Originally published in The News-Press by Amy Bennett Williams on April 28, 2020

It’s the marine equivalent of a Florida panther encounter: something so extraordinarily rare that even some biologists who study the smalltooth sawfish have never seen one in the wild.

But for Megan Durling, it was simply an extraordinary bit of good luck on what was already a pretty lucky day. “I’d been out looking for shark’s teeth when I saw it,” said the Cape Coral resident of her experience with the endangered creature at her dad’s house on the Caloosahatchee (she also bagged a couple of big teeth).

Coming across one so far upriver is extraordinary, said Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani, who’s not heard reports of them in that area.

“Seeing juvenile smalltooth sawfish at this time outside their preferred habitat of red mangroves and shallow water makes me wonder if they are responding to a more preferred salinity range further up in the estuary as salinity is rising,” he said.

As citizens are asked to do, Durling reported her sighting to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which is working to keep track of the remaining few. The agency describes reports of them in that part of the river as “incredibly rare,” although there have been confirmed sightings as far east as the W.P. Franklin Lock in Olga.

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