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‘Just learning to hunt,’ sharks bite 2 teens in Florida

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NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. (Reuters) — Sharks attacked and injured two young women in separate incidents in the waters off New Smyrna beach just south of Daytona Beach, Fla., officials said Monday.

Danielle Shidemantle, 19, of Lake Mary, Fla., was briefly hospitalized and then released after what was described as a 3-foot shark sunk its teeth into her thigh and then let go in the early afternoon on Sunday, Volusia County Deputy Beach Chief Joe Wooden said.

Barely two hours later, in a more serious incident, a shark bit Amber Benningfield, 13, from Bowling Green, Ky., in her calf. The girl underwent surgery on Sunday and was listed in stable condition on Monday, hospital officials said.

The girls were both swimming with friends on the beach's northern end when young sharks, most likely black tip or spinner sharks, bit them.

"They're learning to hunt, to eat fish," Wooden said of the sharks. "They get disoriented and start biting down on anything that moves. When they bite down and realize it's not something they usually eat, they let go."

Neither species are man-eaters, Wooden said, adding that young sharks learning to track down bait fish, which swim in large schools at New Smyrna Beach, are easily confused by shallow waters and flurries of activity.

Last year, Volusia County had the highest incidence of shark attacks in Florida, the state with the highest incidence of shark attacks in the United States, which in turn is the country with the highest incidence of shark attacks in the world, according to the International Shark Attack File compiled by researchers at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Of the 58 unprovoked shark attacks reported worldwide in 1999, 37 occurred in the United States, 25 in Florida, and 9 in Volusia county, the ISAF found.

Wooden said as far as he knew, none of the attacks at New Smyrna have ever resulted in death.