It’s summertime at the beach and that means beachgoers should be cautious as migratory stingrays return to Fort Myers Beach for their annual visit, which usually lasts through October. The sea creatures are typically friendly, but react defensively by whipping their barbed tails around when stepped on.
Town officials warn beachgoers to do the “stingray shuffle” and to otherwise just be aware of their surroundings.
“Southern stingrays are those that bury themselves in the sand near shore,” said Rae Blake, Environmental Technician for the Town of Fort Myers Beach. “I’ve seen some recent coverage on local news channels talking about cow nose rays. Cow nose stingrays are a different species from what we typically encounter on our beaches. They are always on the move, have more of a diamond shape and feed on crabs. Because they are always swimming, you’re not likely to step on one near shore.”
“Southern stingrays are year-round residents of our near shore waters, but they mate during this time of year, so they are more abundant. Their defense mechanism is the whip-like tail with a sharp barb on the end.”
Experts say that hot water is the best remedy for a sting, so anyone stung should treat the wound by soaking it in water as hot as they can stand. Blake explained that hot water breaks down the toxin in the wound. “If stung while swimming off a boat, you can capture the outflow water from the outboard engine and use that hot water to soak the wound. Capture it in a container and pour it on a sting.” Blake further recommends that anyone who gets stung see a medical professional. “You may not know if a barb or a portion of it is stuck under the skin,” she said.
The Fort Myers Beach Fire Department reports that during previous stingray seasons, they have responded to as many 10 stings per day. The threat is real, but avoidable.
“Pay attention, be aware of your surroundings, don’t go into the water before sunrise or after sunset and always shuffle into the surf,” suggests Blake.