A shark has two Good Samaritans to thank after it was caught choking on a piece of moose hide in the shallow waters off a Newfoundland harbor this past weekend.
Derrick Chaulk told the CBC he was driving along a road by the harbor in Norris Arm North when he thought he saw a beached whale. When he got closer, he realized it was an 8-foot-long shark with a piece of moose hide hanging from its mouth.
Jeremy Ball, another local man, also approached the shark and started to pull the moose chunk out of its mouth. "A couple yanks and it just came right out,” Chaulk described.
The two men then helped the shark out to sea by tying a rope around its tail and pulling. "He pulled the rope, and I pushed with my boot," Chaulk said, "and between the two of us we got him out into deeper water."
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For a moment, the pair were not sure if the shark made it. It lay in almost a foot of water, motionless, before showing signs of life. "Then all of a sudden, the water started coming out of his gills and he started breathing," Chaulk said.
The shark is believed to be a Greenland shark, the largest member of the dogfish family. The shark, which is rarely seen, prefers cold-water temperatures, lives at a depth of 6,561 feet and will only ascend to shallower waters if the water temperature drops to around 33 degrees Fahrenheit.
Chaulk says the shark probably got the moose hide from the scraps often thrown into the harbor by people who have butchered animals on a nearby bank of land. The shark most likely ate more than he could handle.
"He swallowed and got it halfway down and couldn't cough it back up and couldn't get it all down, and then I think the tide brought him in," he said.
But the Greenland shark may not have needed saving after all. According to Jeffrey Gallant, the president and lead scientist at the Greenland Shark and Elasmobranch Education and Research Group, the shark may have been enjoying the large meal and might not have been choking. He adds that the men did the right thing by bringing the shark back to deeper waters, but pulling out the moose bits was a risky move.
"When you're man-handling a shark like this and trying to get it back in the water, the fact that its mouth was otherwise preoccupied by chewing on the meat, you reduce the risk yourself of getting bit accidentally," Gallant said.
The rescue mission attracted a crowd that jeered when the shark swam away. "It was a good feeling to see that shark swim out, knowing that you saved his life," Chaulk said.