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Man attacked by shark off popular Cape Cod beach

A sun-splashed day at the beach on Cape Cod was marred by a rare shark attack Monday, witnessed by horrified onlookers who saw a dorsal fin break the surface moments before the victim was bitten.

The man, who was in his forties, was body-surfing with another male who witnesses believe was his son at Ballston Beach in Truro, about one-third of a mile offshore when he was bitten on both legs, according to local reports. A surgeon who happened to be at the popular beach and witnessed the attack treated the man until an emergency crew arrived, according to Fox affiliate WFXT-TV.

The surgeon said he believed it was a bull shark, although the possibility remains that it could have been a great white, according to one expert, who noted a high population of seals in the area has attracted the fearsome predators.

“I’ve never seen bites like that.”

- Brian Davis, Truro fire chief

Several witnesses reported seeing the telltale fin skimming above the surface as the fish zeroed in on the man, who was taken to Cape Cod Hospital, then transferred to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

“We were watching,” Walter Palmer of Philadelphia told the Cape Cod Times. “A very large black dorsal fin came up between the two of them. A lot of people saw it. They started swimming back. The son was calling for help. I’m not an expert on shark fish. It was not a seal.”

Shark sightings have been on the rise in the area, and great whites  

The man was conscious after the 3:30 p.m. attack, and when asked by a reporter how he was doing he gave the thumbs up as he was being carried away. 

He had severe cuts on both legs but he won’t lose a limb, Truro Fire Chief Brian Davis said.

“I guess he tried to kick the animal off,” Davis told the newspaper. “I’ve never seen bites like that.”

Shark expert Greg Skomal of the state’s Division of Marine Fisheries said he could not dtermine the species of shark until he can see the wounds and speak with the victim and witnesses.

“We know what a white shark bite looks like," Skomal said "In a year where there’s a high seal abundance and we’re seeing great white sharks, it’s on the list of potential candidates.”

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