But George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File of the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida in Gainesville, says the two incidents were "only related in that they're in the same region and both involve circumstances that have some commonality."
Burgess adds that, though it may seem that shark attacks are becoming more common, it's really just that there are more people in the water, coming closer to sharks' habitat, so people are coming into contact with sharks more often.
"We're simply flooding sharks out of their own environment," Burgess observes. "As the human population continues to rise every year and aquatic recreation has taken off, almost everywhere in the world we're putting more and more people in the water. The panhandle of Florida here, which traditionally has had low utilization, is catching up with the rest of Florida in terms of the number of tourists entering the water. And, as a result, we've seen these incidents, and we're gonna see more in the future."
Burgess offered suggestions for steering clear of sharks:
- Stay in a group
- Avoid the water at dawn and dusk
- Avoid areas where sharks are known to be present
- Stay close to shore
He elaborated: "Sharks, of course, are predatory animals. They follow predator strategies. They like isolated prey items. If you stay in a group, you will avoid that isolation factor. They primarily feed during the dusk-to-dawn time period. So staying out of the water avoids you coming into contact with them at their peak feeding time. And certainly, staying out of areas where sharks are known to be present" is wise.
And should you encounter a shark:
- Get out of the water if you can
- Hit the shark
- Avoid thrashing
- Make your way toward other people
Burgess says, "Other people will save your life if you're injured. If you're close, they'll get to you shore and some safety. The thrashing thing (means) if you can get out of the water as gracefully as possible, do so. Sharks are attracted to thrashing. So if you kick like mad and are panicked, they're going to pick up on that."