Avoiding injury during Anna Maria Island Stingray Season is the most ideal way spend an island vacation. Any Floridian will tell you “the stingray shuffle” isn’t just some funny name for a popular dance in the south. It’s is a way life for Floridians. Something taught to you as soon as you are old enough to play in shallows of the beach surf. When we think of a trip to the beach images of sunny skies, powder sand and blue water are what come to mind. That perfect day at the beach can be spoiled by a nasty ray sting. However, the stingray shuffle is a sure fire way to avoid a ray run in.
What is a stingray?
There are over a dozen species of rays found around Florida’s Atlantic and Gulf coasts. They are characterized by a flat disk like bodies with a thick or thin tail, and are typically suited for life on the ocean floor. Their mouth and gill slots are on the bottom side of the creature with eyes on top. A distant relative of the shark, rays use smell and electro receptors to find prey. Rays come in different shapes and sizes. Some have pointed pectoral wing like fins, some have rear dorsal fins, and some have a more rounded appearance. No matter what the shape or size of ray species you’ll know this unique fish when, and if, you see it.
Knowing where stingrays live, eat, hide and spend their leisure time is as important to Anna Maria Island beach goers as slathering yourself with sunblock. This is the first step in avoiding injury during Anna Maria Island Stingray season. Most often when you encounter a ray it will be in shallow water of just a few feet deep; however, rays also enjoy much deeper waters. Stingrays feed most often on the ocean floor, but also forage in the upper water column. They have a wide variety of prey including fish, crustaceans and mollusks. Rays will either search for fish, or use their fins to disrupt sandy sea floors to uncover crustier critters. Rays have two methods of eating. Some species have two hard mouth plates to crush food, or species may use a sucking method to gulp prey whole.
Stingrays can be hard to spot because they often bury themselves just under sandy ocean bottoms hiding from predators. This is where the stingray shuffle comes in handy. Anna Maria Island Stingray season is considered to be from May to October, but this is really an arbitrary consideration as rays are found in Gulf and Atlantic waters year round. You’ll notice the Anna Maria Island Stingray season coincides with the swimming season. As gulf waters warm up both rays and people head to the coastline, all things considered, this is the real reason stings are most common May through October.
The Stingray Shuffle
The best way to avoid ray stings is to shuffle your feet. Many Anna Maria Island locals will tell you they haven’t been stung even while surfing, skim boarding, or carelessly playing in the shallows. Anna Maria Island is not known for having a particularly high number of annual ray stings, but there is always a chance. Why not take preventative measures to ensure the best trip to the beach, especially during a great Anna Maria Island paradise vacation?
Protective Wear and Measures
If being stung is a particular concern to you wearing water shoes is a great precautionary measure; however, it’s not always 100% effective. Rays are extremely non-aggressive creatures. They will never stalk or come after the average beach goer. On the upper portion of their tail is a venomous barb. When the fish is scared or stepped on its tail is used as a defensive whip. Therefore, stings can occur on your feet, ankles and legs. The simple act of shuffling your feet kicks up sand, and scares off these tame water dwellers. If you are stepping directly into water a good protective measure would be poking the sea floor with a stick or long object. For example, if you are stepping out of a kayak into a muddy shallow bay, consider prodding the bottom with your paddle to avoid stepping directly onto a ray.
The severity of a sting can vary greatly, but it is always best to have a health care professional look at the injury. A protein based venom releases into the puncture. The venom is heat seeking, so it moves throughout the body of those stung. For this reason you should never ice a sting, but rather, soak the body part in water as hot as possible without burning the area.
Sometimes the barb is left in the wound. Have it removed by a professional. Never try squeezing a barb out. Everyone reacts differently to stings, and some are even allergic. It is uncommon for individuals to die from a sting, but chances for infection are high when not properly treated. Symptoms of stings can include decreased blood pressure, fainting, shock, nausea and even difficulty breathing. Blake Hospital is the closest medical facility to Anna Maria Island located on 59th Street in Bradenton. In the unlikely event that you need to visit the emergency room, Blake is a great facility that typically has very short waiting times.
When you are planning to visit during Anna Maria Island Stingray season use caution, and make sure to always do the stingray shuffle! For now, enjoy the video below of cute baby stingrays dancing.
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