Fatal Bull Shark Attacks in Florida’s Recorded History

According to records in the International Shark Attack File, there have been five fatal bull shark attacks in Florida’s recorded history, dating back to 1988. Keep in mind that there could be some unofficially reported bull shark attacks which are not listed below that may have not been documented or may have initially misidentified a bull shark as another species.

DateVictimLocationAttack Description
Sept. 13, 1988John MartinPanama City Beach, FLKilled while snorkeling around Shell Island by a 10-foot bull shark that had caused fatal thigh and hand wounds.
Sept. 13, 1995William CovertIslamorada, FLKilled by a 10–12-foot bull shark while diving near Alligator Reef off Islamorada
August 30, 2000Thadeus KubinskiPinellas County, FLKilled while swimming behind his home pier in Pinellas County, Florida. Died from massive blood loss and organ damage before rescuers could get to him. The bull shark was estimated to be 9 feet long and weigh 400 pounds.
June 25, 2005Jamie Marie DaigleDestin, FLDaigle was killed while swimming with a friend on boogie boards about 200 yards off a beach in Walton County, Florida, 8 miles east of Destin, Florida. Witnesses estimated the shark was 6–8 feet long. Her left leg was severed and she died of massive blood loss
February 3, 2010Stephen Howard SchaferStuart, FLSchafer was attacked while kitesurfing around 4:15 p.m. about 500 yards off an unguarded section of a beach south of Stuart Beach in Martin County, Florida. Authorities initially thought multiple sharks may have been involved in the incident due to reports by rescuers that he was surrounded by sharks. The Martin County medical examiner’s office concluded he died from massive blood loss from a leg wound.
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Bull Sharks Reported in New Jersey’s Navesink River

Bull Sharks were reported in New Jersey’s Navesink River. According to ABC News affiliate WABC Channel 7, New Jersey’s Fish and Wildlife Commission is looking into reports of bull shark sightings, and authorities sent a note to residents to be cautious in the area around Navesink Avenue. Despite the warnings from officials, as of Aug. 24, 2020 the bull shark sightings have yet to be confirmed to date.

Rumson Police Chief Scott Paterson, past findings in the Navesink River have included nurse sharks a beluga whale.

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Bull Shark Bite Strength | Bull Shark Bite Pressure PSI

Of all sharks, the bull shark can tout a bite pressure PSI among the highest of all species.

According to marine biologist Philip Motta of the University of South Florida in Tampa and his colleague Maria Habegger, pound-for-pound, a bull shark of the same size would have a stronger bite. Motta and his colleagues measured bite forces from 13 shark species. (“It’s not easy,” he says.) In a direct comparison, they report that a 9-foot-long bull shark has a bite force of 478 pounds, while an 8-foot-long great white has a bite with 360 pounds of force.

“An 18-foot-long great white will still have a more powerful bite than an 11-foot bull shark, just by virtue of its size,” Motta says. “But pound-for-pound, a bull shark of the same size would have a stronger bite.”

Habegger told BBC Nature, “We expect strong bite force values in the larger sharks that occupy top positions in the food chain, for example, the great hammerhead, great white shark, tigers and bull sharks.”

“These species usually prey upon large prey items such as dolphins, turtles and other sharks, so high bite forces are expected due to the mechanical demands of this type of prey,” she continued.

To determine the relative value of bite force, pound per pound, the researchers calculated a way to remove body size from the equation.

The maximum bite force for adult bull sharks is 6,000N. The researchers noted that this is much greater than the force required to kill and eat prey.

Sources:

Marinesciencetoday.com/2012/10/15/bull-sharks-bite-the-hardest/ Sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0944200612000670 USAtoday.com/story/tech/sciencefair/2012/10/19/bull-shark-bite-biggest/1641367/
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Bull Sharks’ Average Lifespan

-According to the National Wildlife Federation, bull sharks’ average lifespan is 12 years in the wild. Bull sharks usually live for 12 to 16 years, but one bull shark in captivity was recorded living to 30 years old. According to the University of Florida, bull shark growth rates have been calculated by Thorson and Lacy using tag recapture information in Lake Nicaragua. They estimated that in the first two years, the growth rate is about 16-18 cm per year.

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Florida Boy Bitten by Shark in Homestead, Florida.

