CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The North Carolina coast is likely to see the same kind of conditions this summer that contributed to a record number of shark bites last year, experts say.
Sharks bit eight swimmers in the state in June and early July, three of them on the Outer Banks. None of the bite victims died, though some lost limbs.
Researchers at East Carolina University said some sharks off the coast of Florida are already heading toward the North Carolina coast – and if there's a big heat wave heading into summer, more sharks will come closer to the shore.
Last June, sharks attacked two people just hours apart on Oak Island.
Kiersten Yow, 12, from Archdale, lost part of her arm and suffered serious injuries to her leg. She went through rehab at Levine Children's Center in Charlotte.
Hours after she was bit, 16-year-old Hunter Treschl, who was visiting from Colorado, lost his arm in an attack while on vacation there.
This year, ocean waters are warmer than usual, and sharks are already migrating from Florida toward North Carolina.
“Oh yeah,” said George Burgess, director of the University of Florida’s shark research program. “They are well on their way.”
Florida normally sees 20 or so bites a year. A Canadian tourist was bit last week south of Daytona Beach, said Burgess, who keeps the International Shark Attack File, the longest running database on such attacks.
SHARK ATTACK HISTORICAL DATA:
“I’m not going to predict the kinds of attacks you had last year in North Carolina, but you’ll see sharks earlier than usual,” he said. “If they find the going good, they’ll stay for a while.”
Burgess said several factors suggest that, over time, shark bites will become more frequent in North Carolina.
He said more tourists are coming to the Outer Banks, and the water seems to be getting warmer and staying that way longer and at higher temperatures.
2015 Carolina shark attacks:
- June 27: Man, 18, bitten in Outer Banks near Rodanthe, N.C.
- June 26: Man attacked at Hunting Island Beach, S.C.
- June 26: Man, 47, bitten on the back off Avon on Hatteras Island, N.C.
- June 23: 9-year-old boy nipped on St. Helena Island while standing in about 12 inches of water.
- June 24: Boy, 8, receives minor leg and foot injuries at Surf City, N.C.
- June 14: Two teens attacked within minutes of each other at Oak Island, N.C.
- June 11: Teen bitten at Ocean Isle, N.C.
- August 20: 15-year-old bit on hand, leg by shark in South Carolina
“That makes the water more appealing for sharks and humans,” Burgess said. “You’re going to see shark incidents increase in Carolina in the coming years. There is going to be a next time. This is predictable.”
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Cox Media Group