Sunday, December 4, 2016

BUCKET LIST UPDATE No. 306: Hunt and find ancient shark teeth

Back tooth from an ancient Tiger shark.
Southwest Alabama has recently experienced one of its worst droughts in recent memory, but every dark cloud is said to have its silver lining. The recent lack of rainfall has led to very low river levels, including low water levels at the Sepulga River, one of Alabama’s top hunting grounds for ancient shark teeth. With that in mind, my family took advantage of this prime shark tooth-hunting weather and went looking for some ourselves.

On the afternoon of Sun., Nov. 13, my wife, our two kids and I loaded up in my truck and drove down to the Bull Slough Bridge, which crosses the Sepulga River near the community of Paul. Prior to our trip down there, I’d studied up on how to “hunt” for shark teeth, so I gave my fellow hunters a quick crash course on what to look for. Our technique was to be simple: We were to look for “pot holes” in the bank that contained sandy deposits and look for teeth that had become trapped in these holes.

We got to Bull Slough with about an hour and a half of daylight left, parked under the trees at the end of the bridge and walked down the boat landing to the river. The river was way down, and in most spots it looked like the river was 12 to 15 feet across, much narrower than normal. What water there was in the river was fast moving and cold.
Sepulga River on Nov. 13.

Despite the low water level, much of the bank was hard to navigate due to slick surfaces, steep banks and outcroppings across the path. Much of this would have been underwater under normal conditions, which made it prime real estate for shark tooth hunting. We began sifting through the sand in the many “pot holes” we encountered even though I knew this area had been well picked over by other hunters over the years.

We searched and searched and found all sorts of items (pistol and rifle cartridges, old shells and small fossils), but no shark teeth. However, after much careful searching, I eventually found a small shark’s tooth about the size of a dime. Relieved that our search hadn’t been entirely fruitless, I was still disappointed that I was the only person in the group to find a shark’s tooth.

We made it a good ways down the bank of the river and eventually turned back in order to get back to the truck before dark. On the way back, we discussed the age of the tooth and how it had survived potentially millions of years before falling into my hands. Later, I posted a picture of the tooth on Facebook and a man who hunts for these types of teeth all the time told me that it was the back tooth from an ancient Tiger shark.

In the end, how many of you have ever hunted for and found ancient shark teeth? Where did you look for them? What methods did you use to find them? Let us know in the comments section below.

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