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Sting ray Ė any one of numerous rays having one or more large sharp barbed dorsal spines on the whiplike tail and capable of inflicting severe wounds.

Even the most macho of young men writhe in pain, teary-eyed and cursing the denizen of the deep that wounded their foot or ankle or leg. One misstep and yeoww!

Stingrays are found in calm shallow water where they feed on any bottom living animals. Related to sharks, itís not their teeth that injure thousands of humans each year. Itís the spine on their tail that inflicts the damage.

Surfers wading through the shore break are common victims. When you step on a rayís body its tail whips forward in defense and the venomous spine punctures or slices the victimís flesh. Within minutes the excruciating pain begins.

Although seldom fatal, the wounds hurt. A lot!


The best protection is prevention. When you walk out through the surf, especially on a sandy bottom, shuffle, donít step. Thatís not a guaranteed solution, but pushing a ray out of the way and scaring it off is a lot better than scaring it into defensive mode.

If you do get hit, your friends will be full of advice about pouring various substances on it including beer, urine and meat tenderizer. These are just old wives tales.

The only cure

The only effective way to treat a minor wound is by soaking it in water as hot as you can stand it for about 1.5 to 2 hours. Simple, shallow punctures and small cuts are painful but time will heal them. When youíve finished the soaking, treat the injury with antiseptic and bandage if necessary.

If the wound is deep or bleeding a lot, or if strong pain lasts more than a couple of hours, seek medical attention.

Rays are amazing creatures, but they can be a pain if youíre not careful.