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One of the biggest fallacies is that stingrays attack
people anytime they're encountered. However, evidence shows that stingrays
are not categorized as aggressive creatures and will avoid being stepped
whenever possible. The epitome of this is seen in what takes place with rays
and waders at Stingray City, Grand Cayman Island in the Caribbean Sea. Here
vacationers can actually feed and swim with un captured stingrays that have
become accustomed to people. According to Stingray City tour guides, the
rays first established a relationship many years ago with commercial
fishermen who regularly fed them. As a result, the stingrays, expecting to
be fed, literally herd up and approach any boat that anchors nearby.
The stingray is common in all tropical, subtropical, warm, and temperate
regions. It usually favors sheltered water and will burrow into sand with
only eyes and tail exposed. It has a bat-like shape and a long tail.
Approximately 1,800 stingray attacks are reported annually in the U.S. Most
attacks occur when waders inadvertently step on a ray, causing it to lash
out defensively with its tail. The spine is located near the vase of the
tail. Wounds are either of the laceration or puncture type and are extremely
painful. The wound appears swollen and pale with a blue rim. Secondary wound
infections are common. Systemic symptoms may be present and can include
fainting, nausea, vomiting, sweating, respiratory difficulty, and
In shallow waters which favor stingray habitation, shuffle feet on the
bottom and probe with a stick to alert the rays and chase them away.
Many fish may use venom as a form of defense. Most venomous fish deliver the
toxins through the use of a spine. Venomous spines are found in a wide
variety of fish including stingrays, chimaeras, scorpion fishes, catfishes,
toadfishes, rabbit fishes, and stargazers. Venomous spines can have poison
glands along the grove of the spine, as with stingrays, or at the base of
the spine as in some catfish. While humans can be stung by a multitude of
fishes, few species are life threatening.
Stingrays if poked, prodded or even smacked on their backs with an
object, normally will not retaliate but flee off to safety. Likewise, if you
are shuffling your feet and happen to nudge a stingray that is lying on the
bottom, its natural response is to either beeline out of the way or circle
behind. Though the stingray’s reaction in both cases is to avoid being
stepped on, the latter maneuver can poses a problem if the wader for some
reason unintentionally steps backwards Never underestimate the penetrating
ability of a stingray's barb, even on the smallest of rays. The ray's barb
is designed to penetrate virtually all sorts of dense materials, including
wood and leather. And as unbelievable as it may seem, it's been documented
that large stingrays are able to drive a barb through a boat's wooden planks
or completely through a persons arm or leg.
If you are injured by a ray you should promptly seek expert medical help.
In the meantime:
1) Rinse the wound thoroughly with fresh water. Use ocean water only if no
fresh water is available.
2) Soak the wound in water that is as hot as you can tolerate, though not so
hot that it burns your skin (110 degrees Fahrenheit or 44 degrees Celsius).
Normally this will ease the pain within about 30 to 90 minutes. Repeat the
hot-water soaking if pain returns.
3) Carefully search for and remove any pieces of stinger or its sheath
(protective covering). Scrub the injured area with soap and water. Then pour
lots of fresh water over it.
4) Do not tape or sew the wound closed unless this is needed to stop a lot
5) If the wound shows signs of infection, you'll need to take antibiotics. A
tetanus shot may also be needed.