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Shark Attacks in Virginia

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Sharks are aquatic predators, and it’s very normal to keep an eye open for them when you plan to visit Virginia Beaches. 

Several different species of sharks reside in the Hampton Roads region. Moreover, some swim only a few feet inland from the coast.

virginia beach

Normally, people hesitate before entering the ocean at the beach because of shark attacks. A recent series of incidents at Virginia Beach has startled many people. 

There have been several shark attacks that resulted in severe casualties, even death in some cases. The ratio of these attacks has increased significantly over the past few years. 

Rising Cases of Shark Attacks in Virginia

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The number of shark attacks in Virginia appears to be rising. However, authorities continue to convince the public that such accidents are rare

Yet, encounters between tourists and these dangerous ocean predators still happen. Every year, news reports surface concerning shark attacks. And it appears that shark attacks are making more news nowadays than ever.

Studies indicate that they have practically doubled over the past 20 years. However, the increase is probably a result of coastal development.

Additionally, more people entering the water correlates with an increase in shark populations. Hence, there is a higher chance of coming into contact with a shark. 

As you get further south, attacks and sightings do rise a little. It is a result of warmer water and greater shark-feeding sources.

Types of Sharks Found in Virginia

Virginia is home to several different breeds of sharks. More than ten different shark species exist here. Off the shore of Virginia Beach, you can regularly see these sharks:

#1 Sandbar Shark

sandbar shark

Sandbar sharks go by a variety of names, Brown sharks and thick-skinned sharks are commonly found among this species. 

It is one of the largest sharks that regularly visit the beaches in Virginia. Sandbar sharks belong to the group of the world’s biggest coastal sharks. They can grow to be 8.2 feet long as adults. Moreover, females are significantly larger than males.

Shallow water is the Sandbar shark’s typical habitat. This covers areas like coastlines, ports, and beaches. 

Furthermore, they occasionally swim out to deeper water, about 600 feet deep. Check out the Spotted Gully Shark!

Virginia Beach is one of the best places to spot young sandbar sharks.

#2 The Smooth Dogfish Shark

These huge sharks have numerous names, including smooth dogfish, smoothhounds, smooth dogs, and dusky smooth dogfish. 

One of the largest sharks near Virginia beaches is the smooth dogfish. The smooth dogfish shark can grow to a maximum length of about 5 feet. 

Additionally, coastal sharks have access to different resources than deep-water sharks. Therefore, sharks residing in shallower waters can never reach the size of a great white shark. The diet of the smooth dogfish includes food from these shallow waters as well. 

Moreover, the smooth dogfish’s row of blunt teeth is one of its distinctive features. They can crush and grind their food thanks to their special teeth.

#3 The Sand Tiger Shark

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The tiger shark is one of the largest sharks residing close to Virginia beaches. However, it may still venture into shallower waters on occasion. If a shark is famous for its aggression, it’s the tiger shark

However, as this results from instinct, they are not harmful animals. Attacks are still not very common. And tiger sharks play a crucial role in maintaining the ecology.

Tiger shark adults can grow to be more than 14 feet long. They can have a more varied diet than any other shark due to their big size. 

Tiger sharks may consume anything, including seals, dolphins, and birds. Furthermore, they also go by the name “trash eaters.” It’s because they frequently have rubbish in their guts, which is sadly prevalent in our beautiful oceans.

#4 Bull Shark

Bull shark sightings are infrequent in Virginia since they prefer the vast oceans. Their inclination is primarily because the deep waters there allow them to grow. They still stop by the coastline on occasion, though. 

Moreover, they rank high among the largest sharks that frequent Virginia beaches.

Bull sharks may not be a frequent sight at most Virginia beaches. However, it might be for the best as they are notorious for their aggressive habits.

Furthermore, the bulk of bites in coastal locations occur due to them. They only grow to a maximum length of about 11 feet. One female, though, was measured at precisely 13 feet long.

#5 Spinner Shark

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The spinner shark is a deep-water shark and can survive in 330-foot-deep waters. Although it favors visiting shallow coastal waters, it is an occasional visitor to Virginia beaches. Its look is comparable to that of the blacktip sharks. 

Spinner shark sightings, although not common, are becoming more frequent. This is a result of their propensity towards hotter climates, such as those in South America.

Some spinner sharks also live in Virginia’s southeast shore. When the time comes for pups, spinner sharks are most prevalent in this region. Additionally, spinner shark pups are often fostered in shallow nursery areas like bays.

