Stingrays at New Jersey beaches - warning after one man stung

Swimmers are warned to use common sense when entering the water, after one man has been stung by a stingray at a New Jersey beach and while shades of Steve Irwin's death from a stingray may enter your mind, that was an extremely rare occurrence.

New Jersey beach goers are seeing schools of stingrays in the water, with one man sent to the hospital from a painful laceration after his encounter with one of these long tailed species. The stingray has gotten a bit of a dangerous reputation since one stung and killed TV personality Steve Irwin a few years back, but the experts say that was an extremely rare case.

Can they kill you? Steve Irwin’s death answers that question, but it is rare that this happens. According to Bob Schoelkopf, director of the Marine Stranding Center in Brigantine N.J., people seem to forget that they are the visitors to the water and the marine life belong there. "The ocean is filled with sea life. I think a lot of people have lost the concept that the ocean is a living room for thousands of marine species," says Schoelkopf.

The movie "Jaws," although highly exaggerated about a Great White Shark hunting specific people, did bring a new respect for the unknown of what lies beneath the waters that people flock to in the summer months. Just like "Jaws" spiked the anxiety of many swimmers that one of those man-hunters may be lurking beneath the water at the beach, Irwin's death from a stingray brings similar anxieties about this species of marine life.

This week, people reported seeing sharks at the Jersey Shore beach made popular by the MTV reality show, "Jersey Shore." The Seaside Heights shark sightings turned out to be schools of stingrays. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection reported that a man was taken to the hospital after being stung by one of the stingrays. The 22 year-old man was stung in shallow waters off the inlet on the southern end of the park in Berkeley Township.

It is most likely the warmer than usual temperatures that are bringing the Stingrays in greater numbers this year into the shallow waters off the New Jersey beach. They feed on baby surf claims, says Schoelkopf in an interview on Philly.com. Stingrays are not uncommon in the waters off New Jersey, but they are usually not as many as being sighted this season. The same goes with sharks, they are usually out there all the time, but they mind their own business and usually don't bother the swimmers.

Steve Irwin died after being stung in his chest by a stingray in 2006. Irwin's death occurred when "a stingray's venomous barb pierced his heart ," according to a National Geographic article that came out right after his death. The article stresses that this death was "extremely" rare. The footage of this attack shows the man known as "The Crocodile Hunter" being stung by the stingray and then pulling the the barb out of his chest. It was just seconds later he went unconscious and died while still in the water.

As far as swimming along side these creatures, Schoelkof says that these creatures are usually OK with sharing their space with the human invaders. He goes on to say, "But I wouldn't want to step on one." He recommends that swimmers wear surf shoes or wet boots. Schoelkof said that when swimming in the ocean, you need to use common sense. He says if you see fins, it is not the time to rush out to go swimming. Schoelkopf likened jumping into the water with stingrays to a land scenario saying, "You wouldn't run into the woods to pet a bear."