A viral video showed what appeared to be a shark stranded in a flooded Florida backyard during Hurricane Ian.
Years of “hurricane shark” hoaxes made people skeptical if the video was real.
The AP confirmed the video’s authenticity, though there’s still doubt that the large fish was actually a shark.
A viral video captured a wayward sea creature flopping around in a backyard in Fort Myers after Hurricane Ian pummeled southwest Florida with strong winds and flooding.
A decade of previous “hurricane shark” hoaxes where people edited sharks onto flooded highways and subway stations spurred doubt that the shark video from Hurricane Ian was real.
But more than 13.5 million views later, the Associated Press analyzed the video and confirmed that the video wasn’t doctored, and that it was taken Wednesday morning as Ian made landfall in the Sunshine State.
“I didn’t know what it was — it just looked like a fish or something,” Dominic Cameratta, the Florida resident who took the video, told The Associated Press. “I zoomed in, and all my friends are like, ‘It’s like a shark, man!'”
Cameratta, a local real estate developer living in Fort Myers, Florida, estimated the marine animal to be about four feet in length and may have swam from the ocean to a nearby retention pond via a creek. By the time he took the video, the pond was overflowing from floodwaters brought in by the hurricane, spilling the “shark” into his neighbor’s backyard.
Experts are still hesitant to call the animal a shark from just the video, but given the size of the creature and dorsal fins peaking above the water’s surface, George Burgess, former director of the Florida Museum of Natural History’s shark program, told the AP that it “appears to be a juvenile shark.”
“Young bull sharks are common inhabitants of low salinity waters — rivers, estuaries, subtropical embayments — and often appear in similar videos in FL water bodies connected to the sea such as coastal canals and ponds,” Burgess told the AP. “Assuming the location and date attributes are correct, it is likely this shark was swept shoreward with the rising seas.”
Other experts weren’t as ready to classify the large aquatic animal as a shark. Dr. Neil Hammerschlag, director of the shark conservation program at the University of Miami, told the AP that it was “pretty hard to tell,” and Leslie Guelcher, a professor at Mercyhurst University, was initially skeptical of the video’s authenticity as well.
“It makes a bit more sense from a flooding standpoint,” she told the AP in an email. “But how on earth would a shark go from the Gulf of Mexico to a retention pond?”
Research shows that sharks can feel the change in barometric pressure ahead of large storms, including hurricanes, according to Shark Angels, an environmental nonprofit dedicated to shark conservation, which could explain why the Fort Myers shark was compelled to swim up the creek to the retention pond.
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