Shark Attacks in the United States

Home | Category: Humans, Sharks and Shark Attacks


The United States is the world leader in shark attacks. As of 2016 there were a total of 1657 unprovoked shark attacks, with 1513 non-fatal and unprovoked attacks and 144 fatal and unprovoked ones. In Canada, by contrast there has been a total of three unprovoked shark attacks, with two non-fatal and unprovoked ones and one fatal and unprovoked oattack. [Source: Global Shark Attack File (GSAF), compiled by the Shark Research Institute,, 2016]

Unprovoked attacks in 2022 (attacks on people spearfishing are considered provoked)
Country — Total — Fatal
USA — 41 — 1
Australia — 9 — 0
Egypt — 2 — 2
South Africa — 2 — 2
Brazil — 1 — 0
New Zealand — 1 — 0
Thailand — 1 — 0
Worldwide — 57 — 5
[Source: Shark Files, Florida Museum of Natural History]

In 2022, as in previous years, the U.S. had the highest number of bites, and Florida again had more reported bites than anywhere else on Earth. None of Florida’s 16 unprovoked bites were fatal, but two — likely from bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas) — required medical treatment resulting in amputations. A woman snorkeling in the Dry Tortugas early in the year was notably bitten by a lemon shark. Although there were fewer bites last year, a spike in localized incidents has prompted concern from residents and government officials in some areas. [Source: Jerald Pinson, Shark Files, Florida Museum of Natural History, February 6, 2023]

About half of the world’s shark attacks are in the United States, where there are far more attacks in Florida than anywhere else. But still overall there aren't that many. From 1991 to 1998 there were five fatal shark attacks in the U.S. During that same period 32 children were killed by falling televisions and 56 people were killed in attacks by rottweilers and pit bulls.. In the 1990s there was an average of 29 shark attacks per year in the U.S.. In 1996 alone 43,687 people were injured by toilets. Between 1991 and 2001, seven people died in shark attacks in the U.S. In that same time 130 people were strangled to death in the U.S. by pull cords of window blinds.[Source: Chicago Tribune, September 2001]

According to the website, which maintains a rolling database of shark attacks, humans have a far higher chance of being killed by a flying champagne cork, accidental poisoning, or falling coconuts, that website says. “The chances of being attacked by a shark are nearly zero,” the resource’s founder, David Angotti, told The Guardian. “For people that live in the US, you are approximately 50 times more likely to die by a lightning strike, and 10 times more likely to die by a firework accident compared to a shark attack. [Source: Richard Luscombe, The Guardian, February 7 2023]

In the 1990s, in the U.S., an average of a half a person died each year from shark attacks, compared .8 by elephants, 15 by snakes, 6.3 by wildfires, 18 by avalanches, 3.5 by falling televisions, 4 by garage doors, 5 by barbecues, 2 by amusement parks, 75 by lawnmowers and 87 by lightning.

2012, an El Nino year, was particularly bad for shark attacks in the U.S. There were 53 shark attacks in the U.S. in 2012, according to the University of Florida's International Shark Attack File report. Eighty unprovoked attacks occurred worldwide, slightly more than 2011, the report said. According to UPI: The most shark bites, 42, occurred in North American waters. (The 53 U.S. incidents include Hawaii and Puerto Rico, not considered as occurring in North American waters as defined by the International Shark Attack File database.)Florida led the country with 26, followed by Hawaii (10), California (5), South Carolina (5), North Carolina (2), and one each in Georgia, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon and Puerto Rico, the report said. [Source: UPI, Feb. 11, 2013]

Websites and Resources: Shark Foundation ; International Shark Attack Files, Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida ; Tracking Sharks, which records all global shark attacks; Animal Diversity Web (ADW); National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); Fishbase ; Encyclopedia of Life ; Smithsonian Oceans Portal

Shark Attacks Up in the U.S. in 2022

There are far more attacks in Florida than anywhere else. Between 1999 and 2004, there were 151 attacks there, compared to 23 in Hawaii and 15 in California during the same period. Unprovoked attacks in the U.S. in 2022
State — Total — Fatal
Florida — 16 — 0
New York — 8 — 0
Hawaii — 5 — 1
California — 4 — 0
South Carolina — 4 — 0
North Carolina — 2 — 0
Alabama — 1 — 0
Texas — 1 — 0
Total Cases — 41 — 1
[Source: Shark Files, Florida Museum of Natural History]

