Florida doesn’t have a monopoly on shark attacks. Here are the last 3 to happen in Hilton Head

With the many recent shark attacks in the Southeastern region of the country, including one from Walton County along the Florida and Alabama border that has garnered national attention, it’s important to note past shark attacks on the island. Shark sightings aren’t as infrequent as many might think for this popular beach destination.

In 2021, The Island Packet reported shark attacks off the island on two separate occasions.

In May 2021, a 26-year-old man was swimming at Burkes beach on Hilton Head when he suddenly felt pressure as teeth bit into his flesh. This shark, which was estimated to be about 5 feet long, bit Wyatt Bowman in his heel and lower ankle. When emergency medical services arrived, they told him the bite was serious. Following orthopedic surgery, Bowman was unable to walk in the three to four weeks following, as previously reported by The Island Packet.

In August 2021, a lifeguard was bitten near the Barrington Arms Villas complex at Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort on Hilton Head while doing a check for currents, which was said to be routine. The lifeguard was reported to have had several lacerations following the incident and was treated at a hospital in Savannah for non-life-threatening injuries. At the time, Lowcountry shark expert Chip Michalove noted that it was likely a blacktip shark, according to a previously published story by The Island Packet.

In February of 2022, The Island Packet reported when the same Hilton Head charter captain, Chip Michalove, caught and tagged another 10-foot great white off the island. One of his boat mates, Ben Friedman, jumped into the ocean with the shark to retrieve a fishing line that had been snagged on a barnacle under the middle of their boat’s hull. Friedman was successful in freeing the line and remained unharmed.

In the summer of 2018, an 11-year-old Hampton County boy named Jei Turrell was bitten by a shark at Hilton Head, according to The Island Packet. A 5-foot shark sunk its teeth into his forearm while he and his brother were splashing in waist-deep water on a Hilton Head beach.

It was reported that shark attacks doubled in 2017 in South Carolina with 10 recorded attacks, eight of which were in Hilton Head. Documented shark attacks in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans along the U.S. coasts have been on the rise in recent years, a trend that researchers say has occurred because more people are visiting the beach with warming temperatures, an improving economy, and a recovering shark population that was nearly annihilated from overfishing in the 1980s and 90s.

Hilton Head Island is known to have shark sightings and “feeding-time” can even be seen along the island’s beaches on occasion. When fish begin popping out of the water along the shoreline or further out, sharks may well be in the area.