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Oklahoma shark tales always come with teeth

by Bryan Painter Modified: May 10, 2010 at 8:52 am •  Published: May 10, 2010

/articleid/3460238/1/pictures/934391">Photo - Above: Sharks circle over people in a clear tunnel during feeding time at the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks.
Above: Sharks circle over people in a clear tunnel during feeding time at the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks.
This is done at the top of the tank from the side, which for the most part includes a border around it. Of the 20 sharks in this tank, there are bull sharks, nurse sharks, lemon sharks and sand tigers.

Pat Woodward, a retired research scientist, has been volunteering for about seven years. His friends and family joke with him about losing fingers or arms, but he tells them he never gets his hands that close to the shark’s mouth. Woodward uses a three-foot long pole with a hand-grip on one end and a clamp for the food on the other.

And by the way, he feeds the largest bull shark, which is about 7 ½ feet long and 250 pounds.

"He’s finicky about the way he eats,” Woodward said. "Sometimes he’ll like to eat salmon, sometimes he’ll like to eat tuna and sometimes he just doesn’t want to eat at all and no matter what you do, he’s not going to eat. Then other times he’s voracious; he’ll just keep circling and picking up pieces of food every time you put it down for him.

"A lot of times he comes out of the water to get it.”

But it’s not a feeding frenzy. The sharks sway through the water, find their food, eat it and move on in a usually docile manner.

That doesn’t mean it’s boring, though.

"The most interesting shot is when he’s on the bottom and sees a piece up at the surface, and he comes straight up, and you can just look down his mouth as he opens it to take the food off the pole,” Woodward said. "You just love to see that happen.”

Different from movies
Sharks aren’t the attackers that movies make them out to be, Clawson said. She told me about something she has noticed.

It was such a cool story, I was again speechless.

The lemon sharks tend to rest on the bottom, because they can sit on the bottom and sleep. Sometimes the older lemon shark will roll over and not try to get back up. She’s fine; she’s just stuck in the current for a minute, Clawson said.

The other female will grab her tail with her mouth and pull her to make her flip back up.

"She’s not leaving a mark; she’s not doing anything to hurt her,” Clawson said. "And if she can’t get her to get up at that moment, both lemons will flank the one that’s down, one on each side, so that no other sharks can get by them. They’ll just stay on either side of her until she gets up.”

I wouldn’t mind seeing that. Well ... from outside the tank.

by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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Oklahoma Aquarium
300 Aquarium Drive, Jenks


• Open year-round (except Christmas): 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

• Tuesdays: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. The last paid admission is one hour before closing.

Ticket prices for general admission (plus tax)

• $13.95 for adults

• $11.95 for seniors and military

• $9.95 for children age 3 to 12

• Children age 2 and under are admitted free


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