In middle of the summer in 2022, CBS News reported: There have been five shark attacks in just the last two weeks. Among them was a Fire Island lifeguard who was bitten on the foot. At one point, two people were attacked on the same day.And an Arizona tourist was bitten on the hand and buttocks while standing in waist deep water, suffering wounds to his lower leg while he surfed. "It hit me and it knocked me just off my board," Shawn Donnelly told CBS News. "It threw me to the right. I saw it when I turned over. I saw the dorsal fin and I saw the body and I said, 'Oh, this is a shark.'" [Source: CBS News, July 16, 2022]

Unfortunately, Donnelly is not alone. Shark attacks across the country are up. In 2021, there were 47 confirmed cases — up 42 percent from the year before. Still, the risk of actually being killed by a shark is 1 in 3.7 million. "One thing I've noticed in some of these recent encounters is they have not been fatal," said Christopher Paparo, manager of the Marine Science Center at Stony Brook-Southampton. "It's very common that the shark attack is not fatal. And the reason for that is, they're not trying to eat us."

Paparo says more shark sightings off the U.S. coasts are not by accident. He said conservation efforts have increased the shark population. "The sharks that are most common in our areas that are interacting with people these days are sand tiger sharks, sandbar sharks and dusky sharks," he said. "You can't do anything with those fish. And by doing that, they've made a rebound, you know, and it's not easy to bring sharks back because many species live for 50 or more years." For now, beach crews are using sophisticated drones and patrolling on wave runners for sharks in an effort to keep swimmers safe.

Shark Attacks in the U.S. in the 1990s and 2000s

In November 1998, a nine-year-old boy was killed by a shark as he swam in the ocean, the first such attack in Florida in 10 years. Associated Press reported: James Willie Tellasmon was with his mother Saturday when he was attacked near Ocean Beach at Jaycee Park, some 110 kilometers (70 miles north) of West Palm Beach along Florida's east coast. “Witnesses said he started to flail, and then he was gone,'' police chief Jim Gabbard said. ”He just went under.'' A medical examiner said the boy was killed by a large shark, but he could not say what type of shark or exactly how large, Gabbard said. “This is the time of year when the water temperature starts changing and the migratory fish begin to move through the area. There's lots of bait fish and they're close to shore,'' Gabbard said. “The predators ... are all where the bait fish are.'' On November 11, a 13-year-old boy was bitten by a shark near where the latest attack took place. The last fatality was in 1988 at the Florida Panhandle. “Shark bites are fairly common,'' Gabbard said. “But most ... bite and let go.'' [Source: Associated Press, November 23, 1998]

In 2000 shark attacks in the United States jumped from 37 to 51. In Florida they rose from 25 to 34. The only U.S. fatality was Thadeus Kubinski, who was attacked August in St. Petersburg, Florida after he jumped off his dock and landed near a feeding shark. Other states reporting attacks that year were North Carolina with five, California with three and Alabama, Hawaii and Texas with two each. Reporting one attack for the year were Louisiana, South Carolina and Puerto Rico.

In April 2001, several beaches around Orlando were closed briefly last week after six attacks in 48 hours. The culprits were believed to be young spinner sharks that mistook swimmers' feet for fish. [Source: James Langton, The Telegraph, April 22, 2001]

2001: Summer of the Shark in the United States

Juliet Eilperin wrote in the Washington Post, In 2001, “It seemed as if the nation was living a real-life version of "Jaws," in which every beach harbored a potential threat. It started on July 6, when 8-year-old Jessie Arbogast had his arm bitten off by a bull shark off Pensacola, Fla. The incident was both horrifying and dramatic: Arbogast's uncle pulled the shark to shore, allowing emergency medical personnel to get the boy's arm out of the animal's throat so it could later be reattached. Less than a month later, 36-year-old Krishna Thompson, a New Yorker, lost a leg in the Bahamas to a shark. [Source: Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post, Aug. 7, 2011]

Labor Day weekend was particularly lethal. Ten-year-old David Peltier died on Sept. 2 when a shark claimed him off Virginia Beach. The next day, 28-year-old Sergei Zaloukaev was killed by a shark while swimming off Cape Hatteras, N.C.; his 23-year-old girlfriend, Natalia Slobodskaya, lost a foot in the same incident. As the human toll rose, the news media quickly dubbed 2001 the "Summer of the Shark."

Television correspondents rushed to the scenes of the attacks, where they chronicled the most minute developments, announcing even the non-news that emergency responders doing routine sweeps of the ocean had failed to find any signs of sharks.Pundits weighed in. As some emphasized that sharks pose a minimal threat to humans, Slate's Will Saletan questioned their analogies. "Let's get a few things straight. Gentle creatures don't devour human limbs. The bogeyman doesn't bleed children to death," Saletan wrote on Sept. 7, 2001.

