This is one birth you might want to follow — a very large shark caught and satellite-tagged in the ocean off Edisto Beach is pregnant.
Harry-Etta is a 12-foot, 820-pound tiger shark, one of the largest predators off South Carolina's coast. By the summer she'll give birth. Her newborns will be fully formed alpha predators, each about 3 feet long. The sharks usually deliver 30 to 40 pups at a time, said S.C. Department of Natural Resources biologist Bryan Frazier.
You don't really have a lot to fear. The tiger, now tagged with a "smart position" tag, will tell researchers where she is every time her dorsal fin breaks the surface for a few seconds. You can track her, as well as a number of other sharks, at ocearch.org.
"Harry-Etta could help researchers answer important questions about how long the sharks of the little known species live, how often they reproduce and where and when they migrate," DNR said in a press release.
The largest sharks, including tigers and great whites, are among the most widely feared animals on the planet, the villain in fishing horror stories and movies. But they rarely attack people. Statistically, you're more likely to die from a popping champagne cork than a shark bite.
As a rule, South Carolina will get four or five bite reports per year, according to DNR. Most are tentative nips in roiled water when the shark mistakes a person for a food fish.
DNR is satellite-tagging tiger sharks to learn more about them. The agency is working with Ocearch, the research nonprofit perhaps best known for tracking Mary Lee and other great white sharks.
Harry-Etta was tagged last week in St. Helen Sound, the wide-open water between Edisto Beach and Beaufort.
She seems to like the sound as a feeding site. It was the third time researchers have caught her there.
Like a lot of sharks, tigers don’t stay put very long. They migrate up and down East Coast coastal waters and out to sea.
The distinctively striped shark is part of a larger group of the species generally considered over-fished. But tigers are considered fairly plentiful off the Lowcountry. St. Helena Sound might have the largest concentration of any non-ocean area in the state or East Coast, biologists say.
Tigers can grow longer than 18 feet and weigh more than 2,000 pounds.
A long-living, diverse and ancient species, sharks have become an invaluable resource for medicines. Large predators have been shown to be animals needed to keep ecosystems healthy.