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7 Shocking Facts About Shark Attacks in Oregon You Need to Know

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Sharks are known as one of the most magnificent predators in the world. These amazing creatures can be found in both shallow and deep oceans around the globe. Although Oregon may not be the first state you think of when it comes to sharks, there have been a surprising number of reported shark attacks in the area. 

While most sharks won’t typically harm humans, it’s important to remember that these creatures are still wild animals. Even in Oregon, reported shark incidents have occurred, with minor injuries being the most common outcome. In this article, we’ll dive into the world of sharks and explore the fascinating yet dangerous creatures they are, as well as provide tips on how to avoid these attacks in the future.

Shark Features

Shark Attacks In Oregon

Sharks are fascinating creatures that have captured the imagination of many for centuries. One of the most striking features of a shark is its body composition, which is made up of cartilage instead of bones. But that is just the beginning of their uniqueness. Unlike humans and other animals, sharks possess a whopping eight senses that make them excellent hunters. 

Along with the basic sense like hearing, sensing, seeing, smelling, and touching, a shark also has a unique sense like a lateral line, lorenzini, and pit organs that let it swim effortlessly. And when it comes to vision, sharks are unparalleled. They have the ability to see in the dark, which makes them fearsome predators even at night.  

Types of Sharks

Sharks are a part of the Elasmobranchii branch of fish, characterized by having multiple slits on the sides of their heads. The shark family is incredibly diverse, boasting over 400 species that inhabit nearly every ocean around the globe.

Among the various shark species, some are considered the most dangerous due to their potential threat to humans. These species include:

  • Great white shark
  • Bull shark
  • Tiger shark
  • Grey nurse shark
  • Lemon shark
  • Blue shark
  • Sand tiger shark
  • Hammerhead shark family (including various hammerhead species)
  • Mako shark

It’s important to note that while these sharks are known for their potential danger to humans, they are still vital and essential members of marine ecosystems, and shark attacks on humans are relatively rare compared to other risks in the natural world.

What attracts sharks?

Scientists have been conducting ongoing research to understand what factors attract sharks and potentially lead to attacks. While no definitive conclusions have been reached, some possible and common factors have been identified:

  1. Colour: Experiments indicate that sharks can discern colours even in dim lighting. They are more drawn to colours like yellow, white, and silver. As a result, many divers opt for clothing, fins, and tanks in dull colours to reduce the likelihood of shark encounters.
  2. Sound: Sharks appear to rely heavily on sound as a primary cue for direction rather than relying solely on sight or smell. Irregular and inconsistent sounds, such as those produced by a distressed swimmer or a wounded fish, can attract sharks from considerable distances.
  3. Blood: While blood alone may not necessarily attract sharks, when combined with other unusual factors, it can make certain creatures more susceptible to attacks.

It’s essential to note that shark behaviour is complex and influenced by various factors, and not all sharks are prone to attack humans. Research continues to shed light on the intricacies of shark behaviour and interactions with their environment and other species. Understanding these factors can help enhance safety measures and coexistence with these vital marine predators.

Why Do Sharks Attack?

When we think of sharks, it’s easy to conjure up terrifying images of razor-sharp teeth and bloodthirsty predators. But despite their fearsome reputation, sharks rarely target humans as prey. Instead, they prefer to hunt smaller sea creatures like seals, sea lions, and small fish. 

Contrary to what you might expect, some species of shark are actually more afraid of us than we are of them. When they encounter humans in the water, they become curious – not aggressive – and may even swim closer to investigate.  

How To Avoid Shark Attacks?

According to statistics, the average number of unprovoked shark bites on humans worldwide is approximately 70 incidents per year, resulting in approximately 5 deaths. These figures are relatively small compared to the millions of people who enter the water each day.