A seven-year old boy was bitten in the leg in the shallow waters off Homestead Bayfront Park in Homestead, Florida. According to reports from regional news outlets, the child suffered three bite marks from a small shark reportedly resembled a bull shark, but not positive identification was confirmed.

“When I went into the water, it was like an animal and it bit me,” Jacob recalled. “It was in three spots. here, here and here.”

“All we saw was the blood coming down,” his mother Ethel told WSVN.

According to Ethel, Jacob didn’t cry from the attack.

“He was cool, calm and collected,” she said. “I, on the other hand, was a mess.”

Due to the age of the victim,Jacob’s last name hasn’t been publicly disclosed, but his mother, Ethel told news media outlets that the lifeguards on duty responded quickly to treat her son’s injuries, which ultimately required 19 stitches. Jacob and his mother don’t hold a grudge against whatever may have bitten him.

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Bull Shark Species Overview by Florida Fish & Wildlife FWC

Below is an overview of the Bull Shark (Carcharhinus leucas) from the Florida Fish and Wlidlife Commission (FWC).

Bull Shark Appearance

  • Back is pale to dark gray, fading to a white belly
  • Snout bluntly rounded, much shorter than width of mouth
  • Large triangular first dorsal fin; begins over or just behind pectoral fin insertion
  • No interdorsal ridge

Similar Species: Lemon shark, N. brevirostris (first and second dorsal fins nearly equal in size); Caribbean reef shark, C. perezii (has interdorsal ridge); and sandbar shark, C. plumbeus (first dorsal fin starts before pectoral fin insertion)

Bull Shark’s Average Size: Up to 9 or 10 feet 

Bull Shark Habitats

Estuarine, nearshore and offshore waters 

Bull Shark Behavior

One of the few shark species that may inhabit freshwater, sometimes venturing hundreds of miles inland via coastal river systems; more aggressive than most shark species

Additional Information

Bull Shark Fishing Recreational Regulations

SOURCE: https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/profiles/saltwater/sharks/bull-shark/

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Sharkbanz Deterring Bull Sharks – Video Footage

Learn about Sharkbanz at https://www.snewsnet.com/press-release/sharkbanz-releases-new-data-and-video-footage

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The Largest Bull Sharks on Record

Several categories exist for the largest bull shark on record. Among the largest caught without a rod and reel, the University of Miami’s Dr. Neil Hammerschlag caught a 1,000-pound bull shark in the Florida Keys. The massive female bull shark measured 10 feet (3 m) long and weighed an estimated, over 1,000 pounds (454 kilograms). According to the International Game Fish Association, the largest bull shark caught on a rod and reel was  697 3/4 pounds in Malindi, Kenya, in 2001. The angler was named Ronald de Jager. Non-Angler involved categories include a larger specimen. Measuring at 13′, 1″, the largest living bull shark on scientific record was temporarily captured and observed by research scientists in Africa.

Below is a description from a member of the crew, Steve Faulconer:   

“I write to give you the details of our research expedition to the Breede River during the week January 19-25. The purpose of the expedition was to determine whether reports of bull sharks in the Breede River could be confirmed. Scientifically, confirmed reports would be extremely relevant on a global scale as this would represent the most south-westerly distribution of bull sharks in Africa.


“Joining us on the expedition was Dr. Steve Lamberth and his team from MCM, Hennie Papenfuss from Big Fish Safari and a team of four from SASC. We fished for three days with no luck & were rewarded on the 4th day when Hennie caught a bull shark on his line. After an hour and a half struggle with the fish (during which it towed him2.5km further upstream), Hennie managed to tire her enough to bring her close to shore for landing. Our team then brought her carefully to the shore, where we were able to collect all the required data.”


“We measured her, tagged her with two acoustic continuous tags and one spaghetti tag, and gathered genetic samples in order to determine whether bull sharks in the Breede River represent a distinct population from those found elsewhere in South Africa. She is a world-record breaking shark measuring 4 metres total length, weighing in the vicinity of 550-600kg. This is the largest bull shark known to science – the previous maximum size was thought to be 3.5 metres TL. We also suspect she was heavily pregnant and may very well be using the Breede as a pupping ground. Following the tagging, we proceeded to track her for 43 continuous hours. She spent the majority of the time in the estuary, with only a few hours in the surf zone just outside the river mouth.”

Other observations of note include a team of marine scientists in Costa Rica who reportedly observed bull sharks over 4 meters long.

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