What shark springs to mind as the most feared shark in the water? The Great White of course, but what about the Bull Shark? It can not only swim in saltwater, but can swim in freshwater too and has carried out numerous attacks on unsuspecting victims in the most unexpected of places.
The Bull Shark is known for it’s aggressive behaviour and often lurks around tropical shores. It can swim into freshwater far inland up rivers and tributaries.
The bull shark has gained it’s name by the blunted snout and stocky frame that it sports. They are also very fast moving sharks and very agile. They often begin an attack by head butting their intended prey. Human beings are not first on their list of meals, rather dolphins, crabs, sea turtles and boney fish remain their favourite delicacy. However, they will sometimes attack humans unexpectedly. They are ranked as the top 3 shark species that are liable to attack a human being, alongside the Great White and the Tiger Shark.
They are not the biggest sharks around, instead they sport a medium sized frame. Although one study has given evidence that the Bull Shark’s length has reduced slightly over recent years and was bigger in the past. However, they still grow up to 3.4 metres in length.
Bull Sharks usually hunt their prey alone and protect their territory by attacking other sea animals trespassing in their area. Bull sharks like shallow water which is why they pose a threat to humans. The movie ‘Jaws’ was based on a flurry of attacks on the Jersey Shore in 1916. Some people speculate that bull sharks may have been responsible.
Bull Sharks have swum up the Ganges River and Sydney Harbour inlets and attacked people. They particularly love the brackish waters found around the mouths of rivers. A Bull Shark takes around 10 years to become fully grown and mature and measures in length at around 70 cm long at birth.
The Bull Shark is an ‘apex predator’ which means that it has no other animal that threatens them on the food chain, unless it is a human who happens to be fishing for them. The only report of another animal ever attacking a Bull Shark was of saltwater crocodiles making a meal of young bull sharks in Northern Australia.
Bull Sharks are brave creatures and have been reported to swim up to spear fishermen. About 95% of all shark attacks take place in less than 6 ft or water. Splashing around in murky waters where bull sharks lurk may fool the Bull Shark into thinking that you are a tasty fish in trouble. Sharks rely on their senses rather than eyesight, so a bite is their way of feeling out the prey.
In reality though, the chances of you being attacked by a bull shark or any other shark for that matter are extremely slim indeed. However, just in case you happen to run into one, here are some tips to survive a shark encounter . . .
1) Avoid steep drop-offs between sandbars as these places are hotspots for shark attacks.
2) Don’t be an idiot and touch dangerous sharks like they do on adventure documentaries, unless you do not fear a provoked attack. If you touch it’s tail fin then you are really playing with fire.
3) Swim as a group, as sharks like to pick their prey off individually.
4) Don’t urinate in the water. Sharks will be able to smell you a mile off.
5) Don’t wear shiny jewellery or brightly coloured clothing. So if a beach vendor tries to sell you glitter trunks with flashing disco lights beaded around the waistline, you know he’s trying to kill you.
6) Don’t swim near fishermen putting out bait or where there is blood from fishing in the water.
7) Negate the shark’s angle of attack if possible. Back up against a boat, rock or bouy, so that it has less angles to attack from. If you have time to think logically like this whilst being terrified out of your wits.
8 ) If you aren’t frozen with fear already, poke and punch at it’s eyes and gills. Don’t bother about kicking the shark in the nether regions as it won’t have any effect and will probably cost you a leg.
9) Use a weapon if possible. No I’m not saying that you might be lucky enough to be swimming around armed with a Kalashnikov, it could be your swim goggles or snorkel or a rock. No . . . don’t throw your trunks or bra at it as this will have no effect, and if you die you will want to die with dignity at least.
10) If you survive, it will be a story to tell for life and will overshadow anyone’s icebreaker in a conversation, even the latest football scores or latest TV series discussions. It’s a story you can tell anywhere, bar perhaps bedtime stories for young children or course.
As a final thought, some experts say that if a shark is about to attack you, you should remain still and put your whole head and body under water so that the shark has more chance of recognising you. In reality though, who would have the nerve to sit patiently below the water line, twiddling their thumbs, waiting to see if this method even works?
Personally, since watching ‘Jaws’ as a kid, sharks scare the hell out of me. I’ve swam with sharks at Disneyland in Florida, but they were only about 80 cm long and don’t attack.
I have what I think is the ultimate line of defence against shark attacks . . . I will flatly refuse to even get into water where there has ever been a shark attack. You’ll find me lounging around the hotel pool or sipping on a cocktail at the pool bar. No bull sharks there 😉