If you’re wondering whether hammerhead sharks attack people and if hammerheads are aggressive, this article will answer your questions. Your reason for asking questions about hammerhead sharks may be because you live where sharks are found off the beach, like hammerheads in Florida, or because you’d like to scuba dive with hammerheads. Which is why it’s important to know whether hammerhead sharks are aggressive to humans and if they attack people.
Hammerhead sharks are not aggressive to humans, unless they are provoked, and they are not known to attack people either. But hammerheads are aggressive hunters in the wild and can often be found hunting in the shallows off beaches in Florida.
Each time I’ve encountered hammerhead sharks myself when diving, they have often disappeared quite quickly. I once came face-to-face with a hammerhead shark on the Elphinstone Reef dive site diving in the Red Sea from a Red Sea liveaboard, and I’m not sure who was more surprised…me or the hammerhead.
Please read to the end of this article to discover which sharks you need to be more careful with when scuba diving with sharks. But before you do, please watch the first video of a huge great hammerhead aggressively hunting blacktip sharks in their migration along Florida’s Atlantic coast.
The question is; will one of these large hammerhead sharks catch one of the migrating blacktip sharks?
Context to hammerhead shark aggression vs human aggressive behaviour
Before I continue with my article about whether hammerhead sharks are aggressive, I wanted to explain a misconception people have about animals and aggressive behaviour, especially when it comes to sharks like the hammerhead shark.
Many people humanise the behaviour of aggression in animals, as if it is somehow bad. Aggression is generally not an acceptable behaviour between fellow humans, and is quite rightly perceived in a negative way, and to make things worse, humans have even invented this bizarre behaviour of passive aggression too.
If you now turn to look at animal behaviour, which in this context is hammerhead shark aggression, you need to step back in order to understand why a hammerhead shark needs to be aggressive.
As humans, we have lost that link with nature and the need to hunt to survive, but wild animals have to hunt in order to survive. People are able to go to local stores to buy groceries to eat at home, or can visit the local takeaway or can eat out at a restaurant. Whereas animals in the wild don’t have any of these luxuries.
As a result, animals that are carnivores, which includes hammerhead sharks, have retained the necessity to hunt and kill other animals in order to survive. Hunting is correctly perceived as aggressive behaviour (which is even the case when humans go hunting), but creatures such as hammerhead sharks have to hunt aggressively in terms of speed and ferocity, otherwise they simply would never eat.
However, it is sometimes unfortunate that humans get in the way of the feeding habits of hammerheads sharks. People should always bear in mind that it is humans who are visiting where sharks live, not the other way around.
In respect of visiting where animals live, this is no different to visiting an African savanna. You would still need to be careful when walking near a pride of lions, especially hungry lions, which like sharks are also very aggressive carnivorous hunters.
But I’d also argue that all animals that are carnivores are aggressive. But also, it’s not just carnivores that are aggressive in the wild, as herbivores also need to be aggressive for survival. For example, one of the most dangerous herbivores in Africa is the hippopotamus.
Are hammerhead sharks aggressive to humans?
Hammerhead sharks are not aggressive to humans, but they are aggressive hunters. Hammerhead sharks are not to be underestimated though, and can be defensive and will attack if provoked like any other shark or wild animal.
Take a look at the following video of a great hammerhead aggressively hunting a tarpon.
How aggressive are hammerhead sharks?
Hammerhead sharks are as aggressive as they need to be in order to hunt their prey. Hammerheads are carnivores, which means they have to hunt and kill other wild animals and need to be aggressive hunters in order to survive in the wild.
Are hammerhead sharks bad?
Hammerhead sharks are not bad, but because they are sharks and are creatures that many people fear, they are labelled as bad. Hammerheads are simply wild animals that hunt to eat and survive. The sad part is that hammerheads are on the critically endangered list, due to the numbers killed by humans.
Do hammerhead sharks attack people?
Hammerhead sharks do not attack people, as humans are not their normal prey, but instead hammerheads will aggressively hunt down other sharks, rays, tarpon, smaller fish, octopuses, squid and crustaceans.
You may want to read to the end and watch the last video in this article, which shows a hammerhead shark attempting to attack two snorkelers on the surface. But I’d say that even this behaviour is explained, and not usual for a hammerhead shark.
The following video shows a hammerhead aggressively hunting a stingray.
If you want proof of a hammerhead shark not attacking people, watch how close it swims to a swimmer in Florida, and although this very large shark circles the swimmer, it doesn’t attack him and swims away.
Has a hammerhead shark ever killed anyone?
Can a hammerhead kill a human?
There is no doubt that a hammerhead could kill a human, especially when you consider the size of great hammerhead sharks, which can grow to 6.1 metres (20 feet) in length. But even despite their huge size, a hammerhead shark would rather bolt into the blue than bite a human.
But even if a hammerhead shark’s intention is not to eat the person, and is only making an exploratory bite, hammerhead shark bites can of themselves be fatal if the person has an artery severed when bitten.
Is it safe to swim with hammerhead sharks?
It is generally safe to swim with hammerhead sharks, as they are not known for attacking people. Scuba diving with schooling scalloped hammerheads in places like The Galapagos Islands and Cocos Islands has never resulted in attacks by hammerheads on divers, as the sharks stay away from humans.
However, always be aware that hammerhead sharks are wild creatures with lots of razor sharp teeth, which means they need to be respected at all times. Enjoy watching hammerheads when you dive with them and do not attempt to touch them.
Also, be aware that if you spearfish when hammerheads are nearby, they are likely to be alerted to any injured fish you collect. Spearfishing is considered to be a way of provoking shark attacks, and should be avoided when sharks are present. This also applies to hammerheads, as it does with other shark species (see video below).
Are hammerhead sharks friendly?
Hammerhead sharks are not particularly friendly to humans and can be a bit shy. Hammerhead sharks are easily spooked and will often swim away from scuba divers. But hammerhead sharks in large schools will ignore divers and are very unlikely to ever bite.
In the next video on the Florida Keys, you might say the following hammerhead shark is being friendly. But the reason this shark is interested in the fisherman, who is on his kayak, is because he bled a cero mackerel into the water and had put a chum bag into the water too.
One shark that can be very aggressive and bold is the oceanic whitetip shark. Oceanic whitetip sharks are extremely curious and often when they are around scuba divers they look for openings or weaknesses. Two articles you may like to read about these aggressive sharks include Elphinstone Reef Shark Attack and Brothers Shark Attack: Oceanic Whitetip Shark Attacks Diver.
In this second article, a scuba diver is filmed being attacked by an oceanic whitetip shark. But please be aware that attacks like this are still extremely rare. Included in the article are tips for when diving with sharks and how to stay safe too, plus an explanation about how the diver who was attacked could have avoided the attack.
Having said that, and even though I’ve said that hammerhead sharks are not aggressive to humans, this last video shows that even hammerheads can be aggressive to people too. But in this final video the hammerhead is buzzing these two spearfishermen, and it’s likely it’s interested in the fish they’ve speared and not the divers themselves.
Before you go, you may be as fascinated as I was when I found out what fish eat sharks. In this article there are three amazing videos of other fish eating sharks whole: What Fish Can Eat Sharks, for me it’s the first video I was most amazed at.
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Have fun and be safe!