Less than a week later, we forgot all about sharks. The terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 took the lives of 2,753 people, a tragedy that dwarfed the impact of shark accidents not just that year, but in the half-century that preceded it. There were 76 unprovoked shark attacks globally in 2001, down from 85 the year before. Fatalities, meanwhile, dropped from 12 to five between 2000 and 2001.

Shark Attacks in New York and the Northeast U.S.

According to Shark Files: New York had a record eight bites in 2022, six of which have been confirmed. Before these attacks, the state had only 12 reported unprovoked bites. In 2016, researchers determined that juvenile sand tiger sharks (Carcharias taurus) had taken up residence in Great South Bay, between Long Island and Fire Island. Young sharks are vulnerable to predation from larger individuals and species, and sheltered bays can provide them with a measure of protection. [Source: Jerald Pinson, Shark Files, Florida Museum of Natural History, February 6, 2023]

According to Gavin Naylor, a marine biologist at the University of Florida who runs the International Shark Attack Files (ISAF) at the Florida Museum of Natural History, the majority of bites in Long Island in 2022 were likely from sand tiger sharks that were drawn into the surf zone by an influx of baitfish.“The Gulf Stream’s eddies ebb and flow each year. Sometimes they can come very close to shore, bringing nutrients and fish with them. The juvenile sand tigers will follow the fish, which in some cases leads to an uptick in encounters with people,” he said. “But local perceptions of shark bites rarely map to global statistics. If you zoom out, these eddies unpredictably break off from oceanic currents all over the world in haphazard ways.”

For as long as records have been kept, there have been no reported fatalities from sand tiger attacks, but juveniles have often been implicated in non-lethal bites. “Juveniles tend to be more experimental and will try things that an adult shark wouldn’t,” Naylor said. “If fish are especially dense where people are swimming and visibility is poor, then it is more likely that young sharks, which lack the experience of older animals, will mistake a swimmer’s foot for their intended prey.”

“If fish are especially dense where people are swimming and visibility is poor, then it is more likely that young sharks, which lack the experience of older animals, will mistake a swimmer’s foot for their intended prey,” Naylor, told The Guardian. [Source: Richard Luscombe, The Guardian, February 7 2023]

In July 2018, two children were bitten on the same stretch of Fire Island shoreline, about four miles apart. A 13-year-old boy suffered bite marks on one leg, and had a shark tooth embedded into his skin, while a 12-year old girl was bitten on the leg on the same day. Both recovered. In July 2022, a Fire Island lifeguard who was bitten on the foot.

In August 2018, Bill Lytton, of Scarsdale, N.Y., was attacked by a great white shark in Cape Cod. Lytton underwent six surgeries and had nearly 12 pints of blood pumped into him after the attack. "I punched [the shark] in the gills" to escape, he said. In June 2012, Christopher Myers was rushed to the hospital after being bitten by a shark on both legs while bodyboarding near Cape Cod. Scientists later confirmed that the shark, which attacked him off Truro, Massachusetts, was a great white, the first to be seen in that area since 1936. See Great White Shark Attacks

Shark Attacks in California

Unprovoked Shark Attacks in California
Year — Total Bites — Fatal — Non-fatal
2012 — 5 — 1 — 4
2013 — 1 — 0 — 1
2014 — 4 — 0 — 4
2015 — 2 — 0 — 2
2016 — 4 — 0 — 4
2017 — 2 — 0 — 2
2018 — 1 — 0 — 1
2019 — 3 — 0 — 3
2020 — 4 — 1 — 3
2021 — 3 — 1 — 2
TOTAL — 29 — 3 — 26
[Source: Shark Files, Florida Museum of Natural History]

In September 2015, a man in his 20s was attacked by a three-meter (10-foot) hammerhead shark while dangling his legs over the side of a kayak near Malibu, California. The shark reportedly bit the kayaker's foot straight down to the bone. Luckily, he was able to flag down a nearby fishing boat and they were able to control the bleeding and arrange for him to be airlifted to a nearby hospital.

In May 2016, 52-year-old Maria Korcsmaros was attacked by a shark in Newport Beach, California, while she was training for a half-Iron Man competition. She was bitten on her shoulder and upper torso, her wounds ultimately stretching from shoulder to pelvis.

In November 2017, a spear fisherman was seriously injured while wading in the water at at Stillwater Cove in Pebble Beach, California. Officials said the man's leg was intact, but the bite was serious.

