SARASOTA, Fla. -- Sharks off Florida’s coast isn’t a surprise but having one come so close to the shore is at the very least rarely seen.
“The surf was just like this gentle, rolling surf, came right up to the beach, onto the beach. I wish I was quicker with my camera,” said Joseph John Orchulli II.
The photographer was quick enough to catch several photos early last Tuesday morning of a 5-foot shark as it swam back in.
“I got a couple of pictures, see the tail and dorsal fin. It was thrilling, I've never seen anything like that,” said Joseph.
That’s not all Joseph saw a swimmer was heading in the shark’s direction. He warned her to turn around.
“It’s a sandbar shark… we have here in captivity to see. They like to swim close to the surf line in the winter line,” said Mote Marine’s Shark expert Dr. Bob Hueter.
Hueter says the shark was probably feeding on mullet.
“These sharks migrate here from the northeast United States on an annual bases. They’re kind of our winter residents as far as sharks are concerned,” said Hueter. He added, “They’re not interested in people, it's not a dangerous shark.”
Hueter can’t say the same about a large tiger shark seen in a drone video near swimmers on South Beach.
“Tiger sharks are more of a threat because they go after bigger things. Shark feed on other sharks, turtles, and dolphins. To see it among swimmers is definitely a little alarming,” said Hueter.
A tiger shark’s behavior is unpredictable, says Hueter. They swim in shallow and deep waters. A school of fish may have brought it close to shore.
So is the gulf safe to swim in during the cooler months even with sandbar sharks visiting?
Hueter said, “Right now, it’s very safe. Hopefully, it's a good sign that sharks are returning and our oceans are healthy.”
There are some rules to still follow to stay safe says Dr. Hueter. Don't swim at dawn or dusk. If you see a sandbar shark feeding, get out of its way and give it space.
But if you can't Hueter suggests you stay still and let it swim by.
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Earlier this week, we shared video a drone captured of a shark near the coast in South Beach.
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