Grand Strand

Survey: South Carolina third in U.S. in unprovoked shark bites

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) - A new study says the Grand Strand is among the busiest regions in the country for shark bites, but experts say it's still extremely rare to get bit.

Peyton Force of North Carolina was vacationing in Myrtle Beach earlier this month, when something bit her in the ocean.

"I thought it could've been like a dolphin or something, but a couple minutes later, something just clamped onto my leg," Force said.

While Force says she thinks a shark bit her leg, the Myrtle Beach Fire Department only confirmed it was a marine animal.

No matter what bit her, a survey from the website SafeWise says unprovoked shark attacks on the Grand Strand do happen.

"There's 375 different species of sharks, but primarily, the ones that are going to attack a human are going to be the great white or tiger sharks," says Sage Singleton, a community outreach manager for SafeWise.

The survey says 39 people in South Carolina were bitten by sharks that weren't provoked between 2007 and 2016. That's third in the U.S. after Florida, the clear leader with 244 bites, and Hawaii, which had 65 bites. California and North Carolina were tied for fourth with 33 bites.

Ten of South Carolina's bites were on the Grand Strand. That's almost as many as the entire state of Texas, which had 11 bites.

SafeWise says it gathered the figures from shark researchers from the Florida Museum of Natural History and the Global Shark Attack File.

Singleton says shark bite reports are tough for researchers to track.

"I think it's hard to 100 percent say, yes, I was bitten by a shark," she said.

Researchers say the odds of a shark attacking you are astronomically small at 11.5 million to one. That's way less likely than being struck by lightning.

Researchers also say humans actually attack sharks more often, with many hunting for fins.

"When you look worldwide, about one quarter of shark species are threatened with extinction," said Dr. Robert Hueter, a shark researcher from Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida.

The SafeWise survey says no one in the Carolinas died from a shark bite and only six out of about 450 bites nationwide were deadly.

The Myrtle Beach Fire Department says there's no official way shark bites in the city are tracked.

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