13 Things You Didn’t Know About Shark Attacks
Women are safer from sharks than men, punching a shark isn’t the best defense, and most shark attacks occur during non-summer months. Surprised? Read on for more scintillating facts about shark attacks.
Shark attacks are rare, and almost never deadly
The real-life likelihood that you’ll have a close encounter with a shark is about 1 in 11.5 million, according to the International Shark Attack File. In fact, you’re more likely to be injured in a boating accident or bike wreck than you are in a shark attack. More good news: death by shark hardly ever happens. In 2017, for example, there were no fatalities from shark attacks in America. These are the tips that could save your life in the event of a shark attack.
The safest people in the water are snorkelers
According to the Florida Museum of Natural History, surfers and other people participating in board sports accounted for 65 percent of shark attack victims in 2014, followed by swimmers and waders (32 percent), and snorkelers (3 percent). These are the water safety tips lifeguards wish you knew.
Punching a shark may not be your best defense
Pieter De Pauw/iStock
Swinging your arm through water can be difficult, so, if you’re attacked by a shark, “grab at the eyes and gills, which are very sensitive,” Andrew P. Nosal of the Scripps Institutions of Oceanography the New York Times. Here’s what happened when this surfer punched a shark to try to save his friend.
Very few species of sharks attack humans
Of the nearly 500 species of shark, only about 30 have ever attacked a human, and three species—great white, tiger, and bull—are responsible for the majority of human fatalities.
Most shark attacks are on men
According to Nat Geo Wild, 93 percent of shark attacks from 1580 to 2010 were on boys or men. The explanation comes down to numbers: More men than women surf, boogie board, and SCUBA dive—all sports that come with a risk of attack.
Attacks spike in September
In Florida, the U.S. state with the most shark attacks, September is the most dangerous month to be in the water, according to the International Shark Attack File. From 1926 to 2012, 103 attacks occurred in that month, compared to 61 in June, 73 in July, and 84 in August. Can’t get enough of sharks? Check out these fascinating facts about the filming of Jaws.
Just like us, sharks eat breakfast and dinner
Sharks feed around dawn and dusk, so it’s best to stay out of the water or be especially careful then.
Sharks don’t attack on purpose
But they sometimes mistake humans for food in murky water. Imagine the white flashes of the underside of a person’s feet as they are kicking through the water or the sparkle of jewelry on ankles or wrists. “A shark may confuse it with its natural prey,” John Carlson, a research biologist at the Southeast Fisheries Science Center, told the New York Times. Reduce your (already slim) chances of a shark encounter by leaving your jewelry on the beach. Here are some far more dangerous (and much smaller!) creatures to watch out for this summer.
The world’s shark population is decreasing
Lest you think the ocean is “teeming” with sharks: “The shark population in the U.S. and around the world are at perhaps all-time lows,” George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File at the Florida Museum of Natural History, told NPR. “On the other hand, the human population continues to rise every year. Fundamentally, the number of shark attacks every year is driven by the number of people in the water, not the number of sharks.” Here are some more wild animal species you had no idea were endangered.
You can track sharks online
Scientists and conservationists tag a small population of sharks, usually with dart guns or through slightly more dangerous methods, to gather information on their migratory patterns, size, and growth. Using that data, tracking the animals online has also become somewhat of a hobby for some beachgoers, who can follow tiger sharks in and around Hawaii, and several shark species in Western Australia and in much of the northern hemisphere. One popular great white named Mary Lee has more than 120,000 followers on Twitter.
Sharks follow the (non-human) food
Scientists have reported high numbers of herring and sea turtles in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, which may have explained the unusually high number of shark attacks in that area in recent years.
Few shark attacks happen in fresh water
Although bull sharks, one of the most aggressive and attack-prone species of sharks, can survive in rivers, lakes, and even streams, in addition to the ocean, few freshwater human-shark encounters have been recorded. Next, check out these tips that can keep you and your family safe on a beach vacation.