WELLEN PARK - SURROUNDED BY NATURE
Stingrays, Sharks, and other Critters
The beauty of Florida is that you live right smack in the middle of nature. That seems to be perfect. But - like always in life - there are pros and cons. You will certainly not be alone; you may sometimes have to share your space with "funny" or "not so funny" neighbors.
Of course, you know that there will be other creatures around when swimming in the Gulf of Mexico. Most of the time, you will see nothing. Therefore it won't bother you too much about what is going on beneath the waves. But once in a while, you will encounter one of those "sea creatures." You may see fish, crabs, sea horses, sea urchins, dolphins, and manatees. Most animals that live in the sea are harmless fellows. We did not have a single recorded Grouper or Redfish attack so far; however, there are some other "mean" creatures.
Of course, some animals can unintentionally harm you, like jellyfish, for example. They are after tiny crabs and fish, not you, but when you swim into their tentacles, it doesn't matter if intentional or not. Their tiny stinging cells used to subdue their small prey can also injure humans, which can hurt for hours.
Step on a stingray, and he will use his barb to let you know he is there. The fish doesn't want to attack you; this action is his way of communicating with you. "Don't tread on me" is his message.
Sharks are in the water, too. Blacktip, Blacknose, Lemon, Bull, and Sandbar Sharks are in the waters of Mexico's Golf. Sharks do "attack" swimmers occasionally, but the chance of getting attacked is highly overrated. Getting killed by lightning is much more real in Florida. A shark attack is often a tragic mistake. Humans are not on the shark's menu.
However, you can always minimize the risk. Try to learn a little bit about those creatures, and you will get along with them.
Florida is the number-one paradise for water sports. With over 1,000 miles of beaches and approximately 2,400 miles of shoreline, almost all year round warm water, beautiful sandy beaches – the Sunshine State attracts sun-seekers and swimmers alike.
But before you venture out into "the ocean," there are a few points to ponder. Know your limitations and swim near a lifeguard stand; you can swim in 6 feet of water just as well as 25 feet of water. Don't forget the "Sting Ray Shuffle" when you go in the water. Everybody is scared of shark attacks, but nobody ever thinks about other (less spectacular) animals in the water. Especially in May/June, stingrays are hiding in the sand of shallow water. Especially sandbars are their favorite hang out.
They are around - even if you don't see them
There are quite a few stingray accidents on Florida's Gulf Coast every year, but many were avoidable. When you step on it, the fish will protect itself and hit you with its stinger. Within a blink of an eye, the fish will whip its barbed tail around to defend itself. The razor-sharp barb will probably hit you in the foot or somewhere in the ankle region. Once it has penetrated your skin, it will immediately release a potent toxin.
The released toxin can be excruciatingly painful, and the pain usually lasts for hours or days. So, don't try that out because it will ruin quite a few days of your vacation.
Do your shuffle
What can you do? Dance, dance, dance - sounds silly. But it works. The "stingray dance" is not a dance, of course, although it might look like one from a distance. The shuffling motion will scare them away because stingrays cannot see too well, but they are excellent at sensing the slightest vibrations.
Compare your size to the size of a stingray. In comparison, it would be as if an elephant would shuffle feet next to you. Would you run?