Hundreds of leopard sharks spotted swimming off coast of La Jolla

SAN DIEGO - La Jolla's leopard sharks were out in full force, just days before Thanksgiving. Hundreds of them were spotted in the shallow water just off La Jolla Shores, giving kayakers, paddle-boarders and snorkelers a late-season treat.

"It was amazing," said Todd Castleberry, who rolled up his pants legs and waded into the water with his sons to get a close-up view. 

He added, "They were beautiful sharks. I couldn't believe it."

Andy Nosal, a shark expert, with the Scripps Institute of Oceanography said it is not all that unusual to see leopard sharks in late November. Nosal said 95 percent of the leopard sharks that linger in the waters near La Jolla Shores between June and mid-December are pregnant females that are trying to incubate their embryos in the calm, shallow waters just east of the deep La Jolla Submarine Canyon.

Because they like the warmth, the females only swim near the surface during the day.  After dark, they dive into the deeper waters looking for dinner.

Where are the males? Nosal said they tend to hang out in the kelp forest off Del Mar. It is not known why they do not join the pregnant females.

Nosal said baby leopard sharks are born in April and May, and then the females have a very short time to mate and become pregnant again. The gestation period for leopard sharks is 10 to 11 months, and they reproduce every year.

The best thing about viewing leopard sharks is they are relatively harmless. Nosal told 10News they do not attack humans, but warned they are "skittish" and could spook easily if their tails are grabbed. 

"They might try to defend themselves, and the way they would do that if you're holding their tail, is to bite," said Nosal. "Don't mess with them."

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