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Hunting Dog Killed by Shark While Retrieving at the Beach

A cautionary tale for hunting dog owners who patrol the coast.

A calm morning on the water turned to tragedy when a duck-hunting dog was attacked and killed by a shark on the coast of Nova Scotia.

On October 18, 2023, Pepper, a Chesapeake Bay retriever, leaped into the water off the coast of Toby's Island near Port Medway to retrieve a sea duck that had been shot by its hunter. The dog's owner, a seasoned sea-duck hunter who chose not to be identified, breeds and trains Chesapeake Bay retrievers to fetch the birds. Leaping into the ocean after a downed bird is something Pepper's done many times, he said; it was the dog's second duck of the day.

"I have been on the ocean hunting sea ducks for years, and I am familiar with many other local hunters that do the same," the hunter said in a written statement to SaltWire, a Nova Scotia newspaper company. "When the ocean is calm and the ducks fall near the boat, it is common practice to send a dog into the ocean to retrieve the waterfowl. This is what these dogs are bred and trained for."

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Pepper swam roughly 20 feet to the duck, grabbed it, and turned to swim back. Without warning, a shark crashed into her from below, "lifting her into the air and then pushing her down under the surface," the hunter wrote. The retriever resurfaced and struggled towards the boat. The hunter pulled her in, but her wounds were devastating, and she died quickly after.

The hunter shared the story of the incident to warn others about the dangers lurking beneath the surface."I returned to the shore, shaken and shocked at this horrible loss," the hunter said. "I was very close to shore, in about 20 feet of water, and my dog was only in the water for a matter of minutes. To my knowledge, this is the first time a dog has been taken during a sea-ducking hunt, and it is certainly the first time I have witnessed the violence of such an attack so close to my boat."

A great white shark may have attacked a duck hunting dog.

The Brooklyn Marina, located near where the attack occurred, posted about it on Facebook to warn people of sharks in the area. Many commenters posted condolences to Pepper's owner. The hunter wasn't exactly sure what type of shark had inflicted the mortal attack on his dog, but he estimated it to be around 2.4 meters, or just shy of eight feet long.

Captain Art Gaetan of Atlantic Shark Expeditions speculated that a shark of such size was probably a juvenile great white shark, which come close to shore to feed on an abundant population of seals.

"That dog was in the wrong place at the wrong time," Gaetan said.

READ MORE: Watch: Wild Footage Captured by Kayaker Shows Shark Hunting Seal in Open Ocean