Delaware is a beautiful place, located on a peninsula bordering the Atlantic Ocean, the Delaware River, and Delaware Bay. Its location is privileged, but not only for humans. Some species of sharks love areas like this as they can go up in rivers looking for better places to find food and to reproduce. It brings the question: are there sharks in the Delaware River?
There are Bull Sharks in the Delaware River. This species adapts well to fresh and saltwater and is one of the most aggressive. Known for being involved in hundreds of attacks worldwide, it’s among the top 3 most dangerous sharks, along with Great Whites and Tiger Sharks.
Finding sharks in rivers is nothing new. In fact, it’s quite common for some species, such as Bull Sharks for example. Actually, there are even incidents with sharks in rivers in the United States and all around the world, including fatal attacks.
To learn all about sharks in the Delaware River, keep reading.
Sharks In The Delaware River
When people think about the dangers involved in swimming in a river, they usually will list the bad things that can happen as drowning, stepping on something sharp, twisting your ankle because of an uneven surface, and of course, animal encounters. But sharks in a River?
Well, most people have no idea that there are species of shark that can adapt very well to freshwater, some swimming more than 1,000 miles from the sea. Delaware, for example, sits on a peninsula marked by dune-backed beaches bordering the Atlantic Ocean, Delaware River, and Delaware Bay. But is it possible for sharks to go off the sea and up in the Delaware River?
Bull Sharks have already been recorded in the Delaware River. This is one of the shark species that can adapt well to salt and freshwater. In general, attacks are rare, but this is one of the most dangerous species. There are hundreds of fatal attacks credited to Bull Sharks in the sea and rivers.
In the Delaware River, there has been no official shark attack ever recorded. However, Bull Sharks’ presence in the river has been confirmed multiple times for decades. These species can go far up; an excellent example is sharks recorded up in non-coastal Pennsylvania!
In 1922, newspapers reported a 12-foot shark “of the man-eating variety” that was shot and killed in the Delaware River at Tacony, a suburb upriver of Philadelphia. And there’s more: in the summer of 1960, the number of shark sightings reported in the Delaware River was so big that Delaware authorities issued warnings for beaches along the river.
Bull Sharks: Species Guide
Bull Sharks are one of the shark species with the special ability to live in both salt and fresh water. But don’t get this wrong: it’s not they have been recorded only in river mouths or close to the sea. Bull Sharks have already been recorded in rivers thousands of miles from the sea.
These animals can grow up to 13 ft (4 meters) and are opportunistic feeders targeting bony fishes, sharks, turtles, birds, dolphins, and terrestrial mammals. Although shark attacks are extremely rare, some species demand more care because of their aggressive behavior, and this is the case for Bull Sharks, considered by many the most dangerous shark in the world.
According to the International Shark Attack File (ISAF), bull sharks are responsible for at least 100 unprovoked attacks on humans, 27 of which with fatal victims. However, it’s likely that this species may responsible for many more.
“Its large size, proclivity for freshwater, abundance, and proximity to human populations, particularly in the tropics, makes it more of a potential threat than either the White shark or the Tiger shark. Since the bull shark occurs in several underdeveloped regions of the world, including Central America, Mexico, India, East, and West Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and the South Pacific, bites often go unreported. The Bull shark is also not as readily identified as the white shark or the tiger shark and so may be responsible for a large fraction of the attacks that go unassigned to species.”ISAF 2018
A fun fact about these sharks brought by Florida Museum is that Bull Sharks were blamed for a series of attacks in 1916, which served as inspiration for Peter Benchley’s book Jaws, which Steven Spielberg turned into a blockbuster movie in 1975.
The story says that a Bull Shark is considered the shark involved in this infamous series of five attacks that occurred in New Jersey in 1916 that resulted in four fatalities over a 12-day period. Three of these attacks occurred in a river, Matawan Creek, a shallow tidal river, only 40 feet (12 m) across, 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from bay waters, and over 15 miles (24 km) from the open ocean.
|Max Size||Up to 13 ft (4 meters)|
|Aggressiveness||Very Aggressive (Dangerous)|
|Occurrence||Tropical and Subtropical Coastal Waters|
|Preference||Shallow Coastal Waters – Less than 100 ft (30 m)|
Related Article: Are There Sharks In The English Channel? (Full Guide)
Sharks And Creatures In The Delaware River
It may be surprising to know that there are sharks in the Delaware River, but they are not the only non-native creatures to show up in these waters.
1) Beluga Whale
The Delaware River caught national attention in 2005 when a 12-ft Beluga Whale swam all the way up to the Trenton and Morrisville area. The whale swam about 80 miles from the ocean to Bucks County before leaving and returning to its native Canada. The beautiful animal spent some time in the river and was visible as it breached the river’s surface, giving amazing views to the audience.
2) Bull Shark
As you know now, the presence of Bull Sharks in the Delaware River has been confirmed for decades now. The first time it got the news was around 1922 when newspapers reported a 12-foot shark that “a man-eating shark species” was shot and killed in the Delaware River, in non-coastal Philadelphia! More than that, in the summer of 1960, the number of shark sightings reported in the Delaware River was so big that Delaware authorities issued warnings for beaches along the river.
3) Wayward Seal
According to a story published on Philly.com, a Wayward Seal only a few weeks old swam up the Delaware Rivers in search of food. The seal was spotted near Falls Township and Trenton, in 2006. Actually, this is not the only case of seals in the river. In 2014, a picture circulated on social media showing a seal in the river near Morrisville.
4) “Waldo the Wrong-Way Right Whale”
A rare Right Whale is another beautiful animal that showed up in the Delaware River. The whale was nicknamed “Waldo the Wrong-Way Right Whale” and swam up the Delaware River before beaching itself in Pennsauken, New Jersey. The whale caused quite a commotion and made some long journeys. After a time period with no sightings, the Waldo surged again and was found swimming in the waters of Canada.
Related Article: Are There Sharks In Denmark? (New Research)
Has a bull shark ever been found in the Delaware River? Bull sharks have been found for decades in the Delaware River. There were reports from 1922 when newspapers reported that a 12-foot shark “of a man-eating species” was shot and killed in the Delaware River in non-coastal Philadelphia.
Has there ever been a shark attack in Delaware? There are at least 3 confirmed shark attacks in Delaware, all non-fatal. Sharks are common in Delaware, as it’s located on a peninsula bordering the Atlantic Ocean, the Delaware River, and Delaware Bay. There are even reports of sharks in the river.
- Shark Attack Data: http://www.sharkattackdata.com/place/united_states_of_america/delaware
- Global Shark Attack File (GSAF): https://www.sharkattackfile.net/
- Florida Museum: https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/
- International Shark Attack File (ISAF): https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/shark-attacks/
- Levittown Now: 5 Creatures Who Visited The Delaware River
- Philly Voice: The story of Pennsylvania’s only recorded shark attack