Florida — Shark Attack Capital of the World

About a third of the world’s shark attacks are in Florida. Out of 73 unprovoked incidents recorded around the world in 2021, 28 were in Florida. This works out to 60 percent of the total cases in the United States and 38 percent of cases worldwide. That number was consistent with Florida's most recent five-year annual average of 25 shark attacks. In 2000, there were 34 unprovoked shark attacks in Florida year out of 79 reported around the world, according to the International Shark Attack File. Between 1999 and 2004, there were 151 attacks there. In May 2016, a 13-year-old boy survived a shark in Neptune Beach, Florida, after wading just 66 centimeters (two feet) into the water. The boy was bitten on his calf and the back of his right knee.

The sharks responsible for the bites are generally small, between four and five feet and the bites themselves tend to be small. The attacks often occur as sharks swam northward along the Florida coast. “Sharks are like Yankee tourists. They come south for the winter and north for the summer,'' shark expert George Burgess of the Florida Museum Science said. Bites often happen in conditions of breaking surf, undertow, tidal currents and reduced visibility, Burgess said. That's when they are most likely to mistake the dangling feet and hands of surfer for a fish. [Source: AP. Miami Herald]

According to CBS News: It's true that Florida repeatedly leads the nation in shark attacks, but in 2011 that number was only 11. In the 130 years between 1880 and 2010, there were 22 shark attacks in Miami-Dade and Broward counties combined, 18 in the Florida Keys. Only one of those attacks was deadly. But as you move further north up the state, those numbers increase dramatically.

"It's very unusual to have a fatal shark attack in Florida waters," Burgess said. "Most of our cases involve hit-and-run attacks, in which the shark, apparently mistaking a person for a fish, makes a quick grab, then apparently realizing its error, lets go and swims away. The damage left to humans is usually nothing more than a few scars...Attacks increase when the water temperature starts changing and the migratory fish begin to move through the area. There's lots of bait fish and they're close to shore. The predators... are all where the bait fish are.''

Map of the inlet near New Smyrna Beach Florida Yellow points represent shark attacks

In 2021, one county in Florida stood out with more shark attacks than any other region in the world: Volusia County with 17 shark attacks. According to the Washington Post, Florida's Brevard and Volusia counties, including tourist hot spots such as New Smyrna Beach, routinely lead the US in the annual number of shark strikes because they have a a huge number of surfers and swimmers and are in the migration routes of blacktip and sandbar sharks. Together they made up 15 of the 53 recorded US attacks in 2011 year, though most of these tend to be minor scrapes since the species there are less dangerous than those found in other areas.

In 2022, Florida retained its title as the shark bite capital of the world. Worldwide there were 57 unprovoked shark bites in 2022. Of these, 16 took place in Florida, which recorded no fatalities but two amputations. The sunshine state's16 reported cases accounted for 39 percent of the shark attacks in the U.S. and 28 percent of unprovoked bites worldwide. Volusia County had the most shark bites, with a total of seven. Monroe County had four reported bites and single incidents were reported in Martin, Nassau, Pinellas, Brevard and Palm Beach counties. Researchers said the number of shark attacks in Florida was lower than the state’s five-year annual average of 22 incidents. [Source: WFLA, February 6, 2023]

Shark Attacks in Florida

Four swimmers were attacked by sharks in the Jacksonville area of Florida in the summer of 2010. The first two shark attacks at Jacksonville Beach. The third was at Mickler's Landing. The fourth was at Crescent Beach. The victim was Seth Shorten, a 10-year-old boy who was boogie boarding when he was attacked. He told Action News: "When the shark bit me, there are scrapes and there's a big bruise,"

According to Action News: Seth was out boogie boarding with his dad. "I was sitting there floating around and I didn't see a shark, not even his fin. He came up and bit my foot." But his first concern wasn't the pain or his blood in the water. "I told everyone I was screaming get out of the water shark, shark. I yelled get out of the water cause I thought it'd go for more of a meal to taste something else than just a foot," said Shorten. Shorten has more than a stitches to remember the rare attack. He has part of the sharks tooth. "I want to know what kind of shark it was," said Shorten. It was stuck in his foot. "It was pretty scary cause it didn't feel real. I was sort of daydreaming in water and it just comes up and bites me," said said Shorten.

