The Stingray Shuffle
During the summer, Florida beaches are littered with locals and tourists seeking sunshine, warm water, and the refreshing breeze. But, beachgoers may forget about the stingrays that also frequent the waters and lie along the sandy shore bottoms.
Before people plummet into the water to surf, boogie board, or swim, they need to do the stingray shuffle to prevent a painful sting.
Florida coastlines attract a wide variety of rays—from butterfly rays to stingrays to manta rays—especially during the summer. Stingrays often travel together, and they lie and glide across the ocean’s bottom to feed.
Although rays are not aggressive, they whip their tails, which have poisonous barbs or spines, as a defense mechanism. If you step on a ray and are stung, you will know immediately because their stings are extremely painful.
Do not take big strides when wading or walking in the water. Instead, lightly slide or shuffle your feet out—one at a time—along the sandy bottoms to push the sand forward.
Why shuffle? It alarms stingrays and gives them time to swim away, preventing you from getting stung.
Be sure to shuffle even if you’re wearing a wetsuit or boots since a stingray’s barb is strong enough to pierce through either. Also, remember—if you see one ray, then others could be nearby.
If you have been stung, then see a lifeguard and use hot freshwater to flush out the wound and soak it as soon as possible.
You can then take out any remaining fragments—only if stung in a place that does not lead to major bleeding. If major bleeding occurs, then seek immediate medical treatment; or if further non-emergency treatment is needed, then visit a local medical facility.
By doing the stingray shuffle, you can avoid stingray injuries and enjoy your time on the beach this summer.
Excerpted and adapted from:
“Education: Ray and Skate Basics,” Ichthyology at the Florida Museum of Natural History (Accessed 07/2014).
“Healthy Florida Summer Series: Staying Safe While Building Sandcastles,” Florida Department of Health (07/2013).
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