Are Sharks Hunting You? The Answer May Surprise You!
On average, humans kill around 25 million sharks a year. Sharks usually kill around 10 humans a year. All of this, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History's Department of Ichthyology yearly averages, may have you wondering why people should be so frightened of shark attacks?
With these numbers in mind, it’s clear to see that humans are the dominant predator of not only the land, but also the sea. Despite over 400 million years of evolutionary fine tuning, the shark loses massive numbers yearly, all to human fear and outright predation.
The cold hard facts point out that humans could literally “wipe the ocean floor” with this magnificent and very much misunderstood aquatic predator. Despite this fact, the terror of shark attacks lives on.
However, the other side of the coin is this: sharks do attack people on rare occasions. Although more people are attacked and maimed, sometimes even killed, by their more “land lubbing” animal neighbors than sharks. Even the seemingly docile cow kills people every year.
Yet there are few, barring of course a few tongue in cheek B-grade horror, movies written about killer cows. Yet there are more and more “killer shark” movies added to the already bloated collection yearly. It seems the very nature of shark attacks never ceases to amaze and terrify people.
Typically, the main victims of shark attacks seems to be, on average, surfers and the occasional fisherman who may just be attempting to remove the hapless shark from their nets or fishing lines. An interesting fact to note is that despite declining shark numbers, grievous injuries and fatal attacks seem to be increasing as opposed to decreasing, as one would assume.
What Causes These Frightening Shark Attacks?
Considering this rise in shark attacks, many shark researchers are beginning to wonder if certain sharks are beginning to develop a taste for human flesh, or if it is just a symptom of greater human encroachment into these fascinating yet dangerous creature's territories. Many researchers have already begun to actively probe this question.
Some even consider the possibility that organized crime may even have something to do with shark's acquiring a taste for human flesh. Being opportunistic eating machines, a shark encountering a human corpse disposed of by organized crime syndicates, will undoubtedly take a bite and may even begin to prefer human flesh to their usual aquatic mammalian prey.
Considering standard animal behavior, one could easily see why a creature whose bowels have been known to contain such unlikely objects as old tires would stop to investigate a potential free meal. Although an indirect link and “unnatural” method of acquiring food, the shark could easily begin to associate the shape and scent of human flesh with an easy meal. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or the NOAA, sharks typically don't hunt humans.
Most attacks are a case of mistaken identity. Mistaken identity usually spurred by dark colored surf or diving suits. This is because the shark mistakes the human for a seal that is thrashing around because it is sick and therefore easy prey. Even if a large shark is unacquainted with the taste of human flesh, it may mistakenly take a bite out of a hapless surfer or diver. This is because sharks tend to “try out” a potential victim to see if they can overcome them. In short, they take a bit of a “taste test”.
Unfortunately for the hapless human target, the countless rows of teeth the average large predatory shark possesses can, and usually does, cause massive damage and massive bleeding. This bleeding may attract other sharks who in turn will begin their classic “feeding frenzy”. A state of mind that can even lead to a shark attacking other sharks in their mad dash to consume the injured animal source of this highly attractive scent.
This tendency to “try out” a potential victim can be even more prevalent in fresh water, especially amongst the bull shark; which can thrive in fresh water and sometimes uses these aquatic habitats to spawn. Considering the popularity of boating, fishing, and recreational swimming, this can lead to many “misunderstandings” for both shark and human.
Why Do Some Sharks Take That First Bite?
According to many shark experts, there are a few different forms that shark attacks may take. Some of these are easily preventable and knowing what they are can help you avoid becoming an accidental or even intentional shark victim.
The biggest cause of most shark attacks is simply put; provoking the shark into either defending itself, or viewing a human as a potential victim. This occurs when people touch, hit, swim to close, or otherwise molest the shark. A common cause of shark attack may not even occur in the water.
For instance, a fisherman attempting to remove a shark from their fishing line or even their net; may find themselves missing a few digits, or even worse yet, an entire limb. This is, however, only an accidental attack and you can't blame a fisherman for wanting to remove the shark from their net or line. However, there are also attacks that occur out of sheer human stupidity or outright “human mean spiritedness”
There are even instances where a diver has teased a shark, either by getting in between it and its prey, attempting to feed the shark, and surprising as it may seem; grabbing onto the shark. These foolish activities are sometimes linked to people's desire to get the shark on film, or to get a better look at these fascinating creatures. Although it seems to be common sense for most people, these dangerously stupid activities are more common than one would be led to believe.
Along with the attacks that occur because of people's misfortune or outright stupidity, there are also accidental reasons why someone may get on the bad side of these aquatic predators. A frighteningly common cause of shark attack can be simple curiosity on the shark's part.
These usually happen along the lines of a shark bumping then taking a bite out of a hapless swimmer or surfer. Most of the time the shark will swim away leaving the person alone after the initial bump and bite scenario. This is when the shark is simply “checking out” a person or if the shark mistakes them for another creature.
Some researchers point out that, oddly enough considering that sharks cannot read the statistics, that the shark may be simply frightened of the strange creature in its vicinity and might attack the same way a frightened dog or cat will attack. Yet another theory is simply that the shark is being territorial and may perceive the human interloper as a potential competitor for the prey in its territory.
Most of the unprovoked attacks take on the form of the “bump and bite” sneak attack variety. A deep sea shark may spy a swimmer or surfer and approach from the bottom, head butt the person, and then take a bite out of whatever limb may be dangling. In some tragic cases an entire limb can be lost depending on the size of the shark. Torso bites are less common, but are so severe as to cause grievous injury and even death to the unlucky human victim.
These intentional attacks are what puzzle most researchers and lead more than a few to wonder if human corpses dumped into the ocean are not the cause for a shark “Developing a taste” for human flesh. Whatever the cause for the growing numbers of these “man hunters”, the terrifying connotations leave most people's blood as cold as the ocean depths that spawn these monsters. Even still, most attacks do not lead to a shark killing and eating a person.
How Do You Avoid the Nightmare Scenario of Shark Predation?
According to the experts, there are a few ways to avoid being the star of your own shark attack horror film. First, stay in large groups. Shark are opportunistic hunter for the most part. Typically, predators do not want to tangle with large prey such as humans. Especially if that large potential prey is in an even larger group. This is because most predators do not want to “bite off more than they can chew”, if you will excuse the pun, by attacking a group and risking their own injury.
Stay out of the water during the early morning or early evening hours. Sharks tend to hunt during these times, and by avoiding the water during these active times, you lower your chances of being their next “taste test” or fatality. Remember one of the first iconic death scenes from the movie “Saws” takes place during one of these times. That was no boating accident.
Never get in the water if you have a wound. Especially if that wound is bleeding. Sharks can detect a drop of blood in the water even miles away. Essentially, it is the shark's version of ringing the dinner bell. They swim fast and even a wound that wasn't bleeding when you got in the water could reopen or even seep small amounts of blood. Besides, the risk of infection should be enough to cause you to avoid the open ocean.