Wildlife and humanity collide as encounters increase

Rush Hour

(NewsNation) — Wildlife encounters across the country have been making headlines, and experts say social media and population growth might be contributing.

A video captured over the weekend in Massachusetts showed the moment a whale jumped out of the water and landed on a boat. A monk seal in Hawaii injured a swimmer who ignored warnings and approached the animal and its newborn pup. In Florida, alligators killed an 80-year-old woman who fell into a pond at a country club, and Charlotte County, Florida, an 11-foot alligator was recorded on camera growling at trappers.

“There’s a lot of determining factors here,” said Zoo Miami communications Director Ron Magill. “No. 1: everyone has a camera now.”

Magill credits social media, in part, for the rise in animal encounters, noting that people try to take selfies with wild animals and get too close.

“And, of course, you’ve got this population boom,” Magill said. “People are developing into these wild habitats, so we’re going to have more of these types of conflicts so to speak.”

Some of most talked-about encounters this summer have been with sharks.

There have been six reported shark bites in the past three weeks in Long Island, New York, prompting some beaches to temporarily close.

“We are doing an amazing amount of surveillance over the beaches, so we are going to ensure that all swimmers are as safe as they can be,” New York State Parks spokesman George Gorman said.

A recent study by experts at the University of Miami found sharks aren’t avoiding the sights and sounds of the city.

Still, experts say humans aren’t on the menu.

The risk of being bitten by a shark remains extremely rare, according to the International Shark Attack File (ISAF). Surfers and people participating in board sports accounted for more than half of shark bite incidents last year.

That’s partially because that group tends to spend a lot of time in the surf zone — an area that’s commonly frequented by sharks. Splashing, paddling and wiping out might unintentionally attract sharks, according to the ISAF.

“I think the take home message is just be aware of your surroundings and just be cautious and try to be good neighbors with the sharks,” said Neil Hammerschlag, a marine ecologist and University of Miami professor.

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