CAN CAUSE A LOT OF DISCOMFORT
statement in a book I have about sharks says, "Victims of stingray
wounds often describe it as the most painful thing they've ever experienced."
My daughter Susan would agree. In fact, when she spoke of her encounter
with a stingray during a beach vacation, she made a similar statement,
adding, "and I've experienced childbirth."
stepped on a large, unseen stingray in shallow water in the ocean surf.
Couple the slashing of a large gash to the ankle from a razor-sharp
saw blade with the injection of powerful venom, and the result is a
double dose of agony.
I can offer
a personal observation of the painful experience (except for the childbirth
comparison) having once dealt with a stingray spine being jabbed into
my hand while I was untangling the ray from a fish net. Trapped animals
rarely seem to appreciate their would-be rescuers' good intentions.
was self-inflicted: I was actually holding the tail of a slippery stingray
with one hand while trying to free its long, saw-toothed barb from nylon
mesh. My daughter's sting was a so-called legitimate one as she unknowingly
placed herself in harm's way.
I chose a book on sharks to find out what professional ichthyologists
have to say about stingrays is because sharks and rays, fishes with
cartilaginous skeletons, are placed in a zoological class together,
separately from the bony fishes. The ray that most often stings people
along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts is the Atlantic stingray.
these big brown pancakes look like part of the sandy bottom when they
lie perfectly still in shallow water, a stingray 2 feet in diameter
is an awesome spectacle when swimming. Their pectoral fins look like
wings slowly flapping, as if they were flying through the water.
stingrays can deliver a memorable injury but one that is seldom if ever
fatal. Some stingray stings can be lethal, however, as shown by the
death of celebrity Steve Irwin, the self-styled Crocodile Hunter. The
video showing exactly what happened during the incident on the Australian
Great Barrier Reef that resulted in his death has not been released.
As far as I know, officials have not published the species of ray. Nor
have they released information about why it responded with such devastating
barb lies flat, on top of its long tail. When a predator attacks the
stingray, or someone steps on it, the tail is whipped upward with the
barb turned at a right angle to the tail. The weapon is like a two-sided
serrated blade with a needle-thin point, and the blade is encased in
a sheath that holds a reservoir of venom. When the barb goes in, the
sheath breaks, releasing the venom. The barb is quickly withdrawn, but
the serrations are now facing backward, slicing away while venom is
never behaves in a hurtful way unless it is responding to a perceived
menace. Sharks will occasionally make predatory attacks on people when
mistaking a swimmer as some form of natural prey. Stingrays strike people
only when they feel threatened. Being stepped on is the most common
cause of attack. Being taken off a fish hook is apparently another.
for avoiding stingray hits in shallow sandy areas is to do the "stingray
shuffle," sliding your feet forward to nudge any bottom dwellers
out of the way. Of course, who wants to go to the ocean and shuffle
around in the water? Fortunately, stingray venom has a simple antidote.
Soaking the injured body part in water as warm as you can stand it neutralizes
the venom for some reason, reducing the pain. You still may need to
get a tetanus shot.
helpful advice about how to deal with stingrays at the beach, aside
from suggesting you stay on shore under your umbrella, is to do the
stingray shuffle and know the shortest route to a bathtub full of hot
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