chandler said.
Chandler said he thinks it’s possible the culprit
was a salmon shark because there are more of them out there. But because
of the size of the wound, he believes it more likely to be a great white.
Also, the gap in the body had a somewhat unusual placement.
“They often swim upside down, so they probably weren’t paying
attention when the shark came down on it,” Chandler said. “I’ve
never seen a hole that big in a seal.”
“The entire backbone is gone,” said Tiffany
Boothe, with the aquarium and the Marine Mammal Stranding Network. “This
was a fresh kill. It probably didn’t happen far from shore.”
|Chandler approaches the disgruntled sea
lion (photo Tiffany Boothe)
Meanwhile, a full-grown sea lion has been nursing itself
on a beach with a shark bite in lower back area. Chandler would not identify
the beach where it’s resting to keep the public away.
“It’s one disgruntled sea lion,” Chandler
said. “I couldn’t get too close to look at the wound ‘cause
it threatened to bite me.”
The tear is mostly in the fur of the sea lion, about one
foot across, with some of the flesh torn. It is, however, very infected
and obviously causing the creature considerable pain.
“It’s oozing a lot of green infection,”
Chandler said. “It’s clearly been dealing with that wound
for some time. It’s definitely a shark bite.”
Some great whites do wander around the waters off Oregon,
but not too many, said Boothe. These attacks are likely by a single shark,
and fairly close to shore. Sharks are loners and simply go where the food
is, and it doesn’t take him long to swim long distances up and down
the coast, covering a lot of territory.
|The sea lion's wound (photo Tiffany Boothe)
“We had a lot of southeastern winds this summer,
which brought the warm water currents,” Boothe said. “They
usually reside off of the coast and were brought closer to shore. This
brought the baitfish in closer, which brought bigger prey in closer as
“I don't believe anything unusual is going on. I
think that because of the warmer waters this summer, the White Sharks
just moved in a little closer.
"And because the sharks are closer in shore we are
seeing their activities. Usually when a shark attacks, the victim sinks
to the bottom of the ocean, or may wash in much later too decomposed to
tell what had happened to it.”
Boothe said great whites are anywhere from 20-23 feet long.
The size of the bite correlates with the size of the shark.
|Sightings of possible sharks in Rockaway this summer caused officials
to warn swimmers and surfers for a time
“Larger whites can tolerate water temperatures down
to about 50 degrees,” she said. “These sharks may have initially
come in closer due to the warmer temperatures, and then hung around once
they discovered that the feeding was good.”
This time of year always brings in bigger waves, which
in turn attracts a large contingent of surfers to the coast.
is this cause for alarm?
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No, say Boothe and Chandler.
“This amount of activity seems a bit unusual,”
Chandler said. “But you’re still 100 times more likely to
be in a car wreck on the way to the coast. If you’re a surfer, just
be aware. There does seem to be a large predator working the north Oregon
coast. But sharks always have been living around us. I know if I were
a surfer, it wouldn’t stop me. That’s just one of the risks
they know they take.”
said surfers should be on their guard a little more than usual, but she
added a little surreal humor.
have always lived in the ocean - and I assume that is where they are going
to stay,” she said. “But remember there are no sharks out
there with a vendetta toward surfers. It is a case of mistaken identity.
To a shark a surfer and a seal look identical.”
Boothe said great white off the north Oregon coast is anywhere
from 20-23 feet long. The size of the bite correlates with the size of
“Larger white sharks can tolerate water temperatures
down to about 50 degrees,” she said. “These sharks may have
initially come in closer due to the warmer temperatures, and then hung
around once they discovered that the feeding was good.”
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