Leaping Leviathans in Florida


For the second time in recent memory someone was struck in the Florida Keys after a ray lept from the water and into a boat.  Apparently tourists vacationing off Marathon spooked a spotted eagle ray that lept onboard, struck one woman and knocked her into the decking.  Unfortunately she died of the injury to her head. 

The CNN article makes mention of the infamous death of Steve Irwin in 2006 after he was barbed by a bull stringray in Australia, and it referenced the first leaping-ray-injury I can recall that followed shortly after Irwin’s death in September.  Apparently the first man, who was also in Florida at the time, did actually survive that experience. 

On top of the rays Florida has other leaping leviathans.  The Suwannee River caught national attention last summer when reports of sturgeon collisions surfaced.  In fact, Florida Fish and Wildlife reported twelve strikes over a forty-mile zone in the span of two years from the Suwannee to Manatee Springs. 

Its all enough to make you wonder what exactly is going on with the fish in this state.  We’re already seeing chatter on the interwebs and from the public that these things are signs of global warming, or pollution, or that the fish are out for revenge.  The truth is that it’s probably not the fish. 

Each of these events are considered to be freak accidents and the products of unfortunate timing and human reaction.  They’re coincidences.  Unfortunate events.  And we’re probably seeing more of them because of the steady increase of people who are out in Florida’s waters on a daily basis. 

The current estimates tell us that Florida’s residential population grows roughly one thousand people each day.  Each day.  Most move here for the weather and the natural beauty of the state.  Many eventually own boats or jet skis or participate in water related fun in some other way. 

The more people out on the water the more likely it is that we will see rare reports of strange events and sightings of animals that probably were unknown in state waters previously.  And the more likely it is that we will continue to see human and willdife interactions that lead to tragic circumstances for one… or both. 

Ultimately this is just one more legend, one more myth, that environmental educators may eventually need to dispel.  Stingrays don’t leap out of boats in a drastic effort to exact revenge.  Sometimes, there are no explanations for the things that happen in nature.  Hopefully, if these events can defy rationalization, then we can find ways to keep them from becoming sources of fear as well.