Beach bites increase as weather heats up

Photo of a shark at Mickler's Beach in Ponte Vedra about a week ago. (Photo: Cindy Jones)
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- At least two people have been bitten by sharks within the past week on the First Coast.

A man was bitten by a shark at Guana State Park while surfing on Wednesday, May 18, 2016. On Saturday, May 21, 2016, a swimmer was bitten at Huguenot Memorial Park. Witnesses tell us that swimmer was a young girl.

In a picture taken by Cindy Jones, you can see what appears to be a shark right at the edge of the beach.

"Everybody was yelling shark... and then a couple of people said it might not be shark, it might be a manatee,"  said Jones. "But, you could tell by the way it was moving that it was a shark and it was looking for food." 

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Cindy Jones took the picture at Mickler's Beach in Ponte Vedra about a week ago.

"There was people in the water.  So, I was concerned about their safety," said Jones.

Jones said the shark was probably looking for food.

"Well, the sharks follow the bait fish and so they are using the beaches to prey on smaller fishes," said Dr. Jim Gelsleichter, a University of North Florida shark expert. "If prey fish move into the coastal area, they're going to be following the animals there."

Gelsleichter has been surveying the shark population on the first coast since 2009. 

"It's a little bit of a fallacy to think if you're really close to shore that there won't be any sharks there," said Gelsleichter. "In fact, there's a good number of sharks on our beaches." 

Gelsleichter said shark attacks are rare, but nearly 30, if not more, happen on the Florida coast every year.