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“The Shark Smacked Me From Behind”: Florida Man Survives Shark Attack



In a Nutshell:

  • Ethan Wilder, a 22-year-old spearfisher, survived a suspected bull shark attack near Davis Reef off Islamorada in the Florida Keys. The shark bit his ankle as he was surfacing with a caught fish, leading to surgical tendon repair and stitches in his leg.
  • While the United States, particularly Florida, has more recorded shark attacks than any other country since 1580, fatalities are rare. The three species mainly responsible for attacks in Florida are requiem, bull, and blacktip sharks.
  • Despite the traumatic experience, Wilder is now in recovery, focusing on wound care and infection prevention. He will be in a boot for six weeks to ensure proper tendon healing and plans to have his stitches removed in a week.

Spearfishing in the Florida Keys took a dangerous turn for 22-year-old Ethan Wilder, who survived an apparent bull shark attack near Davis Reef off Islamorada.

“I had just speared a fish,” Wilder told Newsweek.

“Once I had the fish in my hand, I swam back up to the surface with it and right before I went to swim back to the boat the shark smacked me from behind.”

As he surfaced with his caught fish, Wilder was blindsided by the shark, which bit his ankle.

He managed to swim back to the boat, where his friend pulled him aboard, and they called the U.S. Coast Guard.

“I got flown from Islamorada to Jackson South Medical Center in Miami where I went into surgery so they could repair a tendon in my ankle as well as stitch my leg back together,” Wilder explained.

Thankfully, he is now in recovery, focusing on keeping his wound clean to avoid any potential infection.

Despite the frightful experience, Wilder is confident about the shark species that attacked him.


“I am about 98 percent sure it was a bull shark because right when it bit me I turned around and saw the shark’s oval nose for about a second or two before I swam away,” he recounted.

Data from the Florida Museum’s Shark Attack File reveals that the U.S., and particularly Florida, has witnessed more shark attacks since 1580 than any other country.

In the past decade, Florida has seen over 250 attacks compared to Australia’s 143.

However, fatal shark attacks in Florida are rare, with the last fatality occurring in 2010.

The three species mainly responsible for these attacks since 1926 are the requiem, bull, and blacktip sharks.

With over two-thirds of the attacks attributed to them, these apex predators are certainly a risk for swimmers and fishermen alike.

After undergoing surgery, Wilder was discharged the following day.

He will return in a week for the removal of his stitches and will wear a boot for six weeks to aid the proper healing of his tendon.


The Florida Museum provides guidelines to minimize risks of shark encounters, such as swimming with a buddy, staying close to the shore, avoiding swimming at dawn or dusk, and not swimming near fishing activities.

If a shark is spotted, it advises maintaining eye contact, moving away slowly, and avoiding excessive splashing.


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