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Back-to-back shark attacks leave 4 people injured in Texas and Florida

This image provided by the Texas Department of Public Safety shows a shark close to the shore in South Padre Island, Texas, on Thursday.
Texas Department of Public Safety
/
AP
This image provided by the Texas Department of Public Safety shows a shark close to the shore in South Padre Island, Texas, on Thursday.

Shark attacks in Texas and Florida left at least four people injured, including one person seriously hurt, as Fourth of July festivities lured crowds to coastal waters this week.

Two people were injured in a shark attack off the coast of southern Texas on Thursday, local officials said.

At South Padre Island, two people were bitten by a shark and two more “encountered” the predator but were not seriously hurt, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department said in a statement.

The two bite victims were taken to a hospital in Brownsville for treatment, and one of them was flown out elsewhere for further treatment, according to the department.

Game Warden Capt. Chris Dowdy told The Associated Press that authorities believe a single shark about 6 feet long was involved in all four incidents based on information from witnesses and social media images.

The last shark attack reported in the area was five years ago, Dowdy said.

State officials said that shark attacks on humans are rare in Texas.

“When bites from sharks do occur, they are usually a case of mistaken identity by sharks looking for food,” Texas Parks & Wildlife said.

“If you see large schools of bait near the shore, this typically [is] an indicator a predator is nearby, or if you see a shark in the water, calmly exit the water and wait for the predatory wildlife to pass,” the department advised in the statement.

Also on Thursday, another beachgoer was injured in a shark attack off the Florida Coast — the first of two shark bite incidents in the area in the span of a day.

At New Smyrna Beach, a 21-year-old man was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries after a shark bit his right foot around 4 p.m. on Thursday, Volusia County Beach Safety interim director Tamra Malphurs said in an emailed statement. He’d been playing football in knee-deep water.

On Friday just after 4 p.m. at the same beach, a 26-year-old man was wading in an inner tube in water about 5 feet deep when a shark bit his left foot, Malphurs said. He was treated on the scene and hospitalized for further care, according to Volusia County; his injuries were also not life-threatening.

Last year saw a total of 69 unprovoked shark attacks globally, according to the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File. Almost half of those attacks occurred in the U.S. That’s an increase from the 57 attacks in 2022, but is still on par with the five-year average of 63 attacks annually.

The increase in global shark attacks last year does not necessarily signal a rising trend, Gavin Naylor, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research at the Florida Museum of Natural History, told the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

“These are natural processes, random events, which happen to be when people are in the water, where there are sharks in the water — I would think that the variance would be much higher. But in fact, it is remarkably steady,” he said.

Sharks do tend to attack more commonly under certain conditions, he told the publication.

“You only get shark bites when there is a lot of people in the water, a lot of sharks in the water, the sharks are trying to feed on things, and they do not have good visibility,” Naylor said.

Copyright 2024 NPR