Shark attacks like the two in North Carolina on Sunday occur in almost all American waters where the animals interact with humans—but there’s one stretch of beach in Florida where you’re most likely to be attacked.
The beaches of Volusia County, Florida, have more documented shark attacks—267 between 1837 and 2014, according to analysis of data compiled by the Florida Museum of Natural History—than any other U.S. county. Locals, in fact, are so used to these encounters, they’ve changed the nomenclature.
“We don’t like to call them attacks,” Tammy Marris, a Volusia resident and spokesperson for the county’s Beach Safety division, tells us. “We like to call them bites. But yeah, we have a lot.”
Volusia County is home to 47 miles of beaches, including New Smyrna Beach, which Marris says is amongst the best places to surf on the east coast. It also runs along a jetty that attracts bait-fish, which attract sharks. The combination of great surfing and a shark buffet line leads to more interactions with people than most places, which inevitably leads to more bites.
As Marris points out—and as the data shows—none of Volusia County’s attacks (errr…”bites”) were fatal.
“The bites are usually pretty minor and the people who are bit are generally treated for minor injuries and released,” Marris says. In October of last year, two people were attacked in the same day at beaches in Volusia County. A 15-year-old boy and a 29-year-old man were both bit on the foot in separate incidents while surfing. Both survived with just minor injuries, according to local media reports.
Marris says different types of sharks patrol Volusia County’s shorelines so it’s hard to determine the type of shark responsible for the majority of the attacks. Some of the more common species found in Florida include hammerheads, bull sharks and tiger sharks.
In all, Florida has about six times more shark attacks than any other state in the U.S. (717 between 1837 and 2014. The silver medalist, California, has had 114 during that same period). Only 11 attacks in Florida have been fatal.