Still planning a trip to Florida? More evidence the Sunshine State will try to kill you

Who doesn’t love jumping on a plane to Florida to escape the misery of winter? There’s the sun, the warmth, the beautiful Atlantic Ocean on one side and the warm Gulf of Mexico waters on the other side.

Before you dip a toe in that water, just know that Florida, once again, ranked No. 1 in unprovoked shark bites in 2021, according to Ed Killer, outdoors writer for the TC Palm.

In a Jan. 24 story, Killer highlighted data released by the International Shark Attack File (ISAF).

Chicks dig scars: Florida man gets bit by shark while surfing; Can’t wait to get back in the water

A surfer paddles over several dozen small sharks near new smyrna beach, fla.

Sharks being sharks

Shark bites are one of those one in a million occurrences. However, data released by the Gainesville-based organization revealed suggests that the rate may be a bit higher:

  • 73: Unprovoked shark bites worldwide

  • 47: Unprovoked shark bites in U.S. waters (ranked 1st)

  • 28: Unprovoked shark bites in Florida (ranked 1st)

  • 17: Unprovoked shark bites in Volusia County (ranked 1st)

  • 51%: Surfing, activity when bit by a shark (ranked 1st)

  • 11: Fatalities worldwide, 9 unprovoked

Researchers with ISAF, which is a division of the University of Florida’s Florida Museum of Natural History, scour media reports for news of shark bites, include reports from field researchers and verify with medical personnel the veracity of the information. The ISAF team investigated 137 alleged shark-human interactions in 2021 to confirm the 73 unprovoked bites and an additional 39 provoked bites.

“Unprovoked attacks” are defined as incidents in which a live human is bitten in the shark’s natural habitat with no human provocation of the shark, according to the report. “Provoked attacks” occur when a human initiates interaction with a shark in some way, including spearfishers, divers that harassed or tried to touch sharks, people that tried to feed, unhook or remove sharks from a fishing net.

Planning a trip to Florida this winter?: Be careful when you’re outside

Shark bites 2021

Shark fatalities higher

Eleven fatalities are alarming, up from 10 in 2020, which was the highest since 2013. It’s about twice the annual average of five, but there were two in 2019 and one in 2018.

The majority of the fatalities once again occurred in Australia, where three people lost their lives. New Caledonia (2) and New Zealand (1) meant six of the fatalities took place in the Southern Pacific Ocean, where great white sharks, the largest carnivorous shark, prey on seals. One fatality occurred in the U.S. in California on Dec. 24 when an unresponsive male surfer was pulled from the surf at Morro Bay. It was the 29th unprovoked shark bite and second shark bite fatality in the state in the past 10 years.

Kitesurfer Stephen Shafer, 38, of Stuart, was the most recent victim of an unprovoked and fatal shark bite in Florida. He was kite surfing Feb. 3, 2010, when he was accidentally bitten on the thigh by a suspected bull shark and died of severe blood loss.

The ISAF reports the odds of being killed by a shark are lower than 1 in 3.7 million.

“This year’s increase in fatalities does not necessarily constitute a shift in the long-term trends. Fatality rates have been declining for decades, reflecting advances in beach safety, medical treatment and public awareness. While the incidence of fatal bites in 2021 was higher than is typical, we do not consider this cause for alarm. At this time, there is no evidence that the recent spike in fatalities is linked to any natural phenomena. Rather it is likely the consequence of chance, a conclusion underscored by the fact that the number of unprovoked bites is in line with recent five-year trends.”

Tourists and transplants beware

The shark bite news follows in wake of a recent column on the perils that await the unwary who set foot in the Sunshine State.

There’s the “tree of death,” manchineel tree, whose bark, wood, small limbs, sap and leaves are all deadly poisons.

Then there’s the alligators. Authorities in Florida released footage of a missing woman swimming and wading in an alligator-infested river before she vanished in early January.

According to Jan. 7 article by the New York Post, hikers say they spotted the missing woman in Wekiva Springs State Park on Dec. 18 — a day after her family last saw her.

Possibly even more dangerous are the wild hogs of Florida and their nasty tusks.

Then there are three kinds of poisonous snakes, poisonous Cane toads, large green iguanas that can fall out of trees, and green anacondas.

Stay or go?

The prospect of all those scary things lying in wait for you in Florida is almost enough to make you want to cancel any trips to Florida.

I mean, what do we have to worry about in winter, other than blizzards, black ice, lake effect storms, hypothermia, bad roads, falling through …

Outdoors writers Ed Killer and Len Lisenbee contributed to this story.

This article originally appeared on Rockland/Westchester Journal News: Traveling to Florida? The Sunshine State will try to kill you

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