Hammerhead Shark Chases Beachgoers From Ocean City Surf

A hammerhead shark has been repeatedly sighted close to shore in Ocean City, Maryland, causing beachgoers to flee the water for nearly 24 hours before the animal eventually departed the area.

The shark was first spotted on Wednesday afternoon, according to the Washington Post, swimming unusually close to shore. Ocean City beach patrol tracked the hammerhead using ATVs, warning beachgoers along their route of the shark's presence. Swimmers watched the animal as it glided by in the surf, just a few feet offshore, while lifeguards observed that the shark's strange behavior could mean that the six to seven-foot-long predator was, in actuality, injured.

"It seems to be sick or injured in some way," said beach patrol captain Butch Arbin. "This is unusual behavior."

Though the shark posed no risk to swimmers in the region, according to the beach patrol, the mere sight of the hammerhead's imposing dorsal fin was enough to dissuade even the bravest of beachgoers from entering the surf. At one point, the shark appeared to be heading toward a group of boogie boarders, prompting lifeguards to race after it, whistles blowing.Though hammerhead sharks are usually wary in the presence of humans, the animal sighted on Wednesday and Thursday repeatedly attempted to beach itself among the crowds of people who had flocked to the ocean. On Thursday morning, the shark was photographed on a sandbar just 15 meters from shore, according to NBC Washington. Due to the hammerhead's uncharacteristic behavior, biologists from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Baltimore's National Aquarium were alerted, and actively tracked the shark's movements.The hammerhead is the second shark of its species to cause a stir in the region this week. On Monday, a deceased hammerhead washed ashore at Fenwick Island in Delaware, giving birth to a litter of pups shortly before it died. Video of a similar incident involving another hammerhead, which was recorded in Florida, spread online earlier this month, as the Inquisitr previously reported.

Later in the day on Thursday, the shark departed the beach, swimming back out into the Assateague Bay. Despite its odd behavior of the previous 24 hours, the hammerhead left a number of sightings in its wake, spurring several researchers to wonder whether multiple sharks had actually been responsible for the incidents.

[Image: First Lt. Skip Lee, Ocean City Beach Patrol via NBC Washington]