The Discovery Channel’s Shark Week is airing now and millions of viewers are watching to be entertained and learn about one of the most fascinating creatures that swims on the planet.
At the same time, sharks are among the most feared animals in the world. After all, many of us saw what can happen when the wrong shark comes around in Stephen Spielbrg’s 1975 movie “Jaws.”
If you saw the movie, you can probably hear the ominous music in your head and picture shark hunter Quint being devoured by the giant great white shark as you read this.
So, what are the odds of you being attacked by a shark? Well, not very good. In fact, in Mississippi it’s almost unheard of.
According to a database on the website Shark Attack Data, there are three unprovoked shark attacks on record in Mississippi. The earliest on record happened in January 1879 when a man was fatally attacked after the boat he was in capsized.
In July 1906 a swimmer in Bay St. Louis was fatally attacked. In 1960 a person was involved in a non-fatal attack near Mississippi City, which has since been annexed by Gulfport.
Why so few attacks? Well, it isn’t due to a lack of sharks.
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Plenty of sharks in Mississippi Sound and big ones, too
“We have tons of them,” said Jill Hendon, director of the University of Southern Mississippi Center for Fisheries Research and Development. “The Mississippi Sound is a great nursery for sharks. It’s a great place for them to grow up.”
And grow up they do. The Mississippi state record bull shark weighed 377 pounds and the state record tiger shark weighed 675 pounds. Another shark, caught in 1983, weighed 885 pounds, but the species is not listed.
Don’t expect to bump into a shark as large as those while swimming at a Mississippi beach, though. Hendon said large mature sharks are found offshore, far away from beach balls and rental umbrellas.
Hendon said part of the reason the state has experienced so few attacks is because Mississippi only has 63 miles of coastline. States with more coastline report more bites.
“I think we have less because in a state like Florida you have a lot more coastline and there’s a lot more people in the water,” Hendon said.
In general, there are few bites because people apparently don’t taste good.
“I feel like the No. 1 reason is we’re just not part of their diet,” Hendon said. “That initial bite is them trying to see if this is a good meal. If it’s not, they swim off.”
What are the odds of being bitten by a shark on a national level? Again, they’re quite low. According to the Florida Museum International Shark Attack File, there were 47 confirmed unprovoked shark bites in the U.S. in 2021 with only one being fatal.
To put it in perspective, the museum compiled a list of things that are far more likely to kill someone in the United States and the chances of them happening.
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The odds of 16 things more likely to kill you than a shark
- Heart disease, 1 in 5
- Cancer, 1 in 7
- Stroke, 1 in 24
- Hospital Infections, 1 in 38
- Flu, 1 in 63
- Car accidents, 1 in 84
- Accidental poisoning, 1 in 193
- Falls, 1 in 218
- Drowning, 1 in 1,134
- Bike accident, 1 in 4,919
- Air/space accident, 1 in 5,051
- Excessive cold, 1 in 6,045
- Sun/heat exposure, 1 in 13,729
- Lightning, 1 in 79,746
- Train crash, 1 in 156,169
- Fireworks, 1 in 340,733
In comparison, the odds of being killed by a shark are one in 4,332,817.
So, there’s a lot of other stuff that people should be concerned about, but they don’t carry the sensational fear factor for many that sharks do.
“People like to have something to fear,” Henden said.
Contact Brian Broom at 601-961-7225 or email@example.com. Follow Clarion Ledger Outdoors on Facebook and @BrianBroom on Twitter.