North Port woman’s video of hammerhead shark off of Boca Grande goes viral

Video of hammerhead shark captured by North Port woman off of Boca Grande…

North Port woman's video of hammerhead shark off of Boca Grande goes viral 1

NORTH PORT – Wendy Donnelly was relaxing with a friend on the beach at Boca Grande last Thursday when she heard commotion and looked up to see a hammerhead shark swimming around in the surf close to the beach.  

She quickly grabbed her cell phone to record the video and eventually sent it to ABC7 weatherman Bob Harrigan, who shared the post on Facebook. The post has since gone viral and been shared by TV stations as far away as Cleveland. 

“We were just hanging out,” Donnelly said in a phone interview Tuesday night. “All of a sudden I saw a lot of commotion and noticed that there was a hammerhead shark on the beach. 

“I figured I better run and get my video and start videotaping it, because it was quite a shock to see it that close.” 

Donnelly’s video – which she has since shared with a licensing company – shows the shark thrashing about in ankle deep water and two fishing boats fairly near inshore. 

She wasn’t sure whether the anglers may have been going for sharks but June 10 was also the start of the 38th annual “World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament,” which returned to the waters off of Boca Grande, after it was canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A second video of the hammerhead was posted on June 11 on YouTube by Peggy Dantuono.

Hammerhead sharks do frequent this part of the Gulf of Mexico.

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In 2018, a fisherman caught and released one off of the Venice Municipal Fishing Pier, and in 2016 Esther Forestandi of Bradenton recorded a hammerhead shark just offshore of Beach Access 7 at Siesta Beach.

At the time, since retired Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium shark expert Dr. Robert Hueter noted that the Great Hammerhead shark was more prevalent off of the waters of Boca Grande.

Donnelly noted that she and her friend had been in the water just prior to noticing the shark. 

The story was picked up widely by other media, including NewsChannel 8 in Tampa, as well as television stations in Cleveland, Ohio and Richmond, Virginia. 

Donnelly said people started contacting her about the video about a day after it posted. 

“Never in my life did I think people were going to call me about it,” Donnely said. “I thought it was like a regular thing.” 

Donnelly was near the tip of Boca Grande and noted that she heard a woman on the beach at the other side of the point yelling for people to get out of the water. 

“It was scary and amazing all in one,” Donnelly said of the beach incident. 

“It’s mind blowing that people actually watch this all the time,” she later added. 

While Donnelly went on to sign up with to attempt to license the video, the early shares of Facebook have likely impacted that. 

Earle Kimel primarily covers south Sarasota County for the Herald-Tribune and can be reached at Support local journalism with a digital subscription to the Herald-Tribune.

North Port woman's video of hammerhead shark off of Boca Grande goes viral 2


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