Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Early sting prompts Clearwater to put out stingray alert

CLEARWATER — If we're lucky, the stingray hidden under the sand of Clearwater Beach last week was just a lone traveler wanting an early start on summer.

If we aren't lucky, the stingray was a harbinger of an early start to this year's stingray season and a reason for spring breakers to learn a new dance, the Stingray Shuffle.

Last week, a visitor walking in the shallows on Clearwater Beach stepped on the velvety back of a stingray buried in the sand and immediately felt the painful lash of the creature's barb. It's a not-uncommon consequence of carelessly stomping around in the gulf, but the stingrays don't normally arrive until summer's heat warms the water.

A stingray sting in March is a rare thing — rare enough that the city of Clearwater put out a news release Wednesday warning the public to do the shuffle. Locals know that during stingray season, it's wise to shuffle your feet while walking in the surf, because the scraping sound and vibrations scare away the stingrays. But the city is concerned that spring breakers won't know how to protect themselves.

The news release brought television crews to Clearwater Beach on Wednesday, primed to film an early invasion of stingrays. But Chris Lang, 27, interim supervisor of the Clearwater Beach Patrol, had to tell them that, um, there was just the one stingray and just one victim stung, and that was last week. There was no invasion to document.

But that doesn't mean there won't be more action soon, he cautioned.

"The water's rapidly warming up," said Lang, an 11-year veteran of lifeguard duty on the beach. "It's 71 degrees out there now."

Lang said that could mean that stingray season will have an April start this year, instead of the more typical May or June. Last year, the season also started early — in late April — and was especially heavy.

Certain species of stingrays bury themselves in the sand. They aren't aggressive, but if they get stepped on, they lash out with their barbed, bonelike stinger, usually connecting with the victim's foot or ankle. A venom is injected that causes excruciating pain.

Heat breaks down the protein-based venom, so lifeguards offer sting victims the option of taking a heat pack with them or going to the nearby fire station, where paramedics will immerse the wound in hot water to lessen the pain.

Some people who are allergic to bee stings also react to the stingray's toxin, Lang said, and have to be treated quickly for the reaction. And occasionally, a portion of the stinger breaks off under the victim's skin. Then the person has to be taken to a hospital so the barb can be surgically removed. Both of those situations are rare, Lang said. Usually, the victim just has to endure an hour or so of intense discomfort.

But by Wednesday afternoon, a week after the first sting, no one else had been stung on Clearwater Beach and no stingrays had been seen cruising the shallows. The beach was postcard perfect: sunny, busy, with beachgoers sunbathing, walking, splashing and generally having a good time.

But just to be safe, the city advises, be sure to shuffle.

Early sting prompts Clearwater to put out stingray alert 03/23/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 23, 2011 7:43pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Half of Florida lawmakers fail or nearly fail review of support for public records

    State Roundup

    WEST PALM BEACH — Half of Florida's legislators failed or nearly failed in a review of their support for public records and meetings given by Florida newspapers and an open-government group after this year's legislative sessions.

    State Senator Bill Galvano, R- Bradenton (left) and Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran ranked on opposite sides of the spectrum in an analysis of support for open records. Galvano scored a B-minus and Corcoran scored a D-plus.
[Times file photo]
  2. Yale dean on leave over offensive Yelp reviews leaves post

    Bizarre News

    NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A Yale University dean who was placed on leave over offensive reviews she posted on Yelp has left her position at the Ivy League institution, school officials said Tuesday.

  3. Federal agencies demand records from SeaWorld theme park


    ORLANDO — Two federal agencies are reportedly demanding financial records from SeaWorld.

    Killer whales Ikaika and Corky participate in behaviors commonly done in the wild during SeaWorld's Killer Whale educational presentation in this photo from Jan. 9. SeaWorld has been subpoenaed by two federal agencies for comments that executives and the company made in August 2014 about the impact from the "Blackfish" documentary. 
[Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS]
  4. The people you meet along O.J. Howard Lane


    OJ Howard (far right) is seen in a photo from his adolescent years at Bethesda Missionary Baptist Church in Prattville, Ala., on Wednesday, May 3, 2017. Howard served as an usher in addition to attending regular services at this church.