CITRUS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Photos showing a young man holding what appears to be a tiger shark while standing in shallow waters of the Chassahowitzka River have prompted state wildlife officials to launch an investigation.

The young man in the photo claims in social media postings that he had nothing to do with catching the shark. He says he just saw a man in the river with the shark behind his boat and asked if he could pose for a picture with it.

Thousands of people have now seen the photos, and some of them are highly critical of the young man for taking the pictures.

Officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission say they are aware of the incident.

“FWC law enforcement officers have investigated this incident and have issued a Notice to Appear to two individuals for taking a prohibited species of shark,” an FWC spokesperson said in a statement. “The two subjects currently have a Citrus County court date.”

A witness on the Chassahowitzka says he watched the man who caught the shark dragging it behind his boat up the river.

“I noticed that it was dragging something along and I just saw a long tail and it was a shark that was being dragged backwards,” the witness said in an interview with WFLA.

The witness did not want to be identified, but says the shark was treated very cruelly.

“You can’t torture an animal like that, number one. And you have to know what species you are allowed to harvest and what species you’re not,” he said. “And apparently it was a tiger shark and they’re a no-no.”

According to the witness, the man gutted and killed the shark in the lagoon, spilling blood into the water not far from swimmers. He says the blood could have attracted alligators in the river into an area filled with people in the water.

The FWC has not identified the people who were involved in catching the shark. Their investigation is ongoing.

The agency is asking anyone with additional information about the incident to contact the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922 or