Sometimes it’s not about how big you are, but how determined you can be. Bites from nurse sharks are not usually cause for concern, but these small sharks have a notorious reputation for holding on tenaciously—even if dead. One Florida woman found that out the hard way after being bit in the arm on Sunday near Boca Raton. According to lifeguards at the scene, the woman was spotted swimming near a rock pile where the sharks have been known to congregate. Shortly afterwards, she was on a beach with a nurse shark firmly gripping her arm.
Photos of small nurse shark attached to 23-yr-old woman’s arm at Boca Raton beach. Photo: bystander via Boca Fire. pic.twitter.com/zVayqvAHOt
— Joshua Chavers (@JoshuaChavers) May 15, 2016
“The shark wouldn’t give up,” Shlomo Jacob, a beach-goer who witnessed the incident, told the Sun-Sentinel. “It was barely breathing but it wasn’t letting go of her arm, like it was stuck to her or something.”
Eventually the two-foot shark perished and the woman was transported to a local hospital, where the fish was removed. Nurse sharks do not have large teeth, but they have powerful jaws which they use to break open shellfish. The inside of their mouths are also filled with rows of tiny but extremely sharp teeth, making their removal somewhat difficult. The National Park Service advises submerging the fish in water and letting it leave on its own.
So here’s girl at the hospital after getting the shark off her arm. Apparently she’s taking it home in a plastic bag pic.twitter.com/x0RpaH5PZG
— Joshua Chavers (@JoshuaChavers) May 16, 2016
“Knowingly or not, people swim near nurse sharks every day without incident,” stated the service on its website. “Attacks on humans are rare but not unknown and a clamping bite typically results from a diver or fisherman antagonizing the shark with hook, spear, net, or hand. The bite reflex is such that it may be some minutes before a quietly re-immersed nurse shark will relax and release its tormenter.”
Due to their seemingly benign nature, nurse sharks are often the subject of curiosity for swimmers and beach-goers. Those who get too close however, find out soon enough that these sharks are just as ready to defend themselves as their bigger cousins. Thankfully, a bite from a nurse shark is not likely to leave any lasting damage—unless you antagonize a larger specimen. Nurse sharks have been known to grow up to 13 feet long.
The woman in this case was released after being treated for minor injuries.
“She was sitting calmly, seemed to handle it pretty well,” Bob Lemons, a spokesman for Boca Raton Fire Rescue, told USA Today.