Map of Florida representing the number of shark attacks that occurred between 1882 and 2014, Florida maps from “An Analysis of Shark Attacks in the State of Florida” by Devin Resko
and Ashley Johnson, Florida Geographer, April 2015

Unprovoked attacks in Florida
Year — Total Bites — Fatal — Non-fatal
2012 — 27 — 0 — 27
2013 — 24 — 0 — 24
2014 — 28 — 0 — 28
2015 — 30 — 0 — 30
2016 — 36 — 0 — 32
2017 — 31 — 0 — 31
2018 — 18 — 0 — 18
2019 — 21 — 0 — 21
2020 — 16 — 0 — 16
2021 — 28 — 0 — 28
TOTAL — 259 — 0 — 259
[Source: Shark Files, Florida Museum of Natural History]

In the summer o f 2022, 17-year-old Addison Bethea was attacked by a shark at Keaton Beach in northwestern Florida's Taylor County when she was scalloping in water approximately 5 feet deep near Grassy Island, just of Keaton Beach, The girl survived and said her first instinct was to punch the shark in the nose. Bethea, told "Good Morning America" from her hospital bed : "The next thing I know something latches onto my leg and I was like that's not right. And then I look and it’s a big old shark. Then I remember from watching the Animal Planet to like...punch [it] in the nose or something like that. And I couldn't get around to his nose the way he bit me." [Source: Morgan Winsor and Meredith Deliso, Good Morning America, July 2, 2022]

The Taylor County Sheriff's Office said the type of shark involved in the attack was unclear but it was described as approximately nine feet long. According to Good Morning America: Addison's brother, Rhett Willingham, a firefighter and emergency medical technician, raced to help her. "She came back up and I saw, like, the blood and everything, and I saw the shark," Willingham told "Good Morning America." "So then I swam over there, grabbed her, and then pushed them all, kind of trying to separate them. And he just kept coming. So I grabbed her, swam backwards and kicked him and then yelled for help."

“Willingham put a tourniquet on her leg to control the bleeding while they were brought back to the beach on a boat by a good Samaritan, her family said in a statement. The teen suffered "serious injuries" and had to be airlifted to a hospital in Tallahassee, about 80 miles northwest of Keaton Beach, according to the sheriff's office. Tallahassee Memorial Hospital initially listed her in critical condition. Doctors performed emergency surgery and were able to stabilize the teen, who suffered extensive damage to her right leg, according to the hospital. Addisonis scheduled to have a second surgery"to further investigate the extent of the damage to her leg and determine what treatment options are available with the goal of saving her leg," the hospital said in a statement.

Shark Attacks in the New Smyrna Beach Area of Florida

Map of Florida showing the number of fatal shark attacks

About half the attacks in Florida occur a few miles south of Daytona at New Smyrna beach. Shark bites are common in New Smyrna Beach because the nearby Ponce de Leon Inlet is a site for fish spawning and schooling. Sharks sometimes misinterpret the splashing of humans in the water as being normal prey items,'' Burgess said. In most cases they realize very quickly that it's not a mullet and go.'' [Source: Miami Herald, Associated Press, April 13, 2001]

Purple flags, indicating that dangerous marine life has been spotted in the water, are flown along beaches in the Daytona Beach area. Such flags were fluttering in October 2006 after a surfer was bitten in the leg. "Hundreds of bait fish were seen in churning up the water and, according to lifeguards, where there are small fish there are also sharks sure to be in the same vicinity," Local 6's Tarik Minor said, prompting lifeguards to warn swimmers not to go in water above their waist and to stay close to shore. [Source: Local 6, October 10, 2006]

October 2000, a swimmer and a surfer suffered minor injuries when they were bitten by sharks in separate attacks in New Smyrna Beach. Taylor Holley, 11, of DeBary was bitten twice on the right foot as he swam with his father and his sister. He received 28 stitches to his heel. Cy Holley, the boy's father, said they were standing in the water watching a large school of fish pass when Taylor was bitten. Two hours later, Austin White, 23, of Apopka was surfing when a 2-foot shark bit his right hand, damaging tendons. He may require surgery. It was the 12th shark attack in Volusia County this year, and there have been more than 20 statewide, including one fatal attack on the Gulf Coast. At least seven shark bites had occurred along Florida's east coast in the period of week.

In March 2001, at least seven people were attacked by sharks along Florida's east coast in one week as sharks hunted for fish along their northward migratory route. Thousands of beachgoers enjoying spring vacations were told to stay out of the water several times after sharks were sighted and bites — none life-threatening — were reported. A 16-year-old from Charleston, S.C., and a 12-year-old were bitten on the ankles while surfing separately in New Smyrna Beach, Three other surfers and a wave-boarder were hit by sharks there. Most injuries are not severe, but 22-year-old Richard Lloyd's gash was deep enough to partly sever a tendon that doctors said would need surgery. Farther south at Waveland Beach, a man received a deep bite to his right ankle and lower leg. Volusia County surfers and beach authorities were taking the bites in stride. Every time a shark was sited or a bite reported, swimmers within a couple hundred yards were asked to leave the water for about 20 to 30 minutes. The beach patrol didn’t post any signs.

