More OOPA: Shark and Kangaroo

Posted by: Loren Coleman on January 5th, 2007

Punxsutawney Pennsylvania Shark

What is this tropical shark doing so far north in December? Please click for a larger image.

The out-of-place animals (OOPA) are popping up all over the map. A manatee was recently captured off Texas. It is the third out-of-place manatee discovered since last August, far from Florida (the other two were found hundreds of miles inland in New York State and Tennessee). An eight-foot crocodile was captured on Grand Cayman Island. Are they early warning signs of something? Now comes more.

There is a buzz, this week, over in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania (a town known for its high levels of symbolism as the "home" of Punxsutawney Phil, the Groundhog Day groundhog). Folks are talking about an out-of-place animal that showed up near there on Friday, December 29, 2006.

Would you believe a shark three and a half feet long? While the shark that washed up on the shores of Mahoning Creek was at first thought to be a hammerhead shark, it turned out to specifically be a bonnethead shark or shovelhead (Sphyrna tiburo).

Bonnetheads are generally about one meter long, being the smallest hammerhead shark, so this one at 42 inches in length was full-grown. Bonnetheads do range as far north as New England in the summer and are common in inshore waters of some parts of the coastal South (Georgia and the Carolinas). But during the winter, this active tropical shark is suppose to be in the waters near the Equator.

This one was first seen, according to Punxsutawney Borough Police Officer Heath Zeitler, by members of the borough Public Works crew who spotted the shark along the bank on the afternoon of December 29th, just below the Mahoning Shadow Trail near the intersection of South Gilpin and Cypress Streets.

It is a mystery as to why one was found near Punxsutawney.

Zeitler, nevertheless, ventured some guesses for the media. She said, "it might have been disposed of by some who had caught it while fishing elsewhere, or had previously kept it in a personal aquarium – a very large personal aquarium."

By the way, since they like to swim in groups of 5 to 15 other bonnetheads, where is this one’s friends? I hasten to add, only one attack on humans has ever been recorded.

Meanwhile, another out-of-place animal report seems definitely linked to an escaped pet.

The mystery kangaroo, seemingly from nowhere, dashed out in front of a car on Tuesday night, January 2, 2007, and was killed on State Rt. 66 near Hebron, Connecticut. Yes, this happened on a Route 66, highly symbolic in the States, on many levels, as the classic Rt. 66 (from Illinois to the American SW) has often been experienced as the classic roadway deco for such out-of-place-stories. Willie the Wallaby was an escapee from its Marlborough pet owner, and had hopped two miles to its fate on "America’s Highway." For stories about this news, see here and here.

Trivia for the Day: When is the last time that there has been no recorded snowfall in New York City and Philadelphia, this late in the winter? Never.

Are all of these out-of-place animals the canaries in the coal mine?

Thanks to “fallofrain” for a clarification, shame on me, of which I needed to be reminded, despite my Illinois background.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

14 Responses to “More OOPA: Shark and Kangaroo”

  1. flame821 responds:

    I live in PA and I didn’t hear about the shark! I can’t imagine someone had it in a tank it would have to be a HUGE tank to keep it alive and healthy.

    Was a necropsy done on the animal? Do they know if it was alive in the river or if it was dumped as a carcass? We’ve gotten a LOT of rain over the past years, creeks that never exists are flowing now. I wonder if its possible that the shark swam up from the Philly area (up the schukyll) and into tributaries?

  2. fallofrain responds:

    That’s a fun story. If the shark got to Punxsutawney in its own finny travels, it must’ve come up the Mississippi-Ohio-Allegheny River system from the Gulf of Mexico. A big trip for a saltwater creature.

    Thanks for an interesting post!

  3. bill green responds:

    hey loren great new article about shark & kangeroo. thanks bill

  4. Lee Pierce responds:

    1873 on the snowfall.

  5. captiannemo responds:

    Now THIS is why I log on to web site!

    Stuff you don’t read about anywhere else!

    Thanks Loren!

  6. Dragonheart responds:

    Hm, could that be attributed to global warming?

  7. vet72 responds:

    I haven’t seen anything on the local news here in Pittsburgh yet in regards to the extremely wayward shark in Punxsutawney. Quite intriguing to say the least. I’m hoping the PPG Aquarium at the Pgh. Zoo will have an interest in this and see what they have to say. Great post Loren!

