California officials have launched a criminal investigation into the death of a great white shark that washed up on a beach near Santa Cruz.
Officials of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife did not divulge the cause of death. A representative would only say the decision was made based on a necropsy performed on the animal.
“Upon receiving the lab’s necropsy results, the CDFW’s law enforcement division is now taking up the investigation,” a department spokesman told Live Science
The shark, a male juvenile about 500 pounds and 9 feet long, was discovered last Sunday at Beer Can Beach in Aptos on the shore of Monterey Bay, Marine biologist Giancarlo Thomae told KSBW. There appeared to be a number of slashes on the shark’s head, but they could have been caused by prey, such as a seal, battling the animal, Thomae said. There appeared to be sea lion fur in the shark’s teeth.
Experts said it’s unusual to launch a criminal probe in such a situation, and it likely indicates clear man-made trauma to the shark.
“All I can assume is that they discovered some sort of trauma, perhaps a gunshot wound that isn’t visible in any of the images I’ve seen,” David Ebert, director of the Pacific Shark Research Center at Moss Landing Marine Lab, told KQED.
It’s illegal to deliberately hunt or kill great whites in California, though sharks are occasionally killed when they become caught in fishing nets.
A great white that washed up dead in the same area last year had a bacterial brain infection.