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Mon, July 22

Organic Matter: Shark attack not a problem in lakes

Water recreation is an integral part of the outdoors life to which Arizonans are accustomed.

Rafters and jet skiers both take advantage of the Colorado River for activities they enjoy.

Lakes Mead and Mohave are other key locations for individual or family outings and both are reasonably safe.

While we occasionally hear of someone on a jet ski struck and killed by a boater or someone floating on an inner tube run over by a careless boater, our lakes are landlocked and our rivers have two banks nearby so we don't have to be concerned with predators in the water.

That is especially comforting in light of what happened recently to swimmers in the Atlantic Ocean.

Shark attacks killed a 28-year-old Russian National in North Carolina and a 10-year-old boy in Virginia.

The last time two people died in shark attacks in the United States in the same year was 1994, according to George Burgess of the International Shark Attack File in Gainesville, Fla.

You may recall that in early July, Jessie Arbogast lost his right arm when a bull shark bit him off Florida's Gulf Coast.

The boy's uncle dragged the shark ashore, killed it, and retrieved the arm from the shark's stomach.

Surgeons reattached the limb and the Mississippi boy is still alive, despite remaining in a light coma two months after the incident.

We are told that shark attacks are less likely than being struck by lightning, so there was extensive media coverage of Jessie's struggle to live in the ensuing weeks.

As his condition improved to the point where it became apparent he would survive, people relaxed and went back into waters where sharks are top predators.

The consequences were tragic for two individuals.

David Peltier was swimming near Virginia Beach with family members on Sept.

1 when a shark bit him on one leg, severing an artery.

The boy's father hit the shark on the head to get it to release his son.

David was taken to a hospital, but died several hours later from blood loss.

Sergei Zaloukaev and his girlfriend, Natalia Slobodskaya, went swimming in waist-deep water near the Cape Hatteras National Seashore on Labor Day.

They were just 20 to 40 feet away from shore when a shark attacked both of them.

Zaloukaev made it to shore after being bitten several times and losing his right foot.

But he went into cardiac arrest by the time rescue workers arrived and died.

Slobodskaya, 23, lost her left foot in the attack.

She was taken in critical condition to a hospital in Norfolk, Va.

and was breathing with the aid of a ventilator in the first 48 hours after the incident.

There have been 52 shark attacks, including 41 in the U.S., this year.

Three of them have been fatal.

While those figures pale in comparison to the number of traffic fatalities in this country each year, it should heighten awareness of the dangers of entering open bodies of water where humans intrude on creatures larger and stronger than we are that are constantly searching for food.

Louis Daniel, a North Carolina biologist and assistant to the director of the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries, said more than one shark may have attacked Zaloukaev and Slobodskaya.

"When the water is murky, people are out there swimming, there's bait fish in the water and sharks are feeding, they're going to mouth you to see what you are," Daniel told the Associated Press.

"That's just going to happen."

Dawn or dusk may be times when swimmers like to enter the water, so as to avoid the heat of the day and possible sunburn.

But they also are prime feeding times for sharks.

Arizonans can count their blessings that they have several choices for water recreation in their own backyard so to speak.

We need not worry about sharks, unless we go to a beach along the Atlantic or Pacific oceans or the Gulf of Mexico.

The problem is we take water safety for granted and bodies of water open to sea creatures carry a risk for whoever enters them.

Terry Organ is the Miner's education, health and weather reporter.


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