How Do Stingrays Sting

Stingray is notorious, especially on the east coast, as a trash fish to most people and is able to ruin your day if you are not able to handle it and it stings you. You can dehook this fish and get your bait back in the water if you know how much stingray injuries can hurt you. How do Stingrays sting?  

If threatened, a stingray will whip its tail at you, which can reach up over its head, stinging you with one or more of its spines piercing your skin and leaving a laceration or puncture wound in your skin as the sheath around each spine breaks apart & release venom into the wound and surrounding tissue. 

Stingrays are known to be gentle creatures and won’t bother humans if not disturbed. However, humans often step on them since stingrays bury themselves underneath the sand in shallow waters, where fishermen often catch them dragging weighted lines back to shore.


How Do Stingrays Sting


                    Stingray Barbed Tail

If stingrays are stepped on or handled roughly, or even spooked, their tails will whip forward toward their head, or to the side. They use their tails as a weapon. At the end of a stingray’s tail, is a stingray spine called its caudal appendage, which lies its venom appendage.

Located at the tail, a ray has long spines measuring several inches long and is typically thought of as what puts the sting in stingray lay within a grooved abscess in the tail known as the cuneiform area.

These spines are essentially hidden from sight when the stingray is unthreatened. These venomous barbs will cause a stingray injury and a reaction could put an end to a great day of fishing or, at the very least, put you out of commission for a while.

The Barbs on a Stingray are always located on the tail. They are at different locations on the tail of the fish mostly at the base or just off the base where the tail meets the body.

The farther up the barb has located, the better your chances are of getting stung when handling one of these creatures. Barbs typically have venom in addition to a sharp stinger. (You can make out the protruding stinger in the picture)

The venom on the stinger is produced by a venom gland in the skin of the tail. Some species have fairly weak venom, so most of the pain associated with being stung is from the bleeding wound itself.

However, some species of stingray have stronger venom, and the pain associated with the venom may be felt throughout the appendage that was stung. In A fisherman’s scenario, you are most likely going to be stung on the hand trying to dehook the Stingray.

Stingers on stingrays fall off as they get old, and a new one grows in its place. Sometimes when a Stingray uses its stinger for defense, the stinger breaks off, but the stingray will grow a new stinger creating the venom as the old one could do.

Some stingrays like Eagle Rays may have 5-6 stingers that are stacked on top of each other, making them even harder to handle.

A stingray barb protrudes around 6 inches from the base of the fish. Stingrays are cartilaginous fishes just like sharks, skates, and chimeras. That means that their skeletons are made not out of bone but out of cartilage (the bendy stuff that’s in our ears and noses).


A Stingray Wound


When a Stingray attacks, they normally sense that they are in danger. 90% of the time Stepping on one is how most people get stung. A stingray in most cases would react after being stepped on and use their stinger on whoever feet it was. But for the most part. It’s an ocean fisherman that would normally be a victim and is stung if not carefully handling or trying to recover the hook from a stingray’s mouth.

When a stingray attacks, it must be facing its victim because it will use the flipping motion of its long tail upward over its body, so it strikes whatever is in front of it. It’s pretty quick and can catch you by surprise. One or more of the stingray’s spines may pierce your skin creating a puncture wound. It releases venom from the barb a stingray’s venom is not necessarily fatal but pain is involved.

I know I’ve been there. The sting contains a sharp spine with serrated edges, or barbs, that face the body of the fish. There is a venom gland at the base of the spine and a membrane-like sheath that covers the entire defense mechanism. 

If you take the time to watch this video, you will see that the angler took precautions and extra time to deal humanely with this Ray, and it still stung him in his hand, probably because it was hooked in the tail and the mouth making it super difficult to deal with.



A stingray’s venom is composed of the enzymes 5-nucleotidase and phosphodiesterase and the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin causes smooth muscle to contract, and it is this component that makes the venom so painful. Having been stung by a stingray myself, I can attest to how much pain. I pride myself on being extra careful when handling these fish and avoiding injury. A stingray injury is when one or more of its spines that carry venom may pierce your skin the puncture wound could get infected.


Stingray Shuffle Keep from Getting Stung


If you are not sure whether the ocean water you are standing or walking in has Stingrays laying buried in the sand there is a way of walking called the Stingray Shuffle. 

