NORTH PACKERY CHANNEL, Texas — Several surfers witnessed a possible shark encounter at a beach just off of North Packery Channel, including Tommy Schilts. Schilts was getting ready to get in the water Tuesday morning, when he saw his friend Jim walk on shore with a wound. Jim said he was bitten by a shark. According to Schilts, Jim was sitting on his board when the incident happened. However, he was able to calmly swim to land.
"I checked it out cause usually, it's not a shark bite. But this time it was, and we got out the First aid Kit and I started performing first aid on him, cleaning the wound. The lifeguards took over from there and they said the wound was pretty clean." Schilts said. "He got bumped really hard from below and it hit him so hard just in his foot. But he didn't fall off his board and he calmly made his way in."
Schilts has been keeping in contact with Jim who went to see medical professionals after the he was bitten to make sure his wound wasn't infected. The bite may prevent Jim from going surfing until he's fully recovered, however, Jim plans to be back in the water when he can.
"He's okay. He's in good spirits. He said he's lucky. Cool scar, cool story, and you know you got all your limbs. It's kind of a win really." he added.
According to the Harte Research Institute, there are about 50 species of sharks that have been discovered in the Gulf of Mexico. Some frequent the waters in the Coastal Bend, including Blacktip Shark, Bull Sharks, and Sandbar Shark, Tiger Sharks and different species of hammerhead sharks. Researchers say shark attacks in the Coastal Bend are rare. Aside from the incident with Jim, the last known shark encounter happened in Aransas County in 2011. The bite was not fatal.
"No shark is every considered a man-eater. In fact, we don't even use the term "shark attack" we use the term bite. Most of the time when sharks come into contact with a person or vice versa, it's because of mistaken identity. We're not on the menu, humans are too big." said Kesley Banks, an associate research scientist at the Center for Sportsfish Science and Conservation at the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, at Texas A&M University- Corpus Christi.
If you happen to see a shark in the water, Banks said don't splash because it mimics the movement of a shark's prey. She also said to avoid attracting a shark, avoid wearing flashy clothes or jewelry, and don't swim at dawn or dusk. If a person is bit and a shark is not letting go, Kesley said its gills and eyes are sensitive, so a person might be able to get the shark to release if they place their hands in those parts of a shark. People commonly ask if they should punch a shark in the nose. Banks said, it is a sensitive area, but a person can slip and put their hands in the shark's mouth. However, Banks said in most occasions a person will not need to take extra actions.
"Most of the time sharks do what's called a bump and bite. They bump and say hey are you something I want to mess with? The answer is usually no. If the answer is, maybe I want to check you out, you get that exploratory bite, which is what happened in the case of the surfer. But at the end the shark never came back. Like I said, humans aren't on the menu." she explained.
Banks said sharks are a very important part of our ecosystem, so the Harte Research Institute studies the creatures to learn more about their habits. They also track some sharks to study their patterns and it is posted on their website for the public to follow as well.