Avoiding Stingray Encounters

Is there a real danger

Q: In the wake of the bizarre death-by-stingray of Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, I've been wondering about encountering them while fly-fishing. I understand that they lie hidden in the sand on flats and can really hurt you. Are they really a danger? Should I avoid wading?

Roly Mendez
Key West

A: It's true that stingrays inhabit all tropical and subtropical flats. The few anglers whom I have known who stepped on one did have to get to a hospital for treatment. But if you follow a simple procedure, you should never get hurt. First, realize that the stingray doesn't want to get stepped on any more than you want to get stung. They will usually flee from what they consider to be danger - including wading anglers. When you wade, always shuffle your feet along the bottom. Don't lift your feet and step forward as in a normal walking manner. By sliding the foot forward, you will touch the ray, which should immediately flee and hopefully leave you unharmed.