Leopard shark seen during MLB game was likely dying

Baseball fans watching the Kansas City Royals-San Francisco Giants game at AT&T Park on Tuesday night unknowingly got a glimpse into the sad state of leopard sharks in San Francisco Bay lately.

During both broadcasts of the game, cameras focused in on a leopard shark swimming around in McCovey Cove where kayakers hang out in hopes of snagging a home run ball. The Kansas City Star has clips of both broadcasts.

"Meanwhile out in the cove, sharks are getting hungry," Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow said when the cameras showed the leopard shark.

Actually, it was a sad sight of a disoriented leopard shark swimming in circles with its head out of the water. It was likely dying.

Sadly, hundreds of leopard sharks have been dying and washing ashore in San Francisco Bay since early March, as reported by the San Jose Mercury News last month:

Scientists suspect the sharks are being killed by a fatal brain infection linked to a fungus that may have been spread by the huge amounts of rain California received this year. The historic storms also reduced the bay's salinity in ways that could have weakened the sharks, some researchers say.

Leopard sharks have been found dead on beaches in Foster City, Hayward, San Francisco, Berkeley and other locations...

When leopard sharks get too much fresh water, their kidneys stop functioning, their immune systems fail and their breathing is limited, he said.

"They essentially just shut down," he said, and they become more vulnerable to fungi, bacteria and human pollutants such as fertilizer, pesticides and oil.

As many as 1,000 leopard sharks have become victims in the mass die-off similar to those that occurred in 2011, 2006 and 1967 in the bay.

Fortunately there is good news. Jim Cloern, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, has studied the bay since 1976 and told the Mercury News that he believes the leopard shark population will recover fairly quickly.

Leopard sharks are harmless to humans, grow to 5 feet, and are the most abundant sharks in San Francisco Bay.

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