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09/16/2006 Jake Poland (North Carolina)

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09/16/2006 Jake Poland (North Carolina)

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Shark bites Onslow surfer
September 19,2006
Chrissy Vick
daily news staff
Jake Poland went to Onslow Beach on Saturday to catch a few waves. Instead, he came out of the water with a new nickname: “Shark Bait.”

Poland, 16, spent five hours at Camp Lejeune Naval Hospital on Saturday being treated for a shark bite. The bite was confirmed by personnel in the emergency room, according to Naval Hospital officials Monday.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Poland said. “Out of everyone in the water, I got bit.”

Poland had just gotten off his surfboard Saturday morning in waist-deep water when he felt something hit him in the leg.

“A wave came in and it felt like it knocked my board into my leg,” he said.

It wasn’t until a friend pointed out that his shorts were shredded that he noticed a deep gash. Poland said he walked out of the water, while his two friends went to get help.

“I had just left the beach for 35 minutes,” said Poland’s mother, Twila. “He called me on my cell phone and I panicked when I got there and saw the big gash on his leg — it was disgusting. I was even more panicked when they told me it was probably a shark bite.”

Poland had a deep, jagged gash on his left thigh that went through the muscle, Twila Poland said.

“It was a long process,” Jake Poland said. “They were cleaning it out, and the shots were painful. I have 10 stitches and they are real deep.”

Though he said the wound was painful, on Monday the Jacksonville High junior was back in school and sharing his adventure with classmates.

“He’s kind of become a celebrity,” his mother said. “The phone has been ringing off the hook.”

The Poland family has been swimming at Onslow Beach for eight years, she said. And while she tried to prepare her children for rip currents, she never thought to prepare them for a shark bite.

“You hear it happening to other people, but you never think of it happening to your kid,” Twila Poland said.

Jake Poland said he feels some apprehension about getting back in the water, but said the experience didn’t scare him away.

“As soon as it’s healed, I’m going to go back out,” he said. “I have a slight fear, but it’s rare to even get bitten once, so I doubt it’ll happen again.”

Shark bites are very rare in North Carolina, said Paul Barrington, director of husbandry and operations for the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher.

“There have only been about seven to 10 documented cases in the last 30 years or so,” he said. “Humans are not naturally shark’s prey; it’s more that the two are in the same vicinity.”

Locally, one 15-year-old girl was bitten in 2002 at Emerald Isle by a 6 or 7-foot bull shark, according to a Daily News report.

Twila Poland said doctors at the hospital suspected Jake’s bite to have been by a shark 2 to 3 feet in length.

“There are numerous sharks in the water, especially this time of year,” Barrington said. “Many have recently pupped (given birth) in last few months. They are typically found in near-shore waters. Two or three other fish, such as barracudas, have the capability of biting humans, but are not known to.”

A “huge congregation of bait fishes,” including mullet, are currently heading south to Florida and “hugging the beaches,” Barrington said.

“What will bring in those sharks is the abundance of the food fish, so being at swimming-depth water can put you in their path,” he said.

Barrington said he recommends that swimmers and surfers be aware of what is in the water around them.

“If there is a school of bait fish in the water around you, you should be careful because someone could very be easily mistaken for food during a feeding frenzy,” he said.

Just ask Shark Bait.

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