Students at a Florida high school received a major shock as they were greeted by a massive dead shark hanging from the rafters on Thursday morning. The carcass of the large shark was suspended above the outside walkway of the Ponte Verda High School in St. Johns County, Florida.
A student told WJXT, "I was going to first period, and there was this massive shark hanging from the ceiling, and it smelled really bad. I was really shocked. I just didn’t expect to see that in the morning."
Another high school student told the outlet, "It's kind of gruesome. I’ll be honest. That’s a pretty big shark too. It’s in the main courtyard. There are some steps that go up to the main hall, and that’s right over the steps, so it’s in a pretty major spot."
Custodians at the school removed the shark from the rafters around 8 a.m. on Thursday.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission – which is investigating the grisly incident – suspects that a gutted shark was hung from the rafters around 9 p.m. on Wednesday by five students of Ponte Verda High School, according to Alex AuBuchon, public information director for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The FWC believes that the shark was hunted down on Tuesday night and stored in a freezer before being strung up at the school.
University of North Florida Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Jim Gelsleichter suspects that the animal is a sandbar shark – a species that is protected in Florida.
"That is a prohibitive species in Florida, and so we are not able to land those particular species and that's really because the sandbar, their populations have been pretty depleted over the past several decades from overfishing," Gelsleichter told First Coast News. "So, they have a special protection."
Gelsleichter was shocked that the animal was hung from the rafters and said, "Those sharks are very heavy."
The FWC stated that sandbar sharks are "prohibited from recreational and commercial harvest in Florida state waters."
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission noted, "Due to its size, it is a potentially dangerous species and has been associated with few non-fatal bites on humans."
The school district also turned over surveillance video of the shark being hung up to the St. Johns County sheriff’s office.
"According to a local lawyer, whoever is responsible could face charges of trespassing, wildlife violations, and criminal mischief," WJXT reported.
A spokesperson for St. Johns County Schools told First Coast News that the stunt was considered a "level 4" offense. Possible discipline could include a 10-day suspension, expulsion, referral to law enforcement, and referral to mental health services.
The incident was reportedly a senior prank.
Coincidentally, the mascot of Ponte Verda High School is a shark.
(WARNING: Graphic images that may be disturbing for some)
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