News State QLD News Grisly floodwater find sparks ‘sharknado’ fears in Townsville

Grisly floodwater find sparks ‘sharknado’ fears in Townsville

Aggressive bull sharks like to hunt in floodwater, experts say. Photo: AAP
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The emergence of a dead bull shark marooned in mud amid Queensland flood water following Cyclone Debbie has prompted fears of dangerous surprises lurking below the surface.

WIN News Townsville reporter Philip Calder, 26, was among the first on scene at 11.50am on Thursday. He told The New Daily he took a photo of the metre-and-a-half long creature which attracted more than 750,000 Facebook views. He has since been inundated with phone calls from news agencies all around the world.

Queensland paramedic Lisa Smith, 46, said the unexpected-nature of the sighting sparked the imagination of Sharknado movie fans, who have since labelled it the “Burdekin Sharknado”.

Ms Smith had driven out to the Burdekin Dam bridge to investigate the flood waters to assess whether they could help anyone who may be stranded.

“Then we saw the flood waters, got out of the vehicle, walked to the water’s edge, took a photo and saw this grey thing laying on the road, so I took a photo. It turned out to be a bull shark.”

Footage of locals patting the dead shark’s head circulated online, including vision of a four-year-old girl whose father had encouraged her to get up close.

Ms Smith said she had never seen anything like it in her 16-year career.

But Australian Institute of Marine Science fish and shark biologist Dr Mark Meekan said it was not uncommon to find bull sharks in flood water; dead or otherwise.

He said bull sharks like to take advantage of floods to move further inland.

“Bull sharks are one of a few sharks that can go completely into fresh waters, so they can sometimes appear in unexpected places,” he told The New Daily.

“They’re attracted to floodwaters because there are often cattle, sheep and domestic animals trapped or dead carcasses washed down in floods, so it provides a nice feeding opportunity for those sharks.

“They also like to pup (breed) where the fresh water meets the salt of the sea. It’s a refuge for them away from the other bigger sharks out in the open water.”

Dr Meekan said bull sharks were “scavengers” and “dangerous” because they are known to attack in murky, shallow water where they are difficult to see.

But he maintained locals were in far greater danger of drowning or being marooned in flood water than attacked by a shark.

And bull sharks are likely not alone in the flood water. Many other marine animals are able to live in freshwater, including sawfish and stingrays, he said.

This is not the first time marine life has been discovered in unforeseen places.

Carbrook Golf Club prides itself on its shark-infested lake.
Carbrook Golf Club prides itself on its shark-infested lake.

Carbrook Golf Club in Brisbane has become world renowned for its incidental shark-infested lake following flooding during the 1990s.

The ABC reported as recently as this January that bull shark sightings were on the rise at Brisbane River, Logan River and Bremer River.

Burdekin Shire mayor Lyn McLaughlin told The New Daily the shark sighting was a timely reminder to locals about the dangers of swimming in flooded rivers, creeks and drains.

“Most locals are aware that there are sharks within our river system, but this was the first time that one had been beached following a flood,” she said.

“As the shark was beached on a road, it would be the council’s responsibility (to remove it), however the shark had been removed when council officers arrived on Friday morning.”

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