Shark Attacks in South Carolina

Screen grab from WKBN on July 2, 2015

Reported Unprovoked shark attacks in South Carolina
Year — Total Bites — Fatal — Non-fatal
2012 — 5 — 0 — 5
2013 — 6 — 0 — 6
2014 — 5 — 0 — 5
2015 — 8 — 0 — 8
2016 — 2 — 0 — 2
2017 — 10 — 0 — 10
2018 — 3 — 0 — 3
2019 — 1 — 0 — 1
2020 — 1 — 0 — 1
2021 — 4 — 0 — 4
TOTAL — 45 — 0 — 45
[Source: Shark Files, Florida Museum of Natural History]

An average of three shark bites are reported on South Carolina beaches each year. In June 2006, a seven-year-old girl from Missouri was bitten by a shark while playing in 60 centimeters (2 feet) of water. Associated Press reported: The girl suffered puncture wounds to her foot and buttocks in the afternoon attack, but the injuries were not life threatening, Beaufort County deputies said. Lifeguards and others on the beach first thought the girl had been stung by a stingray, but the doctor who treated her found a shark tooth embedded in her foot, authorities said. Sharks often get closer to shore as the ocean waters warm and the bait fish they eat get closer to the beach, said Al Stokes, manager of the Department of Natural Resources' Waddell Mariculture Center. The last fatal shark attack off the island occurred in 1883, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History. [Source: Associated Press, June 8, 2006]

In June 2015., a 43-year-old man was attacked by a shark near Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, He was taken to a nearby hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. The same month 2015, a 12-year-old boy was bitten on the legs while swimming off the Isle of Palms, northeast of Charleston, South Carolina. The boy was reportedly playing in the water with a cousin about 4½ meters (15 feet) out, when the shark attacked. He needed eight stitches. A month earlier, a 30-year-old man was bitten by a shark off of Sullivan’s Island.

Dustin Waters wrote in Witnesses reported the shark that attacked the 30-year-old man at Sullivan’s Island was approximately 6 feet long and displayed no additional aggressive behavior following the attack. No other sharks were sighted during that time and the shark swam away following the attack.[Source: Dustin Waters, May 20, 2015]

Just how common are attacks such as this on South Carolina beaches? According to records compiled by the Florida Museum of Natural History, 82 unprovoked shark attacks have been confirmed off the coast of South Carolina between 1837-2014. Of those attacks, 30 occurred off the Charleston County coast. Included in that number are the only two fatal attacks confirmed in South Carolina, the last taking place in 1852. The state currently ranks third in the continental United States for total number of attacks, trailing behind California with 114 and Florida with 717 confirmed attacks. But how do these numbers stack up among other animal attacks and just how safe should you feel when returning to the water?

“According to a study published in “Wilderness and Environmental Medicine” examining fatalities from venomous and nonvenomous animals, you’re approximately 60 times safer in the ocean than you are at the nearest farm. Looking at statistics from the CDC, researchers found that of the 1,802 deaths from animal attacks between 1999 and 2007, 36.3 percent were attributed to the group labelled “other mammals,” which includes cows, horses, pigs and other hoofed animals, but excludes dogs and rats. Marine animals only accounted for 10 fatalities during that time — less than 1 percent of total deaths caused by attacks. And keep in mind next time you take your four-legged friend for a walk along the beach, dogs ranked third in the study with 250 incidents reported during that time — almost 14 percent of total fatal attacks. But just because you’re more likely to be done in by man’s best friend is no reason to not take caution when out in the water.

Shark Attacks in North Carolina

Time of day that shark attacks in Florida occurred

Unprovoked Shark Attacks in North Carolina
Year — Total Bites — Fatal — Non-fatal
2012 — 2 — 0 — 2
2013 — 1 — 0 — 1
2014 — 4 — 0 — 4
2015 — 8 — 0 — 8
2016 — 3 — 0 — 3
2017 — 1 — 0 — 1
2018 — 3 — 0 — 3
2019 — 3 — 0 — 3
2020 — 3 — 0 — 3
2021 — 3 — 0 — 3
TOTAL — 31 — 0 — 31
[Source: Shark Files, Florida Museum of Natural History]

Non-fatal shark attacks occasionally occur in North Carolina. In July 2013, 63-year-old surf instructor Barbara Corey was bitten off Holden Beach in Brunswick County. In 2012 there were two. Ssix-year-old Brooklyn Daniel was struck off Brunswick and 33-year-old Megan Konkler was bitten off Nags Head Beach. [Source: Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post, August 6, 2013]

