La Jolla's Leopard Sharks

La Jolla's Leopard Sharks

By Robin Bigge  I Photographer and Meme Connoisseur

Theres sharks in La Jolla?! Yes! But don’t worry, 99% of these sharks are harmless.

Theres sharks in La Jolla?! Yes! But don’t worry, 99% of these sharks are harmless.

The most notable sharks we see in La Jolla are the Leopard Sharks. They’re a huge attraction at The Shores during the summer months, which coincides with their migratory season. They tend to congregate in shallow waters beyond the stretch of shore around the Marine Room, but can be spotted by snorkelers all throughout the La Jolla Ecological Reserve.

Okay but they're still dangerous sharks, right? Wrong. Leopard sharks are bottom feeders, meaning their prey consists of really small fish, crustaceans, and squid. Combine that with the fact that most of these sharks are just 4 feet long, so they’re really not a threat! They’re more closely related to nurse sharks than great whites.

Leopard Shark in La Jolla
La Jolla Leopard Shark

But why are they here? Because they’re pregnant! 97% of all the sharks you see in La Jolla during their migration are pregnant females. They don’t come to La Jolla Shores to give birth, but to speed up the process. Leopard Sharks are ectothermic, which means their body temperature matches the water around them. So they flock to the warm, calm waters of La Jolla to turn their otherwise 10-11 month incubation process into an 8-9 month process.  

Great, so we can swim with them and pet them? Yes and no. You can, of course, swim with them. We actually have tours that allow you to do just that! Can you pet them? Hard no. We operate on the La Jolla Ecological Reserve, which is a protected marine reserve, so we can only observe. But swimming with them is just as awesome, as they’ve become accustomed to humans and are quite curious!

Click here to learn more about the La Jolla Ecological Reserve and it’s marine life.

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