Where The Wild Things Are

It’s been a great week for a swim. The area beaches are pristine, the water is clean and cool, and with the mercury flirting with 90 degrees in recent days, plenty of people are in the water. It’s a quintessential Cape Cod summer. But heed this gentle reminder: the ocean is where the wild things are.

The waters off the Lower and Outer Cape are particularly sharky right now. On Tuesday alone, the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy’s “Sharktivity” phone app went off at least three times, warning of white sharks spotted from beaches between Truro and Eastham. The day before, researchers tagged a shark off Monomoy.

Wondering whether sharks could be in the water where you’re swimming? We offer this tongue-in-cheek test. First, put your finger in the water. Next, put that finger in your mouth. If it tastes salty, sharks could be present.

The truth is this: seals are plentiful in Nantucket Sound and in Pleasant Bay. Sharks are routinely seen on east-facing beaches and in Cape Cod Bay. The only guaranteed way to avoid sharks is to swim in a pond.

The splashy headlines in the Boston media notwithstanding, it’s not news that there are sharks in the ocean. What’s important is to understand the risks of being in the water, and to take prudent steps to minimize the chance of interacting with a shark.

When you’re on the water, stay close to shore and swim, paddle or surf in groups. Follow the instructions on beach signs, heed warning flags and listen to the instructions of lifeguards. Naturally, don’t swim or surf near seals, which are the primary food source of white sharks. There are plenty of other good reasons to stay away from seals, which can inflict nasty bites or scratches. They’re also protected by federal law.

For even more detailed information, we recommend checking out the Cape Cod National Seashore's shark safety webpage at www.nps.gov/caco/planyourvisit/sharksafety.htm.

If you follow these rules, you’ll greatly reduce your risk of getting too close to a white shark. And you’ll be able to focus on the important parts of summer: the sun, surf and sand – and the ice cream truck.