It’s not every day we hear about stingrays and sharks chasing folks out of the water at the Jersey Shore.

But, swimmers have been ordered out of the ocean on more than one occasion this week, in Spring Lake, Lavallette and Loch Harbor, as a result of stingrays being spotted in the shallow waters along the coast. Apparently the mammals make their way in every year at this time to feed according to Bob Schoelkopf, Founding Director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine. There have also been some shark sightings as well.

“The stingrays come every year at this time to feed on the baby clams that are in the surf. Their mouths are at the bottom of their body. They swim along in the shallows, take scoops of sand up with clams, filter out the sand and eat the clams,” he said. “These animals are wild. They’re not used to being touched or petted. That tail and that barb are there for defensive purposes to protect themselves. They don’t know if you’re being friendly with them or aggressive. If they feel someone on them or trying to touch them or pick them up, they’re going to use that barb.”

Loch Harbor closed the beach after 15 to 30 stingrays were seen. “Most likely they close the beaches as a precaution,” said Schoelkopf. “They don’t want anyone stepping on them because they wouldn’t want to see someone impaled with the barb as it can be quite painful.”

“It’s also very natural in the summertime for sharks to come out and feed because there is plenty of food for them. There’s mackerel, bluefish, kingfish and flounder. All the different types of fish we fish for, the sharks like too,” said Schoelkopf. “We have bull sharks, hammerhead sharks and others in New Jersey. In fact, great whites are born in the back bays of the state waters in the spring. Two or three weeks ago, there was a seven or eight foot great white seen in the Atlantic City area. They’re there every year and we’ve never had any reports of fatalities or anyone getting bitten. Shark attacks in New Jersey are very rare. In fact, the last one was in the 1930s in this area.”

So, what do you do if you see a stingray or shark in the water?

“Get out of the water. Usually lifeguards are your first eyes of defense and if they tell you to get out of the water, it’s usually for a good reason,” he said.