WASHINGTON – A 16-year-old boy suffered a rare shark bite while swimming at Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware Monday.
The teen suffered gashes and scratches and flailed at the shark to get it to let his arm go, according to the Delaware Department of Natural Resources.
He was taken to the hospital, where he received stitches, according to the boy’s Instagram account.
Until this week, only three other confirmed shark bites had been reported along the Delaware Coast, according to the International Shark Attack File, which tracks shark bites.
No shark bites have ever been reported in Maryland and Virginia has had five, including one fatal case, according to the file.
New Jersey, California and Florida have the most reported bites, largely because beaches in those states are so heavily used, says Alan Henningsen, fish resources specialist with the National Aquarium in Baltimore.
He says shark bites in Delaware are very unusual. And the teen likely wasn’t attacked but mistaken as food. The shark probably let go when it realized the teen wasn’t the prey it had been hoping for.
Henningsen believes it was likely a sandbar shark, which typically eat fish and crabs, Henningsen says.
Sandbar sharks are common along the Delaware Bay and in the Chesapeake Bay in the summer as the animals use it as a nursery. Pregnant sharks come there to drop their young and juveniles return to the bay for protection from predators and to find food, Henningsen says.
And the shark that bit the boy was likely a juvenile, 3 to 5 feet long, he says.
“Sandbar sharks are normally very docile and not an animal to be feared,” he says.
The teen identified himself on social media and said the wound was painful. Here is an image he posted to Instagram.
WTOP’s Kristi King contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP on Twitter and on Facebook.