A state fisheries biologist has confirmed that a 16-year-old Delmar boy was bitten by a shark at Cape Henlopen State Park late Monday afternoon.
State officials reopened the beach for swimming just after 1 p.m. Tuesday, after observing the waters from the shore and a helicopter.
Collin O'Mara, secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, led other observers on a state police helicopter tour of the ocean off the park. He said they saw many other fish species in the area but no sign of sharks, and felt Monday's incident was an isolated one.
Shortly before life guards at the state park went off duty at 5 p.m., the boy felt something grab his left arm as he stood in 5 to 5½ feet of water, said Wayne D. Kline, state park chief of enforcement.
The boy saw what he described as a shark, hit it with his right hand and the animal swam off.
On Tuesday morning, state fisheries biologist Scott Newlin, said photos of the boy's injuries indicate the bite did come from a juvenile shark.
"Based on the bites, I'm thinking it was a juvenile sand bar" shark, he said.
The wound was significant enough that the boy received nearly two-dozen stitches at Beebe Healthcare's hospital in Lewes.
In addition, Newlin said, his right hand had an abrasion from striking the sandpaper-like skin of the shark.
Park officials opened the beach Tuesday morning but kept it off-limits to swimming while the area was checked.
Newlin said a large sturgeon carcass washed in on Sunday and that may have been enough to draw sharks to the area. In addition, there are numerous juvenile sharks in the area at this time of year, he said.
Newlin estimated the shark was probably 3½ feet long. Anything larger, he said, likely would have pulled the boy under. The reason: Sharks are extremely powerful, he said.