JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An 11-year-old girl was bitten Saturday afternoon in the waters off Huguenot Park. Her family believes it was by a shark.
The girl, Shay, was bitten on the back and the hand and rushed to UF Health Hospital.
It's the second bite reported in Northeast Florida in the past week. Last week, a man was bitten off the beach in St. Johns County.
Shay's mom, who asked not to be named, said her daughter loves the water and was having fun swimming with her family waist deep near the Jetties. But as she was getting out of the water, she was bitten twice.
She was still in a lot of pain Monday.
“She loves to be in the water. She has no fear about it. She loves everything about it,” the girl's mother said. “Her cousin said there were some fish swimming by them, and they were trying to get out of the water themselves, and at that time, that's when she was bit.”
Rescuers rushed Shay to the hospital and doctors spent hours stitching her up. She was recovering at home Monday but will have to go back soon for surgery on her wrist.
UNF professor Dr. Jim Gelsleichter researches sharks and said he's not surprised to hear of the recent bites as there are more sharks and people in the water this time of year.
“This is about the time of the year when we start to see some of these attacks occurring in local waters,” Gelsleichter said. “We have seen an increase in the number of bites that have occurred.”
In recent years, shark populations have rebounded and there have been, on average, 20 to 30 shark bites annually in Florida.
Florida has more shark attacks than anywhere in the world. Volusia County is No. 1 with 275 attacks. St. Johns County has the fourth-highest number at 37 and Duval County ranks No. 6 with 32 attacks.
“Certainly, there's no need for widespread panic. Unfortunately, this is business as usual,” Gelsleichter said. “Keep in mind that shark attacks are so rare that they have greater risks from things like skin cancer, from drowning, there are a lot more things to worry about when you are at the beach.”
Even so, Shay's mother wants people to be aware of what could happen the next time they take a swim.
“She'll be having her tendons reconnected on Wednesday in her left arm, so hopefully that goes well and there is no infection or issues with that,” she said.
Shay's mother said she's still in a lot of pain, but is in good spirits. She even high-fived the rescuers as they took her to the hospital.
Now she's just ready to feel better and get back to school.