SURF CITY, N.J. – A teenage surfer was bitten in an apparent shark attack off the New Jersey coast, and experts believe a small great white may be responsible.
It would be the first recorded shark attack in the state’s waters in 30 years.
Ryan Horton, 17, said he never saw what bit him when he felt a stabbing pain in his ankle Sunday afternoon.
“I was swimming up and it just felt like somebody hit me in the foot with a baseball bat,” Horton said. He paddled to shore, where his brother helped him to a hospital. Horton received more than 50 stitches on his lower leg.
Based on the tooth marks, the season and the location, the shark was likely either a small great white or a sandbar shark, said George Burgess, a Florida expert who is curator of the International Shark Attack File. He had examined an e-mailed photo of Horton’s injury.
Two local experts said they think it was a great white shark.
“In cool water like this, you would have to suspect great white,” said Richard Fernicola, who wrote a book about shark attacks off the New Jersey shore in 1916 that that left four people dead. “A great white is much more likely to be aggressive to man than a sandbar shark.”
Great whites are not uncommon off New Jersey. Bob Schoelkopf, director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, said he believed great whites frequently come to Brigantine Bay to give birth in the spring.
“If they find good feeding, they may be up here all summer long,” Schoelkopf said.
The state’s last shark attack happened in 1975 when a swimmer suffered minor injuries.