  8. yarnall responds:

    A young shark of unknown species was found in the Heron Lake outlet (a medium size creek) near Heron Lake, Minnesota circa 1980. The corpse was shown to high school students (including my wife) by her high school science teacher. If it made the journey itself, it may have come up the Des Moines River. I know there are fresh water sharks.

  9. Rabbit responds:

    Ha ha

    Funnily enough hopping out in front of cars is what ‘Roos’ do best back here in Oz too.

    I’ve struggled to swerve out of their way before only to have the things swerve with me, as if determined to be hit. They stand around in groups by the roadside waiting for cars and trucks, then dash out in front of it to see who can become road kill. So of course one lone Kangaroo in the states once escaped will head straight for the nearest speeding car to bounce of the bonnet or grill.

    I don’t think the OOPAs are surprising they seem to fit the pattern of climate change which is being experienced in many different ways about the planet.

    I’d say we “aint’ seen nuthin yet” either. Crocodiles are migrating further and further down the coast here in Western Australia as the Sea waters seem to be warming. A Croc though it was dead washed up on the beach at Shark Bay a while back. That is only a few hundred kilometers North of Perth.

  10. mystery_man responds:

    It is very odd for a bonnethead to be found that far North at that time of year. Also, although there are sharks that venture quite far into fresh water, namely the bull shark, the bonnethead has not really shown this tendency. There is also the matter that some research has indicated that the bonnethead has a very specialized diet, mostly blue crabs. I doubt this creek habitat would have been much to this specimen’s liking. That would go a lot towards explaining why it washed up dead on the shore. It might have wandered here somehow, but it seems like a peculiar place for this particular species to end up. Sharks are very durable and hardy creatures, but this is really quite an odd occurrence for one of this species to be found so far North, in freshwater nonetheless. I also doubt someone would have kept one of this size in some sort of huge aquarium facility. I do not believe this species would do well that sort of environment, as it is a very negatively buoyant shark and will sink if not in constant motion. The aquarium would be beyond the feasible size for a fish hobbyist in order to accommodate this. Besides, even if it had managed to survive in someone’s aquarium, why release it into the creek?

  11. qumrum responds:

    My brother told me he saw a kangaroo running through a field near his home in NE Alabama recently. His friends called him crazy, but I know there’s all kind of strange critters in rural America. Anyone ever hear of the Ball Play monster? Bigfoot type from those parts.

  12. daledrinnon responds:

    I had been on the lookout for freshwater hammerhead shark reports, but so far this is the most definite evidence I had seen on the subject. They are often rumored in parts of Latin America but without any definite evidence that this is so. Most authorities dismiss such reports.

  13. Mnynames responds:

    This is a most unusual report, as to the best of my knowledge (and I talk to the public about sharks almost every day), the only native North American shark capable of surviving in freshwater is the bull shark, and the picture clearly shows that no misidentification has occurred. Bonnetheads are not bottom dwellers, but are more typical of the fast, predatory sharks that most people expect, which for practical purposes means that it must keep in constant motion, swimming in order to breathe. Anyone able to keep one in an aquarium for any length of time would certainly know not to dump the darn thing in a creek, and would have to have some money to be able to afford a tank large enough to allow the free motion of such a shark. At slightly longer than a samurai sword, this shark’s captivity would not be impossible, but very unlikely for the average experienced home aquarist. Due to the great distances required for it to have naturally swam to this location however, coupled with the recent rainfall (Making the salinocline much closer to the mouths of ocean-accessible rivers), I just can’t see how this shark could have done so. I would have to conclude that the most likely explanation to this find is that one was dumped here, possibly from someone who kept it in captivity, but perhaps slightly more plausibly someone who caught it off the coast and trucked it back. With water temperatures off of NJ at near-record highs for this time of year, it is not implausible for bonnetheads to still be swimming here at this time of year.

    All in all though, most puzzling, and I’m very interested in what others might think on the matter.

  14. sadisticgreen responds:

    There seem to be quite a few different shark species heading to more northerly climes in the last few years. Over here in the UK there are now frequent sightings of Blue, Mako and even Great white sharks. At first these were localised to the southernmost tip of cornwall but more and more seem to be popping up as far north as Northumberland. Climate change it may well be but it certainly makes life more exciting for us surfers!!

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