In July 2015, 68-year-old Andrew Costello was attacked by a shark in waist-deep water off Ocracoke Island, North Carolina,. He was swimming directly in front of the lifeguard stand, about 30 feet offshore. Costello suffered wounds to his ribcage, lower leg, hip and both hands, but survived. In June 2019, 17-year-old Paige Winter lost a leg in a shark attack off the North Carolina coast. According to a family Facebook post, Winter's father, Charlie, "punched the shark in the face five times before it let go." [Source: Christina Capatides, CBS News, June 30, 2015, updated July 8, 2019]

In the summer of 2015, 11 people were attacked by sharks off the coasts of the Carolinas over just a few weeks. One of those victims, a 17-year-old boy, received injuries to his right calf, buttocks and both hands while swimming in the Outer Banks that June. The teenager was then airlifted to a hospital in Norfolk, Virginia for treatment. The same month a man was bitten on his back and his leg while playing in the surf off Avon. Ocearch founder Chris Fischer told "CBS This Morning," "It's very common this time of year between Florida and the Carolinas to have these sorts of incidents." Also in June 2015, 13-year-old Kiersten Yow lost her left arm to a shark while boogie boarding off Oak Island. Less than 90 minutes later, a teenage boy also was severely injured nearby. They were both attacked in waist-deep water.

A shark attack in Cape Hatteras in 2004 was a fatal one. Kenny Ballance of the National Park Service for Cape Hatteras, said one of the villages north of us here... the guy was bitten in a major artery and he bleed to death before we were able to get to him."

Children Attacked by Sharks in North Carolina in 2011

In 2011 a six-year-old was attacked by a shark and survived. Just after 5:00pm rescue workers responded to a call on Ocracoke Island about a young girl being attacked by a shark. Witnesses said that they saw what appeared to be a shark attacking a little girl in the South Point area, according to Hyde County Deputy Emergency Services Director Brian Carter.

ABC News reported: The child was swimming with her father in shallow water when she was bitten on the right leg and part of her foot, according to Kenny Ballance of the National Park Service for Cape Hatteras. The child was swimming on a boogie board in about a foot of water. "The Ocracoke EMS and another park ranger, Shane Bryant, [were] on the scene right away," Ballance said. "The rescue squad began working on the little girl when ranger Bryant arrived. It was apparent that she was bitten below the knee in the foot area is the report." [Source: WWAY, July 20, 2011]

North Carolina map and graph from, This site also has descriptions of the North Carolina attacks

A 10-year-old girl was attacked by a shark earlier in July 2011 in North Topsail Beach in North Carolina. Cassidy Cartwright of Erie, Pa., like the 6-year-old victim, was also playing on a body board and was wading knee-deep in only 3.5 feet of water. "It pulled me down, and it hurt," Cartwright told ABC News affiliate WWAY. "I just thought it was somebody messing around, and I found out that it wasn't because it pulled me down again." Cartwright's mother, Carolyn, who rescued her daughter with the help of a friend, described the scene as "bloody." "Together we got her out, but when we pulled out of the water her leg was wide open and it was just ... a lot of blood," Carolyn told WWAY.

Biologist Andy Dehart told ABC News earlier this month that the murky water around the North Carolina shore is often to blame for unprovoked shark attacks in this area. "The shark sees a flash of pale skin which has a high contrast in the dark, murky waters and often times that can confuse sharks a little bit." he said. "They bite down thinking they are biting a fish but it's a person." The Florida Museum of Natural History keeps an international shark attack file.It shows 41 unprovoked shark attacks in North Carolina from 1935 to 2010.

Two Teens Have Their Arms Ripped Off at a North Carolina Beach in the Same Day

Two teenagers were seriously injured in two separate shark attacks in the same North Carolina town on the same day. Oak Island Mayor Betty Wallace told WECT-6 that the first victim, a 13-year-old girl,Kiersten Yow, lost part of her arm and could lose her left leg. Just over an hour later, a 16-year-old boy, Hunter Treschl, of Colorado Springs, also was attacked by a shark and was airlifted to a hospital, Wallace said. He lost an arm. "I saw someone carry this girl (out of the water) and people were swarming around and trying to help," Steve Bouser, who was just beginning his week-long beach vacation, told The Associated Press. "It was quite terrible." “The girl was bleeding heavily, and people applied makeshift tourniquets while asking her questions to try to keep her conscious. It was "quite nightmarish," Bouser said. "It was so much like a scene from Jaws," his wife Brenda Bouser added. “Local officials sent an all-terrain-vehicle to get everyone out of the water, and the Brunswick County Sheriff's office was planning to have a helicopter patrol the coastline, the mayor said.[Source: Associated Press, June 14, 2015]

“Brunswick County Dispatchers said that they received the first call at 4:12 p.m., and agencies including Oak Island Police and the Air Link Helicopter went to the scene. The second shark attack was reported at 5:30 p.m. Despite the similarities in their injuries, however, experts do not believe the teenagers were attacked by the same shark.

