It seems to happen with every hurricane or tropical storm that makes landfall in the U.S.: A photoshopped image with a story of some sort of sea life swimming through city streets or surfacing in a backyard makes its way around social media platforms, only to be quickly debunked by experts. This time, however, the story and the photos are legit.
Now, we’re not talking about the fabricated photo of an orca leaping out of the water that has shown up following several severe storms, or the phony pic of sharks circling an escalator in a flooded mall, or the doctored photo of a dolphin being hurled through the air by hurricane winds. Instead, the bona fide story and video show a shark splashing around in what looks like a river but is a residential property.
Colin McCarthy, a freshman studying atmospheric sciences at University of California Davis who posted continual updates of Hurricane Ian on Twitter, shared the video in question.
“The storm surge is so powerful from #HurricaneIan that it has brought a shark into the city streets of Fort Myers,” McCarthy tweeted.
The storm surge is so powerful from #HurricaneIan that it has brought a shark into the city streets of Fort Myers.
— Colin McCarthy (@US_Stormwatch) September 28, 2022
Savvy viewers were initially skeptical about the video’s authenticity. But Fort Myers real estate developer Dominic Cameratta confirmed to the Associated Press that he filmed the clip looking into his neighbor’s flooded yard from his back patio Wednesday morning.
“I didn’t know what it was,” Cameratta told AP, saying he estimated it to be about 4 feet long. “It just looked like a fish or something. I zoomed in, and all my friends are like, ‘It’s like a shark, man!'”
Some faux-photo watchers celebrated the moment on social media, including @JaneLytv, who tweeted, “After over half a decade of debunking this hoax every time there was a flood or hurricane, I can’t believe I’m looking at an honest-to-god street shark. Good to finally meet you, pal.”
After over half a decade of debunking this hoax every time there was a flood or hurricane, I can't believe I'm looking at an honest-to-god street shark.
Good to finally meet you, pal. https://t.co/hwMWX4Peqo
— Jane Lytvynenko (@JaneLytv) September 28, 2022
While experts concur that the video is real, they don’t all agree that the creature is a shark.
For example, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesperson told Storyful that they could not identify it. In addition, marine scientist Rick Bartleson said that he doubted it was a shark based on the shape of its dorsal fin.
However, former director of the Florida Museum of Natural History’s shark program George Burgess told AP in an email that it “appears to be a juvenile shark.”
How could it have gotten from the gulf to a residential retention pond if it was a shark?
“Young bull sharks are common inhabitants of low salinity waters — rivers, estuaries, subtropical embayments — and often appear in similar videos in FL water bodies connected to the sea such as coastal canals and ponds,” Burgess told AP. “Assuming the location and date attributes are correct, it is likely this shark was swept shoreward with the rising seas.”