The probability of dying from a bee sting, a dog or snake bite, or a car crash is higher than the likelihood of experiencing a shark bite. Despite the low risk of shark attacks, it’s essential to take precautions to minimize any potential risks. Here are some safety measures to limit interactions with sharks:

  1. Travel with a partner: Sharks are more likely to approach a lone individual, so it’s best to have a companion while in the water.
  2. Stay close to the shore: Avoid venturing too far from the beach, as being farther away can distance you from emergency assistance and support.
  3. Be cautious in certain areas: Exercise caution and stay alert when in regions between sandbars or near steep drops, as these are popular hot spots for sharks.
  4. Avoid low-light hours: Sharks are most active during dawn and dusk when they are searching for food. It’s best to stay out of the water during these times.
  5. Be mindful of menstruation or open wounds: While sharks typically do not show attraction to human blood, it’s advisable to avoid the water if you are menstruating or bleeding from an open wound.
  6. Avoid shiny jewelry: The light reflection from shiny jewelry can resemble fish scales to sharks, potentially attracting them.
  7. Be aware of fishing areas: Stay away from places dedicated to commercial fishing or areas with signs of bait fish or feeding activity. Diving seabirds could indicate the presence of fish and sharks.
  8. Avoid water with sports or recreational activities: Steer clear of areas where water sports or recreational activities are taking place.
  9. Dolphins are not an indication of shark absence: Both dolphins and sharks can have similar diets, so the presence of dolphins does not guarantee a lack of sharks.
  10. Choose clothing wisely: Avoid wearing bright, vibrant, and highly contrasting colored clothes that might catch sharks’ attention.
  11. Minimize splashing: Refrain from making excessive splashing, as sharks can hear these sounds and might investigate them as potential prey indicators.
  12. Respond appropriately to shark presence: If you are aware of a shark’s presence, avoid entering the water. If sharks are already in the water, evacuate slowly and calmly.

By following these precautions and staying informed, you can enjoy water activities with a reduced risk of shark encounters. Remember that sharks play a crucial role in the ecosystem, and most interactions between sharks and humans are non-threatening.

Types of Shark Bites

 There are three main types of shark bites that people may experience:

  1. Provoked Bites: These bites occur when humans initiate an interaction with sharks. It often happens when people try to harass, touch, or provoke sharks, leading the sharks to bite in self-defense. Provoked bites can also happen when sharks are captured or unhooked from fishing nets, leading to defensive reactions.
  2. Bites on fishers, people attempting to feed sharks, or those involved in detaching or releasing a shark from fishing gear are also classified as provoked bites. In some cases, these incidents involve food, where a shark may bite a person by mistake while aggressively seeking food.
  3. Unprovoked Bites: Unprovoked bites occur when a shark bites a live human in its natural habitat without any human initiation. This category provides valuable data for shark behavior research. Unprovoked bites can take three forms:

a. Hit-and-Run bites: These bites often occur near beaches, where sharks attempt to attack live fish in the surf and moving currents. Human motion may be mistaken for fish movements, leading to bites, usually targeting legs or feet, causing minor injuries and rarely resulting in death.

b. Sneak bites: These bites occur in deeper waters where the victim has not seen the shark before the interaction. Sneak bites can result in serious injury or death.

c. Bump-and-Bites: This type of bite happens when the shark circles around the victim and bumps them with its head or body before biting, causing serious injuries or sometimes leading to fatalities.

Understanding the different types of shark bites can help in developing safety guidelines and precautions to minimize the risk of such encounters. It’s crucial to remember that sharks are wild animals, and respecting their natural habitat and behavior is essential for both human and shark safety.

History of Shark Attacks in the U.S

For many people, the thought of a shark attack can invoke fear and anxiety. While the likelihood of encountering a shark in the United States is relatively low, it’s still important to be aware of the regions with the highest number of reported attacks. According to the International Shark Attack File, U.S. citizens experience an average of 44 unprovoked shark bites annually. However, it’s interesting to note that four coastal states, including Alaska, Maryland, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, reported no shark attacks between 2000-2019. 

