Studying shark - and human - behavior

You may have seen the commercials advertising an all-week shark fest on The Discovery Channel. People were standing around pools or hot tubs with looks of consternation on their faces.

"Do I go in? Do I stay out? Do I stand here wearing my flippers and goggles listening to the theme music from 'Jaws' playing in my head until I see a fin?"

"Who is going to believe there's a Great White in my hot tub? If my agent gets me another job like this, I'm tossing him into a real shark tank."

You have a one-in-a-gazillion-trillion chance of getting bitten by a shark. OK, the Discovery Channel says that your odds of actually getting attacked by a shark are one in 6 million. Of course, if you stay out of the ocean, your odds drop considerably.

The National Safety Council says that the odds of you falling down your stairs are about one in 200,000, showing us that you're more likely to fall down your stairs than get bitten by a shark.

I'm not taking any chances on this one. This is why I'm moving to a one-level house in a landlocked state. Try and get me now, Mr. Shark.

What are the chances that a shark attack will be caught on tape? I'd say pretty darn good if you stand for more than an hour in chum-filled water with a group of bull sharks circling your legs. And, ohmygosh! Happen it did.

Surprise, surprise. The man whose leg was nearly amputated has studied sharks for years. He's a shark behaviorist, meaning he studies the behavior of the finned ones. With that as his chosen field, I'm sort of wondering how he didn't see this one coming - at the very least due to the fact that his hobby appeared to be tossing chum into shark-infested waters, then wading out into the depths with a cameraman in tow.

It appears that Mr. Shark Behaviorist missed the memo about chum actually attracting fish (including sharks) and causing them to want to feed.

And why would the rather large fishie with rows of sharp teeth want to continue with little pieces of ground-up bait when there was obviously a grander buffet of leg o'human on the menu?

Just before the shark rearranged his anatomy, you could hear the soon-to-be victim on the tape telling another fool standing there with him that it was safe to stand there because the sharks would never touch them if they weren't moving or causing the sharks to feel threatened.

Since they weren't moving, it's obvious that the sight of naked, white, hairy legs frightens more than just me. The shark was so scared that he had a chompfest to rid himself of that sight.

Which brings me to another question: These people are spending untold amounts of money studying the behavior of sharks to understand them better. We don't even understand each other yet!

Where are the teenager behaviorists? I could use one. Where are the actors-turned-political-hopefuls behaviorists? Find out what makes them tick, is what I say.

And then this whole strapping-bombs-to-your-body-and-blow-yourself-up thing - where's the accredited course for stupidity behaviorists? Stay on the land, people, stay on the land.

After the big shark attack and the surgeries to correct what Mr. Shark had removed, the victim wanted to meet other people in the Shark Bite Club (a Shark Bite Support Group, if you will).

As far as I could tell, Mr. Shark Behaviorist was the only one in the room who had deliberately gone looking to stand in shark-infested waters with chum churning around his legs. A Darwin Award contender, if ever there was one.

I wonder what the other shark-bite victims thought of Mr. Shark Behaviorist?

"Uh, you actually stood in a group of sharks and tossed out chum?"

"Yep, and man, was it a surprise when that big one grabbed my leg!"


"Yeah. How did you get bit?"

"I was swimming."

"With sharks?"

"With my son."

"No sharks?"

"Well, obviously there must have been one, because I'm missing my right arm."

"Oh, yeah, right."

And the Darwin Awards has another dishonorable mention.

Freelance columnist Pamela Troeppl Kinnaird can be reached at Pamela

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