sharks What It's Like to Be Attacked by a Shark  

Laura Allan
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Anyone who's ever seen Jaws has probably had a few days where they were afraid of the ocean - and these shark attack facts night just bring that fear surging back. One or two people die from sharks every year, and it's not a pretty way to go. Sharks sometimes just seem to decide that we need to be killed, and they're kind of flawless at doing just that. Of course, maybe you're the morose sort of person who wonders what it's like to be attacked by a shark. The moment of terror, the pain, the panic... well, lucky you, because we're going to tell you all about what being killed by a shark is like.

So, when it comes to shark attack death facts, things can seem kind of scary. How do you escape? What are the odds of it happening to you? Rest assured shark attacks are very rare, and it's even less likely that you'll die from one. That still doesn't make the prospect of an animal gnawing on your flesh any less terrifying.

As a final warning, some of the subjects discussed here are pretty graphic, so this isn't for those with weak stomachs. But hey, if you've seen any shark attack movie ever, you can probably handle it. Just don't plan on going to the beach anytime soon. 

Sharks Actually Don't Want To Bite You, But They Will

Sharks Actually Don't Want To ... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list What It's Like to Be Attacked by a Shark
Photo: John Singleton Copley/Public Domain/via Wikimedia Commons

Contrary to popular belief, sharks are actually not mindless killing machines. Sharks have particular tastes, and while blood makes them a little nuts, their regular prey is seals, sea lions, fish, and pretty much anything but humans. The fact is, we don't taste good, and neither do our wetsuits, our surfboards, or our diving gear, so it's very likely that if a shark bites you, it won't go back for seconds. They just give you an initial bite because they're confused. It's even less likely that the shark will actually try to eat you, which is why most deaths from shark attacks happen back on shore or in the hospital. 

It'll All Start with a Little Nudge

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Photo: Leszek.Leszczynski/flickr/CC-BY 2.0

Before a shark bites, it tends to check out what exactly it's biting first. So, if you're on a surf board, you might feel a little bump from their nose. If you're swimming, you might feel something brush up against your legs. In some cases, it feels more like a sudden impact, even if there's no initial bite, sometimes hard enough to knock you off a surfboard. Sometimes one little nudge is nothing to panic about, but unfortunately, once you feel a second nudge, it's usually too late to do much about it. The shark has decided you're potentially food, and it has decided it's time to take a bite to see how you taste. 

When You Start Bleeding, They'll Start Sniffing

When You Start Bleeding, They'... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list What It's Like to Be Attacked by a Shark
Photo: GregTheBusker/flickr/CC-BY 2.0

So, if you're not a shark's ideal prey, why are they targeting you exactly? It's a common myth that a shark can smell one drop of blood from miles away, but it is a fact that blood drives these guys nuts. If they're hungry, and only if they're hungry, even a little blood in their near vicinity can attract them, because it indicates that there may be a wounded or dead animal in the water.

So, if you've got even a paper cut, or if you're on your period, that blood can make you a little more interesting than other non-bleeding animals. In short, blood doesn't make them hungry, but if you're bleeding, you better hope there are no already-hungry sharks nearby.

They Might Just Be Trying to Show You Who's Boss

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Photo: vic.bergmann/flickr/CC-BY-ND 2.0

Of course, there's another reason a shark might be trying to get you in its mouth. Some scientists believe that sharks will gently bite other animals as a show of dominance, rather than trying to eat them. In other words, the shark perceives you as a threat or as another shark trying to cut in on its turf, and is trying to tell you to get lost. Those kinds of bites aren't even really meant to kill, just to let you know they're there. Unfortunately for us, sharks have giant scary many-toothed mouths, and even a little bite can do some serious damage. So even if a shark doesn't mean to kill you, there's a good chance they will anyway.