Holyoak, a 56-year-old marine biologist from Idaho, and his wife, Kathrine, were taking a morning walk near the surf in Seaside, Oregon, when they noticed a young girl looking at something in the water.
Upon closer examination, Holyoak discovered it was a struggling baby salmon shark, thrashing in the surf under extreme stress. He knew he needed to get it back into deeper water, but the baby shark “came with a full set of teeth.”
“I was extremely wary that the shark could convulse or thrash around at any time so I was prepared, but it was limp as could be which really concerned me.
“As it was so lethargic I decided to pick it up and take it back out into the wash zone, where there was a lot of highly oxygenated water — just what it needed.
“Sadly, the shark remained like a ragdoll. I tried again, and this time it started to show weak signs of life.
“I gave it a gentle shove, launching it toward deeper water. Surprisingly it started to beat its tail fin. It was having a hard time, but at least it was getting back into the waves. Luckily it managed to get its bearings and make it into deeper water.”
There, the baby shark swam away.
Holyoak is hopeful that the baby shark was simply disoriented and will now be fine after getting a helping hand.
While his actions were noble and courageous, Holyoak doesn’t recommend others do the same. As a marine biologist, he has more knowledge in dealing with a situation such as this than the average person.
“It’s important to remember that this is nature, not Disneyland,” he said. “Any wild animal, even one like this under extreme duress, lives according to its own rules. So it’s always better to leave it alone and give it plenty of space.
“It doesn’t know you’re trying to do it a favor, and may react unpredictably or dangerously.”
Fortunately, Holyoak rescued the baby shark without incident and now has an experience he’ll never forget.
“It’s a story I’ll love telling over and over,” he said.
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