#6 Atlantic Sharpnose Shark

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The Atlantic sharpnose shark can grow up to 4 feet in length. It is among the largest sharks that are frequently found nearby Virginia beaches. They get their name from their distinguishing feature: the pointed nose.

Its populations are currently prospering in both the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico and it exceeds expectations by a wide margin. However, regulations are necessary to ascertain the long-term survival of the Atlantic sharpnose. 

For coastal sharks, the Atlantic sharpnose shark’s diet is around average. Along with eels, shrimp, crabs, and mollusks, they consume tiny fish.

#7 Dusky Shark

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Requiem sharks include the dusky shark, which are significantly bigger in size. The dusky shark can grow to a maximum length of 14 feet – the length of an average car. Additionally, they are capable of weighing up to 800 pounds, making them one of the largest members of the Carcharhinus genus of sharks.

The Dusky Shark was once regarded as endangered, resulting from their relatively long gestation periods and slow maturity. They are, however, also well-liked amongst fishermen who like to harvest them for their oils and fins. 

Overall, people are not at great risk from dusky sharks. However, you should exercise caution near them because there have been a few documented attacks involving them due to their size.

#8 Blacktip Shark

Blacktip shark

The name of the Blacktip shark derives from the distinct black tip present on each of its fins. 

It is another type of requiem shark. As a result, it is somewhat related to the dusky shark and the sandbar shark. The blacktip shark is substantially smaller compared to the dusky shark, though.

The blacktip shark normally reaches an adult length of about 9 feet and can be quite aggressive. Additionally, there have been numerous documented assaults. 

The blacktip shark is not considered “bad” because of this. It simply indicates that you might not want to swim with one as you would with other sharks.

#9 Scalloped Hammerhead

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One of the largest sharks found close to Virginia beaches is the scalloped hammerhead shark. Although it it’s one of the biggest in the area, it’s one of the tiniest hammerhead sharks that can reach a maximum length of 8.2 feet. 

However, some scalloped hammerhead shark specimens have grown to be over 10 feet long! You probably won’t see it close to Virginia’s coasts for the majority of the year.

In fact, it’s unlikely that you’ll frequently see them close to any coasts. They are deep-water oceanic sharks that live and prosper there. They will, though, go inland to benefit from the shoals during the breeding season. 

Furthermore, the metabolic rates of scalloped hammerhead sharks are high. It implies that they may require more food than certain other varieties of sharks.

#10 Smooth Hammerhead Shark

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The smooth hammerhead has a maximum length of 16 feet. Despite its size, it is a more frequent coastal find. 

However, the majority of smooth hammerhead sharks are content to eat small fish. Some of the largest have been observed eating other sharks and rays. Additionally, they may be dangerous to people due to their humongous size.

There have reportedly been some attacks, but generally they prefer to avoid humans, just like all other sharks. Sometimes they are observed swimming close to piers and fishing locations. 

Moreover, they plunder fishermen’s catches and baits. It has a vulnerable species designation.

Types of Shark Bites

Megamouth shark

Provoked Bites

When a person initiates contact with a shark in some way, it is called a provoked bite. These include situations where individuals bother or approach sharks. 

While releasing a shark from a fishing net or unhooking one, bites can happen. Furthermore, the shark exhibits defensive behavior in these interactions. Attempts to feed sharks have resulted in many incidences of human bites.

Unprovoked Bites

These are instances where a shark bites a person in the animal’s native environment. Additionally, humans did not provoke the shark in any way. 

These are the shark behaviors that are in accordance with their typical nature and are the data types that we utilize most frequently for study. On the ISAF website, all publicly accessible data comes from unprovoked incidents.

Hit-And-Run Bites

It occurs close to beaches when sharks try to catch fish to survive. Strong currents, pounding surf, and murky water can all contribute to a shark misinterpreting human movements. 

The shark makes one grip, releases it, and then swims away. Moreover, they bite feet or legs frequently. Most injuries are minor, and fatalities are uncommon.

Sneak Bites

Deeper seas are where it happens. The shark is not visible to the victim before the encounter. Therefore, the outcome could be a fatality or severe injuries.


When a shark actually bumps its target before biting, this is known as a bump-and-bite. Furthermore, the shark may bite multiple times, just like with sneak bites. It may lead to fatalities or severe injuries.