Treschl and his cousin were "playing around in the waves" at a North Carolina beach when he felt something bump into his left calf. "I thought it felt like a big fish, and I started moving away," Treschl said in a video released by the New Hanover Regional Medical Center. "And then the shark bit my arm — off." Treschl's left arm was amputated below the shoulder, according to information released by the New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, North Carolina, where he is being treated.[Source: Emery P. Dalesio and Emily Masters, Associated Press, June 17, 2015]

“A little more than an hour before Treschl was attacked and about 2 miles away, Yow lost her left arm below the elbow and was injured in the leg. “Yow was in stable condition at N.C. Children's Hospital at the University of North Carolina, according to a statement from her parents, Brian and Laurie Yow. "She has a long road to recovery that will include surgeries and rehabilitation, but her doctors at UNC expect she will keep her leg, and for that we are grateful," they said

“Immediately after he felt the shark rip his arm off, Treschl said he was able to make it back onto the beach at Oak Island with the help of his cousin. He said another teen had a belt that he used as a tourniquet to stop the bleeding, while others "were all helping me kind of stay calm until the ambulance got there."

Asked if he ever saw the shark, Treschl said he felt it first. "We were just playing around in the waves, and I felt a hit on my left calf," he said in the video. "That was the first time I saw it, when it was biting up my left arm."

Rescue of the Two Teens Injured by Sharks in North Carolina

“The paramedics who arrived at the beach in response to help both Treschl and Yow said they were stunned that they had gotten two calls about shark attacks so close together in one day. Associated Press reported: It was more common, Jack Baker and Peter Joyce said, to get calls for attacks that turned out to be injuries from stingrays or jellyfish. Baker, a paramedic for 11 years, and Peter Joyce, a five-year veteran, had just gotten back from driving Yow to a soccer field to be airlifted to a hospital when they got the call about Treschl. "I was in disbelief that it had had just happened again," said Baker. [Source: Emery P. Dalesio and Emily Masters, Associated Press, June 17, 2015]

“A hundred yards away from a fishing pier, Yow lay face down in the sand. By the time Baker arrived, five bystanders with medical training had already wrapped tourniquets on her wounded leg and arm, and put an IV in, he said. No one was in the water anymore and about 40 people looked on in shock.“"People were hurried and worried and trying to usher a sense of urgency," Baker said. “The paramedics put Yow in a county ambulance, which took her to a soccer field to be airlifted. Once she was on the way to the hospital, the paramedics returned to the fire station to clean their gear and restock their supplies. That's when the second call came in, they said. [Source: Emery P. Dalesio and Emily Masters, Associated Press, June 16, 2015]

“The conditions in the second attack were challenging. A downpour had just begun and Treschel was not receiving the same impromptu medical care from bystanders that Yow had, aside from the crucial belt-tourniquet. Even worse, the beach where he lay was narrow and the tide was coming in and washing over him, they said. Nonetheless, the paramedics managed to work on Treschel, working quickly to get him off the narrow beach. They laid him down in the back seat of a police Ford Explorer and the vehicle drove him 30 feet to the beach access ramp, where paramedics transferred him into a county ambulance. “The intense thunderstorm prevented a helicopter from landing on the island, so a county ambulance instead drove Treschel to the Brunswick Medical Center in Bolivia, N.C. He was airlifted from there.

“The first responders said they had seen a lot of difficult injuries and while Baker said they might have been initially "caught off guard" by the shark wounds, their training kicked in. “"Once you're with a patient, you block the rest out," Baker said. "You're in a haze." "He was in as critical shape as you could be," Joyce said of Treschel. The makeshift tourniquet first applied by the teen probably saved his life, Baker said. "I'd like to thank him very much," Treschl said of the Good Samaritan.

Image Sources: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); Wikimedia Commons, International Shark Attack File

Text Sources: Shark Files, Florida Museum of Natural History, Global Shark Attack File (GSAF), National Geographic, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Natural History magazine, Discover magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides and various books and other publications.

Last updated March 2023

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of country or topic discussed in the article. This constitutes 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. If you are the copyright owner and would like this content removed from, please contact me.