Shark awareness after second shark bite on NC coast

Published: Jun. 11, 2019 at 8:53 PM EDT
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The victim of a shark bite off the coast of North Carolina on Monday has spoken out about his encounter while still recovering in his hospital bed.

And with now two victims already this month, experts are doing their part to raise awareness about the tendencies of sharks when swimmers enter the water.

"I was like hopping down the beach, and there was like blood going all over the sand," explained Austin Reed, 19, who details the frightening moments following an encounter with a shark in Ocean Isle.

Reed, who was surfing with his friend, joked about what was to come when he and his friend saw the water conditions Monday afternoon.

"I remember I told him for some reason that if there was any day to get bit by a shark, it would be today. I don't know why I said that."

Paige winter, a 17-year old New Bern girl, had to have a leg amputated after suffering severe injuries following a shark bite earlier this month.

Experts say encounters of this kind often occur when a shark feels threatened, or confused.

"When they encounter humans, it's a lot of what is this? What is this in my ocean? Is it food?," says Jeff Plumlee, a Ph.D. student at the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences.

And because of strong electromagnetic sensory organs on the nose and front of their body, sharks result in using their mouth to explore the unknown.

"Sharks don't have hands or any other way to sense their environment, other than through the front of their body, which is where the mouth is," adds Stuart May with the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores.

But because sharks don't predicate on humans, the encounter is usually short-lived.

"What it is, it's looking for food, it finds something that could be food, tests, and typically it's not something it's looking to it. So that why you generally see one bite and then it's completely off in another direction," Plumlee adds.

And while swimmers enter a sharks domain at their own risk, the chances of an encounter are extremely rare.

"Just along this area you have tens of thousands of people in the water at any given time and we usually end up talking about a one, two, maybe three at most incidents that happen all summer," says May.

Experts add there are several ways that beachgoers and swimmers can reduce their risk of an encounter with a shark, which includes avoiding swimming in areas near piers or where a lot of baitfish are present. Also, it's important to swim in groups, avoid those twilight hours, and always refrain from the water if you're bleeding.

Of the more than 500 different species of sharks in the world, only about 50 of those are found in North Carolina, with some species attracted to coastal waters due to water temperatures, food supply, and breeding patterns.