A family participating in the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo got a little more than they bargained for after a gigantic eagle ray hopped in their boat and gave birth to several babies last Friday.
April Jones told Fox News, “We were out fishing off the coast of the Sand Island Lighthouse on Friday and I wasn’t catching anything — but my husband, husband’s father and son all were.” Jones then decided it was time to try a new location off the coast of Alabama when she suddenly heard a commotion in the boat.
She said, “We were trying to get a fish for me to catch. So I told them I was ready to leave and head to a different spot,” she explained. “We packed everything up — and as we were pulling away, there was a hard hit and a water splash.”
Then, the family turned and saw an estimated 400-pound, seven-foot wide eagle ray on the deck of their boat.
“We thought she’d be able to get herself out of the boat, but due to her weight, she couldn’t get herself out,” Jones said. “We tried to get her out, but she weighed too much.”
“She was so heavy that she was also weighing the boat down, and we were getting water in the back of the boat,” she added. The family attempted to make calls, but needed to get the ray out of their boat quickly.
“We drove to the closest boat launch, which happened to be where the Dauphin Island Sea Lab was,” the mother added. “I ran into the lab to see if anyone could help get her out. In the meantime, some people had come to the boat and helped her get out.”
Then, the Jones family noticed something even more shocking. Once docked at the boat launch, “we found out she had delivered four babies. We had no idea when she did it. They were not moving.”
The family donated the baby eagle rays to the Sea Lab after it was determined they had not survived. Officials said the corpses could be used for educational purposes. The Sea Lab also told the Jones family that if rays “are in any type of stressful situation, they will give birth,” Jones also told Fox News.
The eagle ray likely jumped into the boat in an attempt to get another fish off its back, experts speculated.
“It’s not uncommon for wild animals to release their young when they feel their life is in danger. This is surely an adaptation that gives the parents a better chance at producing offspring and passing along their genes in the population,” Brian Jones, curator of the Alabama Aquarium, Dauphin Island Sea Lab, told Fox News.
The lab curator said that in four decades of work, he has only seen five eagle rays.