Photo by Eric Ritter via Flickr Creative Commons
UT San Diego reports that paramedics and lifeguards treated 41 beachgoers for stingray-related injuries on Wednesday. Lifeguard Lt. John Everhart said the majority of the run-ins occured at La Jolla Shores.
Everhart said stingrays are common in the area this time of year, and though the numer of injuries is high, it's not unusual.
Officials set up a triage area where the limping lot could soak their afflicted body parts in buckets of hot water to help ease the pain. At least one person was taken to a hospital with a non life-threatening wound.
Stingrays congregating in mild, coastal waters are often found partially buried in sand, and camouflaged from predators and ocean-wading humans.
People are urged to announce themselves to the hiding, cartilaginous fishes by shuffling their feet along the sandy bottom as they enter and exit the water. The animals will often sense the vibration and calmly swim away. "It doesn’t always work, but it is usually a deterrent," said Everhart.
Though related to sharks, Sea World says rays "are generally peaceful animals," but will react defensively "by stabbing with the sharp, serrated spine at the base of its tail...delivering painful venom" if threatened or accidentally stepped on.
Since stingrays swim by shimmying their bodies like waves, or flapping their "wings," the tail's function is primarily for self defense, says National Geographic.