Afraid of sharks? Flu, asteroids pose far greater risk

You might want a bigger boat, but you probably don’t need better odds.

The confirmed return of great white sharks to Cape Cod has rattled some boaters and beachgoers. Yet the chances of an encounter involving a human are infinitesimally small, and the likelihood of an attack resulting in serious injury or death is smaller still.

How small? With apologies to “The Hunger Games,” may the odds be ever in your favor — because they are.

In 2016, there were 53 unprovoked shark attacks in the U.S. — none fatal — according to the Florida Museum of Natural History’s International Shark Attack File. Thirty-two were in Florida; 10 in Hawaii; four in California; three in North Carolina; two in South Carolina; and one each in Texas and Oregon. Worldwide, there were 81 confirmed attacks last year, including four deaths.

Statistically, experts say, you’re more likely to be killed by an asteroid than by a shark.

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Q: Exactly what odds are we talking about here?

A: They vary, depending on where you are and what you’re doing in the water. But the National Aquarium in Baltimore says the odds of being killed by a shark are one in 3.7 million.

You’re much more in danger of succumbing to the flu (a one in 63 chance); a car accident (one in 90); a fall (one in 218); a lightning strike (one in 960,000); or even an asteroid (one in 1.6 million). University of Florida shark experts say you’re 290 times more likely to die in a boating accident than to suffer a fatal shark attack, and 132 times more likely to drown at the beach.

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Q: Are there things we do in the water that increase the risk?

A: Surfers tend to suffer the most attacks. Last year, nearly six in 10 U.S. attacks involved someone engaging in a board sport. Experts say that’s probably because surfers spend a lot of time in the “surf zone” where waves are breaking – an area sharks also tend to frequent. They urge bathers and others to avoid places where seals, a favorite prey for white sharks, congregate.

Swimmers and waders accounted for one in three attacks. Snorkelers and people using flotation gear figured into a combined 8.6 percent of all U.S. attacks. Massachusetts’ last attack was in 2012, when a white shark bit a bodysurfing man on his legs. Even so, perspective is everything: A 2015 Stanford University study concluded that scuba divers are nearly 7,000 times more likely to be hospitalized for decompression sickness than for shark bites.

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Q: Where are these great whites, and how many are there?

A: Biologists tracking them in Massachusetts say they’ve identified 279 individuals over the past three years, most along Cape Cod’s outer Atlantic-facing coastline. Increasingly, though, they’ve been straying into Cape Cod Bay. Earlier this month, an 8-foot-long juvenile nicknamed Cisco, for the popular brewery on Nantucket, was detected in the bay near Barnstable. More are expected in July, August and September – the peak months on the Cape.

There are also great white sharks feeding off Long Island, New York, and the New Jersey shore, including one nicknamed Mary Lee that’s gained celebrity status because of its Twitter profile managed by the nonprofit group OCEARCH.

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Q: If the odds are so minuscule, why are we so scared of sharks? Is it some kind of primal fear?

A: Gregory Skomal, a shark expert with Massachusetts’ Division of Marine Fisheries, thinks so. Humans, he notes, have evolved an acutely tuned sense of survival that alerts us to potential threats.

Despite the fact that any interaction between a person and a shark is highly improbable – particularly a deadly one – “there’s a deep-seated fear in all humans of being bitten by some animal, either on land or in the sea,” Skomal says. “And the ocean looks dark and deep and foreign to us. It embellishes that fear.”

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Homeowner stops armed would-be robbers with machete

A Sarasota man stopped an armed robbery at his home after arming himself with a machete and holding one of the suspects until law enforcement officers arrived.

Surveillance video shows three men — armed with a shotguns drawn — storming the home. The homeowner disappears for a few moments and reappears armed with the machete, according to the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies said the other two men left and were found a short time later at a gas station with two other men. One of the men was carrying several zip ties, deputies said.

Detectives said two of the men admitted to committing the robbery.

The Sheriff’s Office said the two men not seen in the surveillance video helped to coordinate the robbery.

All five suspects — Alen Beltran-Vasquez, Ronier Jauregui-Lorente, Angel Cabrera-Basulto, Jorge Valido-Leyva and Roberto Salcedo-Balanza — were arrested and remain in the Sarasota County Jail without bail.

The investigation is ongoing.

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8 moms, 8 months pregnant thanks to Hurricane Matthew

A South Carolina photographer known for capturing beautiful pictures of newborn babies might have eight more clients thanks to Hurricane Matthew.

Cassie Clayshulte of Cassie Clayshulte Photography took photos of eight expectant mothers who are all eight months pregnant after Hurricane Matthew swept the East Coast last October. 

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Clayshulte said when the storm hit the small town of Bluffton, she was inspired to do something for parents who gave birth during the mandatory evacuation.

“I felt the call to show those in our area that something beautiful could come from something devastating,” Clayshulte said.

Clayshulte’s photography business is the official newborn photographer for Coastal Carolina Hospital and she noticed that after major events, like a hurricane or power outages, she sees a surge in newborn clients, so she knew nine months after Hurricane Matthew would be busy.

That’s when Clayshulte got the idea for a special project.

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“I wanted to show everyone that the storm gave some Bluffton, Beaufort, and Hilton Head couples a special miracle,” Clayshulte said. “If it weren’t for Matthew, these eight couples wouldn’t be expecting these little miracles.”

Clayshulte’s photos of the eight expectant mothers incorporated the hurricane damage that existed in the area to illustrate that beautiful things can come from disaster. She also featured the beaches of Hilton Head to show how the area is still a great place to visit.

“This storm destroyed trees and property and our area’s tourism industry took a big hit, but the storm helped these couples create something even more beautiful and these stunning mommies-to-be are living proof,” Clayshulte said.

The mothers, who were the stars of the photo shoot, can’t wait for their little miracles to be brought into the world.

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“I feel babies always come at a time when they are most needed,” Bluffton mother Danielle said. “When he is born, I feel he will fill a hole in our lives we didn’t even know was missing. I’m so eager and excited to meet him.”

One of the mothers was excited to add another addition to her family.

“We decided to go ahead and try for another great kid. I do call our first Hurricane Porter, so it will be interesting to see if little sister is just as wild, especially since she was conceived during an actual hurricane,” Bluffton mother Molly said.

Clayshulte she wants to use her talent to make the world a better place one photo at a time, but also hopes to show everyone that world is already full of beauty. They just have to choose to see it.

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