There are inherent dangers associated with fun time in marine and estuarine waters. Drowning is an obvious danger, but there are others. Have you ever heard someone recommend “Doing the stingray shuffle?”
Environmental educators in coastal areas of Florida often recommend doing the stingray shuffle as a way to avoid getting injured by stingrays. Basically, the idea is to shuffle your feet so as to avoid stepping down onto a stingray, startling them, and getting stuck in the foot by the whip-like tail and stung by the sharp spines that contain venom. Personally, I do the stingray shuttle when I’m in the Indian River Lagoon even if I am only in a few inches of water. Stingrays will usually go the other way when they notice you shuffling around in the water. Its not 100% effective. The idea is to let the stingray know you are there, so it can get out of the way.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw someone have a bad encounter with a stingray. A child was wading in the Fort Pierce Inlet and screamed. The mother pulled him out of the water and there was a stingray tail that went completely through the child’s foot. Yes there was plenty of blood. Paramedics were called to the site.
What are stingrays?
The Florida Museum of Naturalist History describes stingrays as dorsoventrally flatted rhomboid-shaped discs with venomous spine that has a serrated tip. Stingrays are closely related to sharks and skates. They inhabit surf zones and estuaries, and can even be found in rivers inland. Check out the FAQ on the Florida Museum of Natural History website for more information about stingrays.
What about the sting?
The UF Health website is a great resource on stingrays and their stings. Their website indicates that stingrays are the most common group of fish that sting humans. Others are out there including lionfish with their venomous spines. Of course, jellyfish and Portuguese man-of-war are non-fish marine organisms that sting.
Some of the symptoms they list include airway and lung problems; ear, nose and throat issues; nervous system disruption; skin and stomach and intestinal problems.
If you have to call a paramedic or go to the hospital, have this information ready:
- Person’s age, weight, and condition
- Type of sea animal
- Time of the sting
- Location of the sting
I am sure you will agree that trying to avoid getting stung in the first place is better. Do the stingray shuffle.
Florida Museum of Natural History Atlantic Stingray
Florida Museum of Natural History Portuguese Man-of-war
UF Health Stingray Website
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