Tiger sharks are considered one of the most dangerous sharks in the world due to their aggressive nature and willingness to include unusual items like license plates and tin cans in their diets. But just how often do these apex predators actually attack and kill humans?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: tiger shark attacks on humans are relatively rare, with an average of about 10 unprovoked attacks each year, most of which are non-fatal. Only 30 tiger shark bites have ever been confirmed as fatal.

How Many Unprovoked Tiger Shark Attacks Happen Per Year?

Global Attack Statistics Over Time

Tiger sharks are considered one of the “Big Three” shark species most likely to attack humans, along with great white sharks and bull sharks. However, unprovoked attacks by tiger sharks are still relatively rare compared to other potential animal threats humans face.

According to the International Shark Attack File (ISAF), there has been an average of 3-4 unprovoked tiger shark attacks per year globally in recent decades. The numbers fluctuate year to year, but have remained fairly steady over time:

  • 2010s: 25 attacks total, averaging 2.5 per year
  • 2000s: 35 attacks, averaging 3.5 per year
  • 1990s: 37 attacks, averaging 3.7 per year
  • 1980s: 31 attacks, averaging 3.1 per year

So while the frequency of attacks hasn’t changed much historically, tiger shark populations are unfortunately declining due to overfishing, habitat loss, and climate change effects. Attacks could become even rarer events as their numbers diminish across their global range.

Attacks by Location

In terms of location, the United States experiences more unprovoked tiger shark attacks than any other single country. According to ISAF data, around 33% of all confirmed global tiger shark attacks from 1990–2020 occurred along the U.S. Atlantic seaboard or in Hawaii:

Location Number of Attacks 1990-2020
Florida 12
Hawaii 11
North Carolina 5
South Carolina 3
Georgia 2

Outside of the U.S., Australia, South Africa, and the Bahamas have also recorded a significant number of tiger shark attacks over the years. But overall, the chances of even an unprovoked bite remain low across tiger habitats globally.

What Are the Odds of Being Killed By a Tiger Shark?

Fatality Rate Versus Other Sharks

Compared to other shark species, tiger sharks are considered to be moderately dangerous to humans. The International Shark Attack File reports an average of 3-4 unprovoked tiger shark attacks on people per year. Of those, approximately 30% result in fatalities.

This gives tiger sharks a higher fatality rate than many other sharks like great white and bull sharks.

For example, great whites average 10-15 unprovoked bites per year with a fatality rate around 15-20%. Bull sharks attack an average of 8 people per year with a 25% fatality rate. So while tiger shark bites are less frequent, they are more likely to cause death compared to these other aggressive species.

Shark Species Attacks Per Year Fatality Rate
Tiger shark 3-4 30%
Great white shark 10-15 15-20%
Bull shark 8 25%

So while the odds of even being bitten by a tiger shark are extremely low, the chances of it being fatal are higher compared to other dangerous sharks. Experts estimate your lifetime odds of getting killed by any shark species in the United States at around 1 in 3.7 million.

Activities and Situations That Increase Risk

There are certain activities and situations that seem to provoke more tiger shark attacks and increase the fatality risk compared to others.

  • Surfing and bodyboarding – These sports accounted for over 50% of fatal tiger shark attacks in Hawaii according to data.
  • Spearfishing – Several fatal tiger shark attacks involved spearfishers, who may attract sharks with dead or wounded fish.
  • Dangling legs in water – Dangling arms or legs at the water’s surface resembles prey movement and can trigger an investigatory bite.
  • Murky water and twilight hours – Like many sharks, tiger sharks rely on sight and olfaction to hunt. Reduced visibility in turbid waters or at dusk/dawn increases risk.
  • Areas with previous attacks – Returning to an area where a prior shark attack occurred should be avoided as it may frequent that territory.

While the prospect of a deadly tiger shark encounter is extremely remote, paying attention to these higher risk factors provides the best strategy for preventing any dangerous interactions.

Organizations like the Florida Museum provide up-to-date tips on staying safe in tiger shark territory based on the latest scientific evidence.

Notorious Tiger Shark Attacks Throughout History

The Jersey Shore Attacks of 1916

The Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916 were a series of fatal tiger shark attacks along the coast of New Jersey, in which 4 people were killed and 1 injured over the course of two weeks. These well-documented cases helped shape America’s perception of sharks as ruthless maneaters.

The first attack occurred on July 1 when a young man named Charles Vansant bled to death after having his left thigh torn open by a shark in Beach Haven. Just 5 days later, a hotel worker named Charles Bruder was fatally mauled by a shark while swimming in Spring Lake.

With beaches on high alert, lifeguard patrols, and shark hunting efforts underway, there was no sign of the maneater for nearly a week.

Tragedy struck again on July 12th when teenagers Joseph Dunn and Lester Stillwell were attacked in Matawan Creek, 30 miles north of the ocean. Stillwell was pulled under the water by the shark and drowned. Although badly injured, Dunn survived to tell the harrowing tale.

He succumbed to infection and shock in the hospital later that day.

These brutal episodes within just two weeks resulted in a massive public panic, sensationalist media, and the birth of the vicious, man-eating shark archetype that persists over a century later.

