SciTech

12-foot great white shark returns to NC coast after ‘looking for love’ in Nova Scotia

OCEARCH catches and tags ‘Hilton’ off Hilton Head

OCEARCH, a research vessel and at-sea laboratory catches and tags Hilton, a 12-foot male white shark, off the coast of Hilton Head, SC in March 2017.
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OCEARCH, a research vessel and at-sea laboratory catches and tags Hilton, a 12-foot male white shark, off the coast of Hilton Head, SC in March 2017.

Hilton the shark has returned to North Carolina after a long sojourn north “looking for love.”

The 12-foot, 1,326-pound great white shark pinged off the North Carolina coast near Hatteras Island on Wednesday, according to the OCEARCH research group tracker, after a trip far north to Nova Scotia, an area researchers think is a hot spot for shark mating.

OCEARCH founder Chris Fischer thinks Hilton was drawn to Nova Scotia to look for a mate in the frigid waters.

“I believe he’s up there looking for love and has been all fall,” Fischer said in November. “They should only have one thing on their mind, and that’s making baby sharks.”

OCEARCH research suggests that shark migration patterns show Nova Scotia to be a probable breeding site for great whites.

Hilton has been tracked near North Carolina and South Carolina dozens of times since he was tagged by OCEARCH on March 3. The shark was named for Hilton Head, S.C., where he was caught and tagged.

Last week, a juvenile great white shark named Bruin pinged off the North Carolina coast, surfacing about 20 miles off of Buxton on Hatteras Island on Dec. 4. Great whites are headed south as water temperatures cool in their birthing grounds off of New England.

Bruin is small compared to other great whites that have pinged off North Carolina’s coast this year, including the much larger Hilton. Bruin is just 5-feet 5-inches long and 101 pounds.

North Carolina has averaged two to three shark attacks per year for the past 14 years and has not had a fatal attack since 2001. The United States has averaged about 41 attacks per year since 2001, according to the international shark attack file at the University of Florida.

For more information on Hilton, go to www.ocearch.org/profile/hilton or follow him on Twitter, @HiltonTheShark.

OCEARCH is a research vessel and at-sea laboratory that generates critical data to expand behavioral and ecological research on the large predators in the North Atlantic Ocean.

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