INDIANAPOLIS – The online photo is just the kind of thing to give the heebie-jeebies to anyone about to dangle their toes in their favorite swimming hole: a toothy shark breaching a river’s murky surface.
Now, throw the image on a social media website, identify the shark as one known to swim hundreds of miles into fresh water and toss in the name of an Indiana river and you get the makings of a uniquely Hoosier Internet hoax, one that’s being spread by hundreds of people in southwestern Indiana.
The photo, posted by a viewer on WTHI-TV’s Facebook page, says the picture was taken in the Wabash River right here at Fairbanks Park in Terre Haute.
It’s a bull shark, the second deadliest sharks in the world towards humans, reads the caption accompanying the picture.
The caption goes further:
It was said that a friend’s neighbor was fishing and filmed this before showing a few people, the post says. When DNR was informed they confiscated the camera and memory chip but the photo had already been leaked out. Others say that they too witnessed the same thing in the same area a few weeks back.
Phil Bloom, a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Natural Resource, told he Indianapolis Star the account is patently untrue. No one from the DNR has even heard of a shark making it up the Wabash, let alone responded to a recent sighting.
They have received no calls regarding a bull shark, Bloom said.
The DNR is no stranger to such hoaxes, though they typically involve land predators.
Just last year, conservation officers investigated a Shelby County man who told them he had photographic evidence of a mountain lion, which biologists say haven’t been confirmed in Indiana. The picture, biologists quickly learned, was bogus.
The best Internet hoaxes have a bit of credibility. Take bull sharks swimming upstream, for instance.
Federal wildlife officials say the species can be found primarily in shallow coastal waters and is common in lagoons, bays and river mouths. But bull sharks also can swim far into fresh water.
Fisheries officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say bull sharks have been caught in the Mississippi River as far upstream as Illinois.
The fear factor seemed to be what gave this fish story legs – or, in this case, fins. It was posted to Facebook on May 10.
Im never duck hunting that thing again!!!!! one commenter wrote.
But another seemed to want set the record straight.
This was a prank on one of the guys wife that went to far, the commenter wrote. I know cause the person that was supposed to have caught it was me. we didn’t think it would go this far.. just goes to show ppl you cant trust everything you see on the web. There is no sharks in the Wabash river. Just saying.