MANCHESTER — Three separate residents reported to police that they had seen a shark feeding in the Tuck’s Point harbor Wednesday afternoon, and shortly after, a resident reported a dead seal washed ashore on nearby Proctor Street.
But the harbormaster is telling residents to rest easy; the feared shark was only a dogfish, and there were no signs that the seal had not been attacked.
When Harbormaster Bion Pike arrived on scene, the fish had left the area where it was said to have been chewing on a filleted striper corpse in the water. But, descriptions from those who had seen the animal pointed to Pike’s conclusion that it was likely a dogfish, Pike said.
“What was reported has all the earmarks of a dogfish,” Pike said Thursday.
Dogfish, though a species of shark, are bottom-feeding scavengers that do not hunt humans, according to Pike. Pike said the dogfish is not dangerous to people, but he does understand the residents’ concern upon spotting this dogfish.
“It is a shark. People see it and they are understandably nervous,” Pike said.
Large populations of seals can typically draw in big sharks, including the feared Great Whites, like the shark that reportedly bit a swimming man’s ankle in the water off the Cape Cod community of Truro on Monday.
Pike said recent shark-related incidents, as well as knowledge of seals being a shark indicator, have kept people alert.
“It’s very much at the forefront of everybody’s mind right now and there are a lot of seals around,” Pike said.
The juvenile seal carcass was reported to be fully intact, with no bite marks in its flesh. Young seals often suffer respiratory problems, Pike said, and troubled seals seek refuge on land, then die ashore, according to Pike.
The New England Aquarium recommends that officials leave the corpses to be washed back out to sea as part of a natural process, according to Pike. Touching a dead seal can be a health risk, he said, advising people to stay away from seals on land that appear to be sick or dead.
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at email@example.com.