Incidents Due to Shark Attacks in Virginia Beach

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Additionally, statistics suggest that there have been 1,100 shark attacks from 1837 to 2014, reported across the country on all coasts. Here we will discuss some cases of shark attacks in Virginia.

In Virginia, the first documented shark attack occurred in 1852. A shark killed a deserter who was leaving the USS Pennsylvania by swimming.

In Virginia waters, there were 19 shark attacks between 1900 and 2020. Four of these had fatal casualties. Additionally, some attacks were instigated. For instance, when a blacktip reef shark was revived from anesthesia, it bit the worker.

Virginia experienced its deadliest attack in 2001. A 10-year-old boy swimming in the Atlantic Ocean near Sandbridge was bit by a bull shark. 

The most recent attack took place at Sandbridge in 2010, which was not lethal but startling. An 18-year-old surfer was bitten on the ankle and knee by a shark.

Famous Cases of Shark Attack Victims

virginia beach shark

Three swimmers were attacked by sharks in Virginia over the Labor Day holiday in 2001. It caused two people to pass away and severely injured the third. Furthermore, the victims in both fatalities lost a lot of blood before passing away. 

Sharks were responsible for similar disasters decades ago in the two Atlantic states. In Florida earlier that year, a bull shark tore 8-year-old Jessie Arbogast’s arm off. They found his limb and attached it again.

Off Oak Island, in waist-deep coastal waters, two teens were attacked separately by sharks late on a Sunday afternoon. They were roughly two miles apart, which would take around 90 minutes to reach each other. 

Each lost an arm, and one of them also lost a leg. However, they could not capture the participating sharks. Experts believe that wound details would reveal the size and species of the sharks.

Guidelines to Avoid Shark Attacks

shark reef

In every endeavor, risks should always be kept to a minimum. These pieces of advice can help decrease your chances of coming into contact with a shark:

Always go with a friend. Sharks are more likely to approach a lone individual. Don’t stray too far from the coast since you become cut off from emergency assistance when too far from the beach. 

Avoid going into the sea at dusk or dawn. Additionally, many sharks are most active when feeding at night. Keep yourself away from known sport fishing sites that have effluents. Plus, seabirds that dive are reliable signs of the presence of these species.

Don’t swim in water that is used by anglers for enjoyment or profit. Dolphin sightings do not guarantee that sharks are not present. It’s because they frequently consume the same foods. 

Moreover, when the water is hazy, maintain extra caution. Some shark species will struggle with vision just as much as you do. Avoid brightly colored or highly contrasting apparel, as well as uneven tanning, because sharks have excellent contrast perception.

If you want to read more about Sharks we have a few articles for you!

Ways to Eliminate the Risk of Sharks Attacks

Marine biologist Kori Garza, 28, encountered Kamakai during a 2018 diving expedition in French Polynesia.
Marine biologist Kori Garza, 28, encountered Kamakai during a 2018 diving expedition in French Polynesia.

It is impossible to eliminate the possibility of shark attacks. Shark exclusion nets create a wall between humans and sharks, and they cause the environment the least amount of harm. However, these nets aren’t entirely successful. 

Moreover, sharks and other marine animals can become entangled in them and die. Furthermore, operating them costs a lot of money.

Only low-energy (non-surf) zones are suitable for them. People and businesses use modern technology to keep an eye on sharks, employing sensor buoys or drones.

Consequently, you can manage maritime hazards at public beaches. Hopefully, these innovations will lead to safer solutions for people and animals.

Do All Sharks Pose a Threat to Humans?

According to evidence, only 30 out of 500 can bite humans occasionally. Among them, just a dozen or so are potentially harmful. Additionally, numerous shark species in Virginia have bitten people, including the bull shark, the tiger shark, and the white shark. 

However, all sharks—big and small—are predators. If provoked, they may be able to cause injuries. When you come across them, you should treat them with caution.

The Final Say on Shark Attacks in Virginia

shark and surfers

Virginia is a very famous tourist attraction in the US. A large number of travelers go there to enjoy its beautiful beaches every year. 

However, there has been a rise in shark attacks along its beaches because a large number of mighty sharks are present there. Many shark sightings just off its coast occur from time to time.

Virginia waters are home to the most aggressive sharks in the world. There have been many serious attacks resulting in casualties. So, if you ever visit Virginia beaches, beware of these hidden mighty predators.

Thank you for reading about Shark Attacks in Virginia. If you want to read more about shark attacks also have a look at Shark Attacks in New York, Shark Attacks in California or Shark Attacks in Florida.

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