StateNo. of Recorded Attacks
Florida896
Hawaii192
California132
South Carolina111
North Carolina76
Texas44
Oregon31

History of Shark Attacks in Oregon

Oregon may not come to mind when you think about shark attacks, but the state has had its fair share. Ranking 7th out of ten states in the U.S. with reported shark attacks, Oregon has had a total of 31. While that number might seem alarming, it’s important to note that 30 of those attacks were mild and the victims suffered only minor injuries. Unfortunately, there was one fatal attack that occurred in 1975 when a 62-year-old woman lost her life after her boat sank and she was attacked by sharks. 

DateIncident TypeVictimGenderAgeInjurySpecieLocation
Sep, 1974UnprovokedCurt BrownMale24NoneWhite shark Myers Creek Beach
July, 1975UnprovokedGrace CongerFemale62Arms and legs woundedUnknownUnknown
Aug, 1976UnprovokedMike ShookMale19NoneWhite shark (13 feet)Winchester Bay
Nov, 1979UnprovokedKenny DoudtMale20Several major injuriesWhite shark (13 feet)Haystack Rack
Oct, 1980UnprovokedChristopher CowanMale29Thigh laceratedWhite shark (13 to 16.5 feet)Near Umpqua River
Aug, 1983UnprovokedRandy WeldonMaleUnknownNoneWhite SharkCape Kiwanda
Sep, 1984UnprovokedRobert RiceMale25Abrasion on right footWhite shark (10 to 16.5 feet)Cape Kiwanda
Oct, 1988UnprovokedWyndham KapanMale21Femur fractured and leg bittenWhite shark (18 to 20 feet)Indian Beach
Feb, 1991UnprovokedTony FrancisconeMale38Calf laceratedWhite shark (18 feet)Neskowin
Mar, 1992UnprovokedMike AllmanMale21Left shoulder and side bittenWhite shark (20 feet)Winchester Bay
Sep, 1992UnprovokedJerad BrittainMale20Minor injuriesWhite shark (13 to 16.5 feet)Gold beach
Jan, 1993UnprovokedWilliam WeaverMale29NoneWhite shark (20 feet)Bastendorf beach
Sep, 1994UnprovokedRob MacKenzieMale43NoneWhite shark (16.5 feet)Short sand beach
Apr, 1998UnprovokedJohn ForseMale50Right thigh bittenWhite shark (16.5 feet)Gleneden Beach
Nov, 1998UnprovokedDale InskeepMale32NoneWhite shark (16.5 to 20 feet)Winchester Bay
Sep, 2002UnprovokedGarry TurnerMale24Ankle laceratedShark (8 feet)Cape Kiwanda
Sep, 2004UnprovokedSeth MeadMale26Leg injuredWhite sharkGold beach
Dec, 2005UnprovokedBrian AndersonMale30Lacerated ankle and calfWhite sharkTillamook Head
Jul, 2006UnprovokedRobert MartinMale41Minor injuryUnknownOstwald State Park
Aug, 2006UnprovokedTom LarsonMale23Foot injuriesUnknownFlorence
Oct, 2006UnprovokedTony PerezMale22NoneWhite shark (16 feet)Siletz River Mouth
Sep, 2010UnprovokedDavid LowdenMale29NoneWhite sharkWinchester Bay
Oct, 2010UnprovokedSeth MeadMaleUnknownNoneUnknownFlorence
Oct, 2011UnprovokedDoug NiblackMaleUnknownNoneShark (10 to 12 feet)Seaside
Oct, 2011UnprovokedBobby GummMale41NoneWhite shark (15 feet)Newport
Dec, 2011UnprovokedUnknownFemaleUnknownMinor injury to calfUnknownSeaside Cove
Jan, 2012UnprovokedSteve HarnackMale53NoneWhite sharkLincoln City
Nov, 2013UnprovokedAndrew GardinerMale25NoneWhite shark (10 feet)Gleneden Beach
Oct, 2016UnprovokedJospeh TannerMale29Upper thigh and lower leg woundedUnknownIndian Beach
Mar, 2019UnprovokedNathan HosteldtMaleUnknownNoneUnknownCape Kiwanda
Dec, 2020UnprovokedCole HarringtonMale20Lower left leg and foot injuredUnknownSeaside Cove

Oregon Cities With the Highest Shark Attacks 

Although Oregon may not be the first place that comes to mind when one thinks of shark attacks, data from the period between 2000-2019 shows that there were indeed incidents of bites reported in the area. Over a span of 20 years, Oregon reported 13 bites, which averages out to 0.65 bites per year. Curiously, we have delved deeper into the statistics and discovered that there are 7 cities in Oregon where shark attacks have been particularly prevalent. 

