Florida, the most popular place for visits, was the No. 1 spot for shark injuries and deaths with 219 attacks there since 2005, mostly on the west coast. Assaults from bull sharks, an ugly, thick bodied and aggressive species, were most common, though black tips and sand tigers also caused some incidents. That sounds like a lot, but 26 million people visited Florida last year alone and most of them went swimming. Calculate the odds of any individual getting bit or killed, and they're almost nil.
Hawaii was next with 55 attacks in the last 10 years. Most of the incidents involved tiger sharks, a very large shark that might reach 15 feet or even better. They're aggressive too, and often make repeated assaults on a swimmer or surfer, usually coming from behind and below, and thus unseen until it's too late. One swimmer beat off a large tiger shark recently by hitting it hard in the nose, a place filled with delicate sense organs. The shark didn't like it and left.
The California coast was next with 31 attacks in the last 10 years, and 100 incidents since 1950, mostly on surfers by great white sharks They too like to come from below and strike upward, and the attacks often were against surfers wearing black wet suits. These big sharks (Jaws) feed mostly on seals and sea lions which are black or dark brown, and spend a lot of time on the surface. Experts think the attacks here are mostly caused by sharks involved in cases of mistaken identify since the attacks are often single encounters quickly broken off. Those same experts believe California swimmers and surfers have a 1 in 11,000,000 chance of being assaulted.
You almost never hear about shark incidents in South Carolina, but they're on the rise. There have been 38 attacks since 2005, most of them attributed to black tips which have come in as close as two feet of water to bite someone. The attacks are usually not fatal and occur mostly in murky water after storms. Experts believe they're seeking fish, are attracted to splashes by swimmers, and strike at flashing white arms and legs in the muddy surf. Most of the attackers were just five to six feet long.
Don't forget North Carolina which experienced 25 attacks between 2005 and 2014, mostly by small spinner sharks which made 16 attacks in seven years. These little fish eaters live close to shore and caused arm and leg puncture wounds, painful, but never fatal. A few incidents were caused by black tips and sand tigers. North Carolina has had only one fatality in 50 years.
It adds up to small odds indeed, so small that chances of being killed by bee stings are much higher. But you can decrease those odds even further by swimming in blue and green swim suits (ocean colors) rather than bright, flashy ones, by avoiding murky waters after storms, not swimming at night and staying away from fishermen and fishing piers. Then your odds drop to lottery winner chances.
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HOOKS & BULLETS
• Most readers are good-hearted folk who might well see a wildlife baby or youngster and decide to keep it and nurse the animal or bird back to health. But you shouldn't do it, other than in unusual circumstances. It's illegal to keep wildlife species without a rehabilitators permit. Volunteers with those permits go through extensive training on how to treat young and injured wildlife. If you find a baby that is truly abandoned, always consult your local wildlife district office or a rehabilitator first. Leave it to the professionals and you'll increase the animal's chances of survival.
• Fall is coming and that means more boats will be on the market soon. If you buy one you'll want to name it, of course. What are the most popular names? According to BoatUS, the top name is Serenity. Seas the Day comes second, then Andiamo: Leta gola (Italian), Irish Wake, Freedom, and Ohana (Hawaiian-means family) then Oasis and Happy Ours. Otherwise, use your imagination.
• Anglers interested in learning the art of fly fishing are invited to enter a lottery for beginning fly-fishing clinics at the Castalia State Fish Hatchery. In addition to instruction, attendees will be able to test their new skills by fishing for rainbows in Cold Creek. Sessions will be held on Fridays from Sept. 1 through Oct. 6 with the exception of Sept. 8. To apply, send a postcard listing your name,address, customer ID number, and phone number to Division of Wildlife District Two, Findlay, Attn: Beginning Fly Fishing Clinic. For questions, call 1-800-WILDLIFE.
Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit his blog at outdoors withmartin.com.