Experts warn that despite two shark attacks in the Florida Panhandle, there is no cause for concern

TAMPA, Fla. – Several swimmers were injured in two separate shark attacks on the Florida Panhandle last week.

The first attack occurred on Friday near a sandbar at Watersound Beach. A 45-year-old woman was with her husband when she was attacked.

Part of her left arm had to be amputated and she suffered “significant trauma” to the midsection.

A second attack occurred about 90 minutes later and about 6.5 kilometers away.

Two teenagers were attacked at Seacrest Beach. One girl suffered serious injuries to her hand and leg and was taken to a local hospital. The other teen suffered minor injuries to her foot.

Eric Hovland, a zookeeper at the Florida Aquarium in Tampa, said the risk of being bitten by a shark remains extremely low.

“When we're out splashing around in the water, we send out signals. Sharks come to investigate, what we find is what they call a test bite. When a shark comes, it doesn't have hands, so it probes the area with its teeth,” Hovland said. “It's an exploratory bite. Another way to find out if it's really food, and I think the answer is no, because when a person is bitten, the shark is usually nowhere to be seen. It often goes unidentified.”

The Florida Museum of Natural History's International Shark Attack File examined 120 suspected shark-human interactions worldwide in 2023.

Florida had the most undetectable shark bites in the United States in 2023.

In Florida, Volusia County had the most shark bites (eight), accounting for 50% of the state's total. Of the eight remaining bites, two occurred in Brevard County, two in St. Lucie County, and one each in Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Escambia, and Pinellas counties, according to the International Shark Attack File.

“Make sure you're not alone, don't go out too far, be careful near structure or where you might see schools of fish. They like to hang out where the shallow water quickly turns into depth, where there might be small fish, and where sharks might hunt,” Hovland said.

You can also minimize your risk by avoiding the water at dawn and dusk.

Experts also advise avoiding excessive splashing and not letting pets into the water because of their erratic movements.

Also, be careful when you are near sandbars or steep drop-offs, which are popular shark hangouts, according to the International Shark Attack File.

More information can be found here.

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