Why would someone brand a shark?
Two sharks with a strange logo branded on them have left wildlife officials scratching their heads. The photos were originally posted to the Boat Life of Charleston Facebook page last week, but have since been taken down.
The very distinct branding looks like either an F or a J that simultaneously resembles a fishing hook. From the looks of the marking, it seems someone either used a standard propane torch or dry ice.
The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources is now investigating the photos, as it's illegal to brand a wild animal, regardless of the method.
"It's a violation of at least one state law and potentially fenderal regulations," DNR Fisheries Management Director Mel Bell told The Post and Courier. "I've never seen anything like that in my life."
Why would anyone brand a shark? pic.twitter.com/pLCbyPQVz7
— Tracking Sharks (@trackingsharks) May 22, 2019
Sharks are often tagged for tracking purposes by wildlife conservation agencies, but in the most humane way possible. Branding, however, can cause serious damage to a fish.
"(It) can definitely be harmful to the animal," SCDNR marine biologist Bryan Frazier told Live5 News. "In addition to causing pain to the animal, it damages the skin and secondary infection could weaken or cause the death of the animal."
Many anglers enjoy shark fishing because of sharks' reputation as apex predators, so there's speculation that perhaps an angler was trying to mark his or her territory in a way.
Cattle have been marked in this fashion for centuries to determine ownership, but what would motivate someone to brand a wild fish?
If you have any information or happen to come across another shark with a branding mark, be sure to contact your state wildlife agency.
We'll keep you updated here at Wide Open Spaces as this story continues to develop.