As unusual as it may read, a 7-year-old boy was the victim of a shark attack while swimming in Lake Pontchartrain outside New Orleans, La., Friday. Trent Trentacosta was swimming with a group of kids in the freshwater lake when what would later be identified as a bull shark latched onto his foot and wouldn't let go. But, as The Inquistr reported Aug. 9, it wasn't until doctors assured her it was a shark bite that Shelly Trentacosta, Trent's mother, found out it was something other than the wounds from stepping on a stingray or scraping barnacles. But a shark -- much less one biting her son -- in Lake Pontchartrain? Was that even possible?
"We've been swimming in the lake forever," Shelly Trentacosta told The Times-Picayune. "You don't think something like that will happen. That was the last thought that crossed my mind."
But sharks do inhabit the waters of Lake Pontchartrain, mainly do to the fact that Pontchartrain is not an actual lake, but a brackish estuary of that receives fresh water from five different rivers (none of which are the Mississippi, although a canal connects the two bodies of water) and experiences tides and a salinity amount of up to 50 percent in its easternmost reaches (and almost none in its westernmost). But experts note that this is not the time of year that sharks generally frequent the area.
Even Mitchell Chevalier, who tags sharks for the University of New Orleans and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, was skeptical at first that Trent Trentacosta had suffered a shark bite. He acknowledged that most boaters and swimmers had no idea that sharks were plentiful in Lake Pontchartrain at certain times of the year. But after examining the 7-year-old's bite marks, he quickly altered his opinion.
"Without a doubt, it's a bull shark -- probably around 5 feet," Chevalier said.
Bull sharks are also one of the few sharks that are true man-eaters, most of the world's nearly 300 species of sharks being less aggressive and unlikely to attack a human. They are also one of the few that have been known to have the ability to survive in waters with far less salinity levels than those found in the oceans. In fact, bull sharks have been found dozens of miles inland on occasion.
On Friday, one of them was was in Lake Pontchartrain...
"The kids were bunched up together playing, and Trent just started screaming," Shelly Trentacosta said. "We started swimming to him, and I didn't know what was going on. I grabbed his leg, and there was a lot of blood."
The family had gone swimming after borrowing a sailboat to go out on the lake.
"(Trent) had been screaming so much," she said. "It wasn't until he settled down that he told us something charged at him from under the water. He said that when he was swimming, something bumped him from the back. He turned around to look, and then he felt it swim around to the front of him, and when he turned again, it charged at him."
The 7-year-old had a row of bite marks around his heel and around his big toe.
Young Trent had to actually kick the shark off his heel because it had "clamped on," his mother said.
Doctors expect him to make a full recovery.
Trent Trentacosta's encounter with the bull shark in Lake Pontchartrain is the third encounter with a shark by a young person inside of a week. Just two days prior, a 10-year-old boy was attacked by a shark off Folly Beach in South Carolina, according to WJCL in Savannah. On Aug. 2, another 7-year-old boy was bitten by a shark in the shallow waters off Tables Beach in Florida.