A fierce ocean predator became prey once its carcass washed onto a spit at the mouth of the Klamath River on Tuesday.
The shark was believed to have washed ashore between dusk Monday and dawn Tuesday.
Scientists from the Department of Fish and Wildlife said it appeared to be a great white shark about 10 feet long, based on a photo provided to them.
Tuesday morning it still had most of its body parts sans a left fin and jaw, but by Tuesday afternoon it looked like a meat slab from afar.
Its tail and fins were missing and it appeared to be decapitated.
Waves crashed over the carcass as seagulls descended upon its sliced open body.
One man reckoned humans gutted it; he saw at least one person cut off the tail, then hold it up in celebration. The tail was large, extending past the shoulder of the man who detached it, he said.
Removing body parts from great white sharks is illegal, because they are protected by the California Endangered Species Act.
“All take and possession of white sharks and their parts is not legal,” said DFW Marine Communications Coordinator Carrie Wilson in an e-mail.
Some fishermen who were lined along the mouth’s banks sport-fishing for this year’s bounty of salmon said they had noticed the shark swimming near the shore for about a week.
The salmon have attracted fishermen, seagulls and sea lions, which are crowding around the mouth. It’s the sea lions that likely brought the shark, said Ed Roberts, an environmental scientist for the DFW.
“White sharks primarily eat mammals,” said Roberts. “Odds are it’s probably prey” that brought the shark so close to shore.
The shark is considered to be sub-adult, so the cause of death wouldn’t be age, Roberts said, add it’s unclear what led to its demise.
Considering its size and how close it is to the ocean, the shark will likely not be disposed of by any agency. Instead, it’ll probably remain until the tide swallows it back.