Saturday, June 11, 2005

New Jersey surfer, victim of great white shark attack!

A 17-year-old surfer in New Jersey lost a chunk of leg flesh in what is likely the state's first attack by a Great White shark in 30 years, officials said on Wednesday.

New Jersey resident Ryan Horton was about 25 feet off the beach at Surf City, Long Beach Island early on Sunday afternoon when he felt a sharp pain in his ankle but didn't see what caused it. After paddling back to shore, he was taken to a hospital, Surf City Police said in a statement.

Bob Schoelkopf, director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, New Jersey said photos of the wound confirmed it could only have been made by a Great White.

The last recorded shark attack in New Jersey was at Sandy Hook in 1975, the year of the movie "Jaws," which terrified audiences with tales of Great White attacks.

Although such attacks are very rare, there is evidence that Great Whites live in the waters off New Jersey. In recent summers, naturalists have found signs of the sharks, including two dead sea turtles with 27-inch (68.5-cm) gashes that could only have been caused by a Great White.

Other sharks that share New Jersey waters with swimmers include the "very aggressive" Bull shark; the Mako shark, and the Sand Tiger, none of which could have inflicted the kind of wound Horton suffered, Schoelkopf said.

Schoelkopf said there was no reason for people to change their swimming habits because of the latest incident, noting "there's a greater chance of getting hit by lightning" than of being bitten by a shark.

Worldwide, there were 61 unprovoked shark attacks on humans in 2004, similar to the number in the previous four years, according to the International Shark Attack File, a service run by the Florida Museum of Natural History.


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