You can shuffle your feet to ward off nearby stingrays by:

  • Sliding your feet on the sand in the water.
  • Try to push the sand forward with each foot.
  • Start shuffling your feet on the sand as you make your way into the water to protect yourself.
  • Avoid picking up your feet and placing them back onto the ground, which doesn’t work well for scaring off stingrays because it doesn’t cause any vibrations to be generated.

If you still happen to bump into a stingray while shuffling your feet, there’s less chance of getting stung rather than if you step directly on their back.


Do Stingrays Die After They Sting

There are reports of stingers breaking off in wounds, but this may be rare. This would not be fatal to the stingray as it will be regrown at a rate of about 1.25 to 2 centimeters (0.49 to 0.79 in) per month (though with significant variations depending on the size of the stingray and the exact species). Do stingray stingers grow back? Stingray spines are like fingernails, in that they lack nerves and grow back after a period of time.


How to Unhook a Stingray Without Getting Stung


There are a few things that I have learned when dealing with a Stingray, especially in a surf environment where there are other factors involved, like sand, water, wave action, and tides, that can affect your balance and footing. Stingrays prefer not to sting if they can help it, but dehooking them is a challenge.

Most stingray injuries can be avoided if you would use care and keep away from one or more of its spines that may pierce your skin. I have been stung before, and it’s not pleasant.

The Stingray injury bite is just as bad as its sting. Look for symptoms of infection at the wound. Stay away from the stingray’s tail and cover the barb on its tail with something heavy. A stingray’s venom is not necessarily fatal. But a stingrays injury can ruin a beach trip.

There are a few things that I have learned when dealing with a Stingray, especially in a surf environment where there are other factors involved, like sand, water, wave action, and tides, that can affect your balance and footing.

Stingrays prefer not to sting if they can help it. A stingray sting is delivered from a barb and causes a puncture wound with pain and poison at the site of the wound. Stingray injuries, in some cases, cause danger to your health and even death, like in the case of Steve Irwin, who was hit in the chest through the heart by a stingray’s spine.

They also have teeth that bite. Stingrays sting and do bite, so it’s a good idea for a person to know how to handle them; if you catch a Stingray, how would you get them off the hook and off the beach and back into the water without being stung or any other injury? One or more of one or more of its spines may pierce your skin from the fishtail. The injury from the stingray’s sting sometimes is delayed.

If you do get stung at the beach, seek emergency medical care. If the stingray injury shows signs of stingray venom or symptoms of poison or infection at the wound, see a doctor. 

  • The main thing to do is to drag the stingray out of the water up onto the beach out of the surf
  • Flip the Stingray on its back on the sand out of the ocean water
  • Use a wet washrag or thicker type cloth rag and hold the water stingrays tail down at the stinger barb to keep you from getting stung.
  • Remove the hook with needlenose pliers-(Remember, Stingrays can also Bite!) In both cases, there is usually blood and pain.
  • With the same hand, you are holding the barb on the tail-pick it up, and throw it back off the beach into the water.
  • Always use a circle hook for easier hook retrieval.



    Treat Emergency Medical Stingray Wound With Hot Water


    According to WebMD 

    1. Bathe the Wound in Seawater and Remove Pieces from the barb. While still in the water, irrigate the wound to remove fragments of spine and tissue. …
    2. Stop Bleeding. Apply pressure above the wound if it is bleeding.
    3. Soak the Wound in Hot Water For Pain Relief. …
    4. Scrub Wound. …
    5. Go to a Hospital Emergency Room.
    6. Follow Up.

    A person who experiences stingray stings most likely was walking in the ocean water at the beach, and one or more of its spines may pierce your skin or feet. The pain from a stingray venom can be dramatic and medical care.


     How Often Do Stingrays Sting?

    Every year, about 1,500-2,000 stingray injuries are reported in the US most of those occur in places like Florida or California, where there are warm, coastal waters contrary to its reputation, the stingray ……………………………………………………..  Read more


     Jim Galloway Author/Editor



    How Stuff Works-When Stingrays Attack

    California State University-Stingray Facts



    Related Questions:
    How did a stingray kill Steve?
    While swimming in chest-deep water, Steve Irwin approached a short-tail stingray, with an approximate span of two meters (6.5 ft), from the rear, in order to film it swimming away. He initially believed he had only a punctured lung; however, the stingray’s barb pierced his heart, causing him to bleed to death.
    How painful is a stingray sting?
    The sting of a stingray causes a bleeding wound that may become swollen and turn blue or red. It causes excruciating pain and can result in death. Severe symptoms may include nausea, fever, muscle cramps, paralysis, elevated heart rate, and seizures.


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