Bull Sharks In The Great Lakes – Myth Or Fact?

Are there Bull Sharks in the Great Lakes? For some reason, this query keeps coming up, so it got us thinking … is it possible? We wanted to dive deeper into your question and find the true answer once and for all.

Are There Bull Sharks In The Great Lakes?

Like the Loch Ness monster, rumours of sharks living in the Great Lakes has been circulating around Lake towns for decades, and have now reached the online forums. Similar to whales, many shark sightings in the Great Lakes are hoaxes, spurred on by the negative attention sharks receive. Humans live by exciting stories of the mysterious unknown, it’s what makes suspense movies so intriguing. So of course, the stories of sharks invading our inland waters is going to attract the attention of many.

Earlier this month, there was a Megalodon special on the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week Special, and one of the titles that caught my eye was ‘Monster Quest: Jaws of Illinois‘. Chicago, home to the beautiful Shedd Aquarium, was not the subject of the show, but it told the story of a shark swimming up the Mississippi River in Illinois.

It tells the story of oceanic sharks swimming in the Mississippi in Illinois. Southern Illinois is far from Lake Michigan, but they are interconnected. At the top of Downstate Illinois lies the long road to the Gulf of Mexico. Suppose a shark with a case of northern wanderlust makes it across the Illinois River north of St. Louis and makes it the rest of the way.

It sounded like something out of a low budget horror movie you’d catch on the SyFy channel, but the phenomenon of sharks swimming in rivers and lakes is very real.

There are several reasons why sharks can not survive in the Great Lakes, from the cold temperatures to the fact that sharks need to live in saltwater in able to survive. However, there is currently only one species of shark that can survive in the Great Lakes. This one rare but notable exception is the all mighty Bull Shark.

The bull shark is one of the few species of shark with physiologically changing abilities, and some of its abilities are better than others. Bull sharks are found in freshwater around the world, from thousands of miles away in the Amazon to the Great Lakes of Mississippi and Illinois.

Most Sharks Need Saltwater To Survive

The Bull Shark has the ability to recycle salt through its kidneys and survive in freshwater environments. This is the only potential shark that can live in the Great Lakes. In most sharks, the lack of salt in the water causes the salt from the animal’s body to dilute, causing the cells to burst and the animal to die.

Sharks Do Not Like Cold Waters

Most sharks do not like to live in cold water and tend to avoid large changes in water temperature. Bull sharks are the only species that can survive in cooler waters, and they sometimes end up in lakes at the end of summer, when the water is warmer. If it could cope with the winter temperatures and the lack of food, it would be possible that it could live for a while if one swam into a lake from the ocean.

However, water temperatures in the Great Lakes can drop and get close to freezing in the winter, which would be too cold even for the Bull Sharks.

bull shark

There Is A Lack Of Food In Lakes

There are many disadvantages of sharks in freshwater areas such as Lake Michigan. For them, there is not so much food and it takes the sharks out of their normal environment. Fish in the Great Lakes are smaller than prey for sharks in the ocean. If they don’t have normal prey, they won’t find a mate. They would also have to deal with the stress of being in freshwater. Bull sharks hunt for larger prey, which are scarce in most freshwater areas. A bull shark typically feeds on large bony fish and other smaller sharks.

Bull sharks have been known to attack people before, but humans are not their go-to choice of meal. However, the distribution of Asian Carp in the Mississippi and other waters of the Midwest could offer Bull Sharks an unprecedented source of food.

Geographical Location

Bull sharks rarely venture beyond the Mississippi basin, the electric barrier near Chicago designed to keep invasive species out of Lake Michigan. Rarely does a shark venture as far north as to the Atlantic coast along the St. Lawrence River, where it will have to swim past Niagara Falls through its lock system. Barriers aside, the sheer improbability of such a phenomenon is why we would not expect fins to appear in the surf on regional beaches in summer.

No shark reports have been documented in Lake Michigan. There are reports of dead sharks washed up on the beaches of Lake Huron and Erie in Ontario but there is no way to tell whether they ventured there on their own or were planted there as a bad prank. I couldn’t find reports of Lake Superior.

Bull Sharks In The Great Lakes – Mistaken Identity

It is possible that the large, freshwater fish Lake Sturgeon, also known as a Rock Sturgeon, could be mistaken as a shark. It is a relatively new and invasive species to the Great Lakes. Lake Sturgeons have a healthy, shark-like dorsal fin and tail and are known to swim close to the surface.

lake sturgeon
Lake Sturgeon

Don’t worry, it’s unlikely you’ll see Bull Sharks in the great lakes or any fins jump out of the water on your next trip to the Great Lakes.

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