In honor of Shark Week, I decided to pull some pictures from my personal archive–which really means a bin of CDs in colorful sleeves–and return to my 2007 visit to the California Redwoods. What, might you ask, do Shark Week and the Redwoods have in common? The answer? This guy:
That’s right. Lurking among the beautiful sequoias is quite a fearsome beast. Move over, Bigfoot. There’s another monster in town. All hyperboles aside, this is a lovely leopard shark at Crescent City’s Ocean World. And true to the title of today’s post, I did indeed pet this little member of the houndshark family.
As I learned from Jaws‘ Quint when I was around five-years-old, if you really want to know how to pet a shark, it all comes down to the breed. Great whites aren’t so amenable to domestic life. But as it happens, leopard sharks come from much friendlier lineages.
Since Crescent City is along the Pacific Ocean, it’s appropriate that Ocean World features a leopard shark. After all, these spotted, finned fellows are native to the area. While aquariums like Ocean World take good care of their sea life, too many leopard sharks were caught for food in the 1980s, which threatened local populations of the species. Fortunately, in the ’90s, California passed regulations to help protect these “safe for humans” predators. Today leopard sharks are still caught but only at “sustainable levels”.
Even if sharks aren’t your thing, Ocean World hosts a plethora of other sea-dwelling creatures, including a full aquarium of beautiful marine life. And in addition to the shark petting area, you can also see the seal and sealion show, which is among the cutest displays I’ve witnessed in my travels. One of the harbor seals is even named Scully. Be still, my weird wanderer heart.
So if you’re ever driving along Highway 101 in Northern California, definitely be on the lookout for Ocean World. If nothing else, you can take home bragging rights that you engaged a shark and won (or at least lived to tell the tale). Take that, Sharknado.