Researchers say sharks present in inland waterways

WASHINGTON, N.C. (WNCT) – In the wake of three shark attacks in Brunswick County over the two weeks, two of which occurring just 90 minutes apart on Sunday, shark researchers still said the likelihood of you getting attacked are very low.

Despite that, they also want to warn people that sharks heading into inland waterways are not unheard of.

In North Carolina, bull sharks, tiger sharks, black tip sharks and atlantic sharpnose sharks are the most commonly found.

Roger Rulifson, a researcher at ECU heading up a shark study, said for this many attacks to happen in the same area in such a short period of time is extremely uncommon.

“Last year in the United States there were only 53 shark attacks,” Rulifson said.

Despite the attacks in Brunswick County occurring in the ocean, Rulifson said sharks also make their way up waterways like the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers, particularly bull sharks, which tend to be the most aggressive towards people.

Rick Brass, dock master at the Washington Waterfront, said he’s seen bull sharks several times in the Pamlico River near Belhaven. Those he works with said they have seen the sharks as far up the river as Chocowinity.

He said often times people don’t expect to see sharks that far inland.

“They do tend to let their guard down because we’re a long ways from the ocean,” Brass said.

There are some things you can do to avoid being attacked by sharks. Rulifson said you shouldn’t swim in the early morning or towards nighttime, but should swim in groups near the shore. Also, get out of the water if you notice a cluster of dolphins swimming close together, don’t splash too much, and avoid swimming in cloudy water. You also should watch what you wear.

“A bright shiny ring, or watch or a necklace or something like that would attract the shark,” Rulifson said.

The University of Florida’s International Shark Attack file reports there have been 52 unprovoked shark attacks in North Carolina since 1935. Of those, 13 were in New Hanover County, 10 in Onslow County, 9 in Brunswick County, 8 in Carteret County, 6 in Dare County, 2 in Hyde County, and 1 in Currituck County. Of those attacks, only 3 were fatal.

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