3 shark attacks in 2 days in California

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From Yahoo! News (source link):  A surfer and two kayak fishermen were attacked by sharks–or perhaps one shark–on Thursday and Friday at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, north of Santa Barbara.

The attack on the surfer occurred Thursday, prompting the closure of beaches at the north end of the military base through the weekend. On Friday, kayak anglers were attacked in separate instances at the south end of the base.

During the second attack a large shark breached and was identified by a witness as a great white shark. It remains unclear whether all three attacks were by different sharks, or the same shark.

Stated white shark expert Chris Lowe, who runs the Shark Lab at Cal State Long Beach: “In general these sorts of annual events at the same location have also occurred in Hawaii, Hong Kong, and Australia. This has led people to speculate that they are caused by the same sharks, but there has never been any scientific evidence to support that supposition.”

As of the time of this post, Vandenberg acknowledged only Thursday’s attack on the surfer. It posted the news on its website homepage.

The kayakers, however, shared their news privately and via social media.

However, Vince Culliver, a fireman at Vandenberg and one of the kayak-fishing group, told GrindTv that he was about 10 feet away when his friend, Ryan Howell, was launched out of his 12-foot kayak, by a great white shark that measured nearly 20 feet.

The shark grabbed the stern of Howell’s kayak as it breached during the ambush assault, lifting the vessel’s tail end and spilling Howell into the water. Culliver tried maneuvering his pedal-powered kayak to reach Howell, but wakes caused by the thrashing shark temporarily impeded his progress.

“I was waiting for Ryan to pop up,” Culliver said. “And the shark still had his kayak in its mouth.”

This was the second of two attacks on Friday. They occurred between noon and 2 p.m., about 200 yards offshore.

Culliver eventually reached Howell and helped him onto his kayak.

Earlier in the day, another kayaker, whose name Culliver could not recall, was knocked out of his kayak by a shark. The man was a novice paddling out with his son to meet the group. Other kayakers hurried to his assistance, said Culliver, who is president of Jurassic Sportfishing, a group of mostly area kayak anglers.

Nearby boaters were summoned via radio to assist both kayakers, whose vessels had been badly damaged. It was not until after the second attack, though, that the group decided to stop fishing and hurry to shore.

Details about the first incident are scant, but a statement posted Friday on the Vandenberg Air Force Base website states that the attack on the surfer, which occurred a quarter-mile north of Wall Beach, was not fatal.

It’s worth noting that these mark the fifth October attacks on Vandenberg Air Force Base beaches since 2010. (The public is allowed on VAFB beaches.)

A 2010 attack occurred on October 22 and claimed the life of Lucas McKain Ransom, 19, a student at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Ransom was bodyboarding with a friend at Surf Beach when he was bitten on the leg by a great white shark estimated to measure 14-plus feet.

The 2012 attack occurred on October 23 and claimed the life of Francisco Javier Solorio, 39, who was surfing with friends when he was bitten.

Solorio was helped ashore and attempts were made to revive the surfer, but paramedics arrived to find him dead at the scene.

Vandenberg Air Force Base is located in Santa Barbara County, about 130 miles north of Los Angeles.

On Friday the base posted this statement on its website homepage:

10/3/2014 – VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Surf, Wall, and Minuteman beaches are closed until Oct. 5, at 4 p.m. due to a confirmed shark attack one-quarter mile North of Wall Beach. The attack wasn’t fatal. Officials at Vandenberg Air Force Base are requesting the public avoid VAFB beaches due to safety considerations until 4 p.m. Oct. 5.
It’s unclear why October seems to be a particularly dangerous month along the stretch of coast on Vandenberg property.

However, this is the time of year that adult great white sharks begin arriving along the coast after spending months offshore.

White sharks typically feed on seals and sea lions, and scientists believe that surfers who are attacked by the ambush predators are mistaken as pinnipeds.

Most attacks on surfers involve only a single bite, helping to support this theory.


Royce Christyn
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