Discovery Channel’s annual summer series Shark Week will premiere later this week, on Aug. 10, but Shark Week came early for some Wrightsville Beach visitors on Aug. 7.
It was around 10:30 a.m. when Kenny Hand, owner of KowaBunga Surf School, noticed a fin pop up five feet away from where he was teaching surf lessons to a group of 15 or 20 kids.
“I noticed a fin come up and I pushed my student away because I didn’t know if the fish was alive or dead. I looked over and realized it was laying on its side a little bit so I ran over and got behind it and realized that it wasn’t swimming. So then I grabbed its tail and pulled it out of the water,” Hand said.
Hand pulled the shark onto beach around Public Access 36, near Crystal Pier. He said a group of 20 or 30 people came over to see the shark and take pictures with it.
Wrightsville Beach Park Ranger Shannon Slocum, who was dispatched to the scene, said the shark was an educational tool for beachgoers.
“No one wants to see one in the water but here’s one on land, which is safe and you can take a look at it, see what you’re reading about or just watched on TV,” Slocum said.
Hand used a shovel to cut out the shark’s teeth and give them to kids as a souvenir.
“They thought that was the greatest thing ever,” he said.
Carleigh Cullen, who was attending surf lessons as a present for her 12th birthday on Aug. 5, got a bonus present with the shark tooth. She took the tooth home and boiled it clean, but she is not yet sure what she wants to do with the keepsake.
Neither Hand nor Slocum knew the exact cause of death, but the male blacktip shark, approximately 6 feet long, had a lash near its tail. Slocum said sharks that die of natural causes or fishing-related injuries commonly wash up on shore, although they are usually smaller specimen.
Slocum said if the shark was an endangered animal, he would have notified someone at University of North Carolina Wilmington’s marine science department or the Fort Fisher aquarium to investigate the animal’s death. Slocum and Hand tried to release the shark back into the water, but after the shark returned to shore, Slocum buried it.
“We realized it needed to find a better place to rest,” Slocum said.