Canadian news outlets have reported an unconfirmed account of a Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Pepper dying after being bitten by a juvenile great white shark off the coast of Medway Head in southern Nova Scotia on Wednesday. The dog was reportedly retrieving a sea duck at the time.
The hunter, who remained unidentified, relayed the shark attack in a written statement to SaltWire. He had been out for a few hours when he shot his second duck of the day, at roughly 9 a.m. Pepper had retrieved the first duck in calm waters earlier that morning without issue. But once she grabbed the second duck roughly 20 feet from the boat and turned to swim back, a shark “erupted from below her, lifting her into the air and then pushing her down under the surface,” the hunter wrote.
“It happened so quickly and was so shocking that even though I was looking right at her when it happened, I cannot say for certain what type of shark it was.”
Pepper resurfaced and made it back to the boat, where the hunter pulled her in. Her wounds were “grievous” and she died shortly thereafter.
While no further details about the incident have emerged, the hunter did get in touch with a shark researcher to report the incident.
“I hope this information can help people enjoying the ocean to make safe choices respecting the proximity of sharks in our waters,” he said.
Local shark expert Capt. Art Gaetan of Atlantic Shark Expeditions gave SaltWire some clarity as to what kind of shark would have been lurking in 20 feet of water that close to shore. (It is unclear whether Gaetan is also the researcher the hunter got in touch with.)
According to Gaetan, the only shark that would have been in that area at this time of year is a Great white. It’s likely a juvenile based on the hunter’s estimate of its size: roughly 2.4 meters or just under 8 feet long.
“That dog was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Gaetan said. “The shark didn’t eat him. The shark only bit him and his dog bled out.”
The hunter said that he’s never heard of a dog being attacked by a shark while retrieving ducks, and reiterated that this is what Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are born to do.
“I have been on the ocean hunting sea ducks for years, and I am familiar with many other local hunters that do the same,” he wrote. “When the ocean is calm and the ducks fall near the boat it is common practice to send a dog into the ocean to retrieve the waterfowl. This is what these dogs are bred and trained for.”