#1 Winchester Bay 

Winchester Bay, situated in Douglas County, Oregon, has seen a total of 29 unprovoked shark attacks, with 4 of them being reported in this area. Surprisingly, none of these attacks resulted in fatalities.

The first recorded shark attack in Winchester Bay took place on August 24, 1976, involving a 19-year-old man named Mike Shook. A white shark, measuring almost 15 feet in length, attacked him, but fortunately, he escaped without any injuries as the shark only bit his board.

The second incident occurred on March 18, 1992, when 18-year-old Mike Allman was attacked by a white shark measuring between 20 to 23 feet in length. The shark caused injuries to his left shoulder and side, and his surfboard was also broken during the encounter.

The third reported incident involved a 32-year-old man named Dale Inskeep on November 5, 1998. A white shark, measuring 16.5 to 20 feet in length, attacked him in Winchester Bay. Thankfully, he suffered no injuries from the encounter.

The most recent shark attack in this region occurred on September 27, 2010, involving David Lowden, who was fortunately not injured during the incident.

While shark attacks are relatively rare, these cases highlight the importance of being cautious and vigilant when engaging in water activities in areas known for shark presence. Proper safety measures and awareness can help reduce the risks associated with shark encounters.

#2 Lincoln County 

Lincoln County may be a beautiful coastal region in Oregon, but it’s also known for something else – shark attacks. The area has seen several incidents of this kind, including one where a whopping 16-foot shark attacked a 22-year-old man. Tony Perez had a lucky escape, but this attack was not the last that the county would see. 

Five years later, another man was targeted by a 15-foot long white shark, but luckily he didn’t suffer any injuries. While some people may be nervous about venturing out into the water here, it’s worth remembering that these kinds of incidents are rare, and more often than not, sharks will leave humans alone.

#3 Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area 

Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area, a part of Oregon located in Pacific City, is known for its stunning landscapes and beautiful beaches that attract surfers and tourists from all over. However, this picturesque location is also known for its shark attacks. In August 1983, Randy Weldon became the first person to be attacked by a white shark while surfing at Cape Kiwanda, and luckily escaped without any injuries. 

Since then, there have been several other shark attacks, including Robert Rice’s in September 1984, and Gary Turner’s in September 2002. More recently, Nathan Holstedt’s board was bitten and dented during a shark attack in March 2019. Despite these incidents, visitors to Cape Kiwanda continue to enjoy the area’s natural beauty, but with a heightened sense of awareness and respect for the ocean’s power.

#4 Seaside 

Seaside, a charming city located in Clatsop County, is unfortunately notorious for its shark attack records. The region has had three such attacks, each one sending shivers down the spine of the beachgoers. The first attack happened in 2011 when a monstrous 10-12 feet long shark attacked Doug Niblack, but thankfully he escaped without any injuries. The second attack occurred on December 6, 2011, when a woman surfer was attacked by a shark and suffered minor injuries to her calf. 

The most recent attack happened on December 6, 2020, when Cole Herrington, a 20-year-old surfer, was bitten while catching waves. While he survived, he suffered injuries to his left leg and foot. The incidents were undoubtedly terrifying, yet they do not deter the residents or tourists from enjoying the sandy shores. Besides, what is the fun of visiting the beach without a bit of adventure?