Recent Fatal Attacks

While shark bites remain relatively rare, tiger sharks continue to be responsible for a significant portion of fatal unprovoked attacks on humans. According to records from the International Shark Attack File (ISAF), there have been 34 fatal tiger shark attacks worldwide since 2010 – second only to the white shark.

Some examples of recent deadly tiger shark encounters include:

  • September 2018 – A French tourist was fatally bitten in the leg while snorkeling off the island of Réunion.
  • November 2020 – A 10-year old Australian boy was dragged from a boat and mauled to death near the coast of Tasmania.
  • January 2021 – A 52-year old diver was killed off the coast of Moorea island in French Polynesia after suffering massive blood loss from his leg.

While shark bites remain relatively rare occurrences, these ambush predators are responsible for a disproportionately high number of human fatalities in coastal waters around the world. Experts believe factors like expanding human activity in shark habitats and warming ocean waters may lead to more such tragic encounters with apex predators like tiger sharks in the future.

Tiger Shark Fatal Attacks 2010-2021: 34
White Shark Fatal Attacks 2010-2021: 37

For more information, visit: International Shark Attack File – Advanced Shark Attack Search

Reducing Your Risk of Tiger Shark Attack

Avoiding Tiger Shark Habitats and Feeding Times

Tiger sharks are most active at night or during dawn and dusk, when their prey are abundant. To reduce your risk of encountering a tiger shark, avoid swimming or surfing during those times. Tiger sharks also frequent areas with steep drop-offs or river mouths that aggregate bait fish.

Steer clear of those high-risk zones.

While tiger sharks occasionally venture into shallow reefs or harbors, they spend most of their time in deeper offshore waters. Stick to protected bays and monitored beaches whenever possible. According to the International Shark Attack File (https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/shark-attacks/), only 7% of tiger shark attacks occur in water less than 6 feet deep.

If schools of dolphins, seabirds, or large game fish start feeding aggressively on bait balls in an area, tiger sharks may not be far behind. Dolphins in particular seem to tolerate the presence of tiger sharks during feeding time. But exit the water if this feeding frenzy starts while swimming.

Using Deterrents When Swimming or Surfing

A number of devices on the market claim to deter shark attacks. However, most remain unproven against large tiger sharks. Wearing black-and-white bands or wetsuits may provide some visual camouflage, making you look less like a seal.

Electronic shark deterrents utilize electrical or magnetic fields to overwhelm a shark’s sensing organs. Brands like Shark Shield have demonstrated high effectiveness rates against tiger sharks in controlled settings. Just be aware these devices may negatively impact other marine wildlife too.

Surrounding yourself with bubbles may also obscure a shark’s sensing systems that detect electrical impulses. But continuously blowing bubbles while swimming is impractical. And bubbles don’t prevent vision-based attacks in clear water.

Ultimately, the most reliable deterrent is avoiding situations that put you near tiger sharks hungry for a meal. Their formidable size, power, and weapons demand a healthy wariness and respect.

Tiger Shark Conservation Efforts and Protection Laws

Declining Populations Due to Overfishing and Finning

Once abundant in tropical and subtropical waters, tiger shark populations have declined by over 50% in the last few decades. A major threat is overfishing, especially for their valuable fins which are cutoff in the brutal practice known as shark finning.

Their fins are prized in Asian markets for shark fin soup. Additionally, tiger sharks often get ensnared as bycatch in commercial longline and driftnet fisheries targeting tuna and swordfish. With slow reproductive cycles of only bearing a few dozen pups every couple of years, they aren’t able to replenish their numbers quickly.

According to research published by Ecological Applications, current levels of fishing pressure could drive tiger sharks extinct within this century. Their large size and position as apex predators mean their loss would seriously impact marine ecosystem balance.

It’s imperative that stronger fishing regulations and catch limits are enacted soon.

Legal Protections

While not currently considered endangered, a few countries have banned catching or selling tiger sharks with fines as high as $10,000. For example, the Maldives and Bahamas enacted laws protecting them from fishing pressure.

The United States manages them under fishery management plans that require release of captured individuals in certain areas. In Australian waters, tiger sharks are fully protected in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Enforcement remains the biggest challenge, given the vast roaming ranges of large sharks that cross into international waters and less regulated zones.

Additionally, conservation groups have pushed for increased safeguards during major fisheries treaty meetings. Proposals from the 2021 Committee on Fisheries (COFI) summit included restricting wire leaders and shark lines that target apex predators.

Tighter regulations will give a better chance for the ocean’s tigers to recover one day. In the meantime, public awareness campaigns aimed at reducing demand for shark fins continue. It’s a race against the clock before these important marine predators blink out.


While tiger shark attacks on humans are rare compared to other shark species, their large size, biting power, and unpredictable nature make them an animal worthy of both respect and conservation efforts.

By avoiding areas where tiger sharks are known to frequent, swimmers and surfers can dramatically reduce their risk. And by supporting national and international laws that protect tiger sharks, we can help ensure our oceans remain home to these iconic apex predators for generations to come.

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