Shark buzz building on SC beaches

(Source: Tyler Jones, Steve Colman)

SULLIVAN'S ISLAND, S.C. (WCIV) - It's not Sharknado, but it is a shark surprise. A five-foot shark was found dead early Wednesday morning on the beach near Station 18 at Sullivan's Island by a jogger.{}

Experts say the shark was most likely killed by a fisherman and released before washing ashore.

"I think this will be a really cool experience that I'll always remember," said Steve Colman, the man who found the shark.

It's no secret that sharks swim in our South Carolina waters. This week, officials say a man was taken to the hospital after a possible shark bite at Litchfield Beach. In June, officials say a 14-year-old boy was bitten by a shark at the beach on Kiawah Island.

Department of Natural Resources Marine Biologist Dean Cain says there are only two or three shark bites recorded off South Carolina each year. Cain says most of those are of the minor nip-and-run variety.

"We have had only one fatality in South Carolina that we know of a shark bite and that was in 1883," DNR Biologist Dean Cain said.

Experts say while shark bites are very rare, now is the prime season to encounter them.

"As the waters warm up above 80 degrees food becomes a little scarce and typically moves offshore, but the schools that remain, remain right in the surf zone, and that's where we swim," Cain said.

Rare or not, local beachgoers have mixed reactions of what can happen in the water.

"It scares us a lot; enough to not go in very much," said Katie Eshelman while visiting Isle of Palms beach.

"If you are careful in what you do, you should be alright," beachgoer Nathaniel Bowling said.

"If something is going to happen it's going to happen whether you stay in the water or out of the water something can happen right on the beach," Colleen McLaughlin said while visiting Isle of Palms.

Shark experts say to be safe in the waters avoid murky water, wearing shiny jewelry while swimming, and swimming around schools of fish where sharks are likely to feed.

As for the shark Colman found, he said he thought it was a sand sculpture at first. Colman said he tried to open the shark's mouth with his foot and realized it was dead and that rigor mortis had set in.{}

He estimated the shark was at least five feet long.

Arnold Postell, a senior biologist and dive safety officer said based on the photos, it was difficult to tell exactly what species of shark Colman found.

"There's a few species that it was very close," Postell said. "In the end, a lot or people get excited when sharks are seen. But its just a general reminder that we do have sharks off our coast. Sometimes they do interact with people."

Fire and Rescue Chief Anthony Stith said the shark may have been trapped in a gully that runs for a distance down the beach. Stith said while the state Department of Natural Resources was contacted, the agency wasn't interested, so the town sent a backhoe to the beach, dug a hole and buried the shark.

Stith said the shark appeared to be a blacktip, which is usually found in warm, coastal waters around the world.