#5 Indian Beach 

Indian Beach in Ecola State Park is a beautiful destination for those looking to surf and enjoy the stunning scenery that Oregon has to offer. However, it is important to note that this beach has a history of shark attacks. In one instance, Wyndham Kapan was attacked by a massive white shark while he was sitting on his surfboard. 

This attack left him with a fractured femur and wounds on his leg. Another surfer, Joseph Tanner, also fell victim to a shark attack on this beach. While these incidents are alarming, it is important to remember that they are rare occurrences. Nevertheless, visitors should always exercise caution and be aware of the potential risks when enjoying the ocean at Indian Beach.

#6 Gleneden Beach 

Gleneden Beach may be a beautiful spot off the coast of Lincoln County, but it also has a reputation for unprovoked shark attacks. Two incidents, separated by over a decade, have been reported at this spot where surfers often congregate. In 1998, John Forse became a victim of a 16.5 feet long white shark, which bit his right thigh while he was enjoying the waves. 

The recent attack in 2013 saw Andre Gardiner facing a 10-foot-long shark, which fortunately didn’t leave any wounds. While these incidents are uncommon, they serve as a sobering reminder that danger can lurk beneath the surface of even the most idyllic beaches.

#7 Gold Beach 

Gold Beach may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking about shark attacks, but this city in Curry County has had two official incidents. The first occurred in 1992 when Jerald Brittain, a 20-year-old surfer, was attacked by a white shark measuring between 13 and 16.5 feet. 

While the attack was unprovoked, Brittain was fortunate enough to suffer only minor bruises. The second incident happened in 2004, when another surfer was bitten on the leg by a white shark. Luckily, this attack was also unprovoked and non-fatal. Despite these two incidents, Gold Beach continues to be a popular spot for surfers and beach-goers alike.

FAQS

Are there great white sharks in Oregon?

While they may not be as common as in some other areas, these powerful predators can still pose a threat to unwary swimmers and surfers. If you’ve ever been curious about these majestic creatures and their local habitats, it’s worth taking a closer look at the science behind great white shark behavior and migration patterns. 

When was the last shark attack in Seaside Oregon?

While the Pacific Northwest isn’t typically associated with shark attacks, they do happen from time to time. Fortunately, the last recorded shark attack in Seaside, Oregon was back in 2016. A kayaker was bitten by a seven-foot-long great white while out on the water, but he was able to make it back to shore and receive medical attention. 

Which state in the US has the highest recorded shark attacks?

According to data from the International Shark Attack File, Florida has had the highest number of shark attacks on record in the country. In fact, the state has accounted for over 37% of all reported shark attacks in the US since 1837. This may be due to the state’s warm waters, which make it a popular destination for beach-goers and surfers, as well as its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. 

Final Words

Sharks have a reputation for being ferocious predators, but they only attack humans when they are hungry, harassed, or feel unsafe. It’s important to note that most shark interactions with humans occur because of mistaken identity. When humans are in the water and create kicking or thrashing vibrations, it can resemble fish movements, which is a clear sign for a shark to investigate.

Oregon state records both non-fatal and unprovoked shark incidents, and the majority involve surfers who suffer only minor to no injuries. Interestingly, these records also show that male surfers are attacked more often than female surfers. While shark attacks can be fatal, they are less frequent than other aquatic accidents. It’s important for everyone entering the water to practise safety precautions and keep safety protocol in mind to avoid any potential danger.

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Author Profile
Rahul M Suresh

Visiting the Zoo can be an exciting and educational experience for all involved. As a guide, I have the privilege of helping students and visitors alike to appreciate these animals in their natural habitat as well as introducing them to the various aspects of zoo life. I provide detailed information about the individual animals and their habitats, giving visitors an opportunity to understand each one more fully and appreciate them in a more intimate way.

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Visiting the Zoo can be an exciting and educational experience for all involved. As a guide, I have the privilege of helping students and visitors alike to appreciate these animals in their natural habitat as well as introducing them to the various aspects of zoo life. I provide detailed information about the individual animals and their habitats, giving visitors an opportunity to understand each one more fully and appreciate them in a more intimate way.

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