Wildlife officials with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game received a series of alarming reports about a dead shark that was found on the banks of the Lower Salmon River near Riggins on Tuesday. After fielding a flurry of e-mails and calls about the shark, officials went down to the river to investigate. And sure enough, there it was.
“By the look of it, this does appear to be a Salmon shark,” the agency explained in a press release on Wednesday.
The irony of a Salmon shark carcass being found on the Salmon River was not lost on the agency. Idaho’s endangered salmon runs have been declining for decades. There’s a long list of reasons why these runs are crashing, but one of the most obvious factors is the growing presence of non-native fish species that prey on salmon.
“First Smallmouth bass, then Walleye, and now SALMON SHARKS! When are our salmon and steelhead going to catch a break?” the agency wrote. “That’s right, you read correctly, Salmon Sharks!”
The public and the agency’s anxiety over the discovery quickly gave way to sheer disbelief. To say the shark didn’t belong there would be a massive understatement.
Riggins is located roughly 650 river miles inland from the North Pacific Ocean, where salmon sharks live. To reach the location where it was found, the shark would have had to swim all that distance upriver while passing through eight major dams—all of which have fish ladders that are constantly being monitored by fisheries technicians. This would have been a feat for any large predatory fish, but especially for a saltwater species that can’t tolerate freshwater. (As IDFG points out, bull sharks are the only shark species that can live in freshwater.)
So, how exactly did the shark end up on an Idaho riverbank? According to IDFG, there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell it swam there on its own. Their best guess at this point is that somebody planted the carcass on the shore as a joke.
“This would have been a great April Fool’s Joke,” the agency concluded on Wednesday. “So, if you were one of those people who saw this fish on the shore or maybe somebody shared photos with you, rest assured, we have no sharks swimming around in Idaho.”