Shark bites child in third North Carolina attack this season

BALD HEAD ISLAND, N.C. (AP) — A shark bit an 8-year-old boy in the third shark attack this season along the North Carolina coast, according to state officials.

News outlets report the boy was swimming in open water at Bald Head Island on Sunday afternoon when a shark grabbed him by the leg, causing multiple bite wounds.

WECT reports the child, who wasn’t immediately identified, was transported on a ferry to the hospital and is expected to make a full recovery.

The boy is the third person to be attacked by a shark in the state this month. Last week, a 19-year-old was bitten by a shark in Ocean Isle, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) down the same coastline from where a 17-year-old girl lost most of her leg to a shark attack at Fort Macon State Park earlier this month.

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Last year, North Carolina saw three unprovoked shark attacks total, down from six attacks in 2015. Between 2009 and 2018, North Carolina typically experienced one to three unprovoked shark bites each year, making it one of the top six states for unprovoked shark attacks in the United States.

“We don’t usually have three by June,” said Gavin Naylor, program director for the International Shark Attack File at the University of Florida in Gainesville, a research organization that tracks shark bite reports worldwide. “But you could get none in June next year; you need to look at the overall trends.”

North Carolina is more popular for shark bites because it also attracts more tourists due to its beautiful beaches, Naylor said, which means more people doing water sports or activities that can cause a shark to mistake them for food. Most of the shark bites are typically from blacktip sharks, according to Naylor, which migrate in large numbers from Florida up to the Carolinas every May.

“They basically park themselves and breed in the Carolinas from June to August,” he said.

But in recent years, researchers have been seeing fewer and fewer blacktip sharks, along with lessening numbers of the fish they feed on. Typically, Naylor said he sees about 15,000 blacktip sharks in Florida every winter, but last year, only saw about 6,000 and attributes this to changing ocean temperatures that may make the fish, and the blacktip sharks, disperse more.

Overall, the number of shark attacks in the United States has been increasing every year, he said, as the beaches get more and more populated and most of these attacks occur in Florida.

In general, Naylor said shark attacks are still very rare and the risk of being attacked is extremely lower than the risk of drowning. To reduce risk, he advised people to heed public safety warnings, avoid bringing shiny objects like jewelry into the water, and be wary of areas where freshwater meets the sea, since that is where more bull sharks are found.

It’s believed that the 17-year-old girl who had her leg amputated after a shark attack at Fort Macon State Park earlier this month was attacked by a bull shark, which tend to be more larger, more aggressive sharks and are one of the most likely to go after humans.

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