The Stunningly Cruel Details Of The Shark Dragging Case

Portraits Of Cruelty (and Stupidity)

Sometimes it is hard to believe how cruel, and lacking in humanity, people can be (though sometimes I worry that it is all too easy to believe). The shark-dragging case is one of those times:

While fishing in state waters near Egmont Key in Hillsborough County, Benac shot a blacknose shark with a speargun at about 3 p.m. Heintz took a photo of Benac holding the speargun and Wenzel holding a gaffed blacknose shark with a spear through it.

Twenty minutes later, Wenzel shot a video as Benac, Easterling and Heintz danced on the bow of the boat. Benac was holding the speargun.

Less than two hours later, Benac caught a six-foot blacktip shark on a hook and line in state waters near Egmont Key, the reports said.

At 5:08 p.m., Heintz recorded Benac retrieving the shark. In the 10-second video, as the shark is pulled near the right side of the boat by Benac, Wenzel shoots the shark one time with a .38 revolver in the left side of the head, near the gills, the report said.

“All occupants can be heard celebrating by laughing,” according to the report.

At 5:10 p.m., Heintz recorded Benac continuing to fight with the shark. The eight-second video shows Wenzel shoot at the shark three times with the same revolver as it is pulled close to the left side of the boat, the report said.

After the shooting, all occupants cheered and erupted into laughter, the report said.

The report said it was unknown whether any of the bullets hit the shark. However, after being shot at, the shark tried again to flee.

At 5:14 p.m., the shark was landed and Wenzel recorded it lying on its back and tail roped. During the video, the occupants are heard laughing while Easterling holds the rope.

The next 10-second video shows Wenzel driving the boat while Benac records the shark as it’s dragged at high speed. The shark can be seen bouncing and skipping across the surface of the water.

As the camera pans to the port side, Heintz is seen recording the same incident. In both videos, all of the men are seen and heard laughing while the shark is dragged.

These guys are beyond redemption (and beyond stupid for posting their cruelty on social media). But what gives me hope is the strong reaction to their cruelty. Maybe this incident, like the starving polar bear I posted earlier, can help people break through their disconnectedness to the natural world, and inspire them to do more to protect the interests of nonhuman animals and the environments they live in.

Shark Dragging Is Cruel (And A Crime)

What should the penalty be for wantonly abusing a shark for ego and social media giggles? We’re about to find out:

Nearly five months after video surfaced on social media of a shark being dragged by a speeding boat, three men are facing animal abuse charges as a result of the investigation sparked by public outrage.

Robert Lee “Bo” Benac, 28, Michael Wenzel, 21, and Spencer Heintz, 23, have each been charged with two counts of aggravated animal cruelty, a third-degree felony, according to a press release from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on Tuesday. Benac and Wenzel also face one count of illegal method of take of a shark, a second-degree misdemeanor.

If ever there was a moment to draw a clear, bright line regarding animal cruelty, and to set an example that says abusing sharks will come with (severe) consequences, this is it. Hope they throw the book at them and win convictions that count.

Manatees Just Can’t Catch A Break

If it’s not overly-friendly tourists, and speeding powerboats, it’s the red tide:

Florida’s endangered manatees, already reeling from an unexplained string of deaths in the state’s east coast rivers, have died in record numbers from a toxic red algae bloom that appears each year off the state’s west coast, state officials and wildlife experts say.

The tide has killed 241 of Florida’s roughly 5,000 manatees, according to the state Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, and the toll appears certain to rise.

The number of deaths from the tide far exceeds the previous annual record of 151. Most occurred along the lower west coast of Florida near Fort Myers, where an algae bloom that began last fall was especially severe and long-lasting.

More on Florida’s red tide from Mote Marine Laboratory.