Rays swarmed off parts of North Carolina’s Outer Banks over the weekend, creating an intimidating scene of churning waters for tourists visiting Cape Lookout National Seashore.
The National Park Service posted a photo on Facebook, showing the large, flapping sea creatures literally filling the waters off a dock for the ferry to Cape Lookout Lighthouse.
Park officials identified the creatures as cownose rays, which typically grow to be three feet across and “have poisonous stingers” which they use when feeling threatened, according to the Key West Aquarium. The venom is “mild” and not considered deadly, according to the Florida Museum.
No stings were reported at the park.
The swarming was observed about 3 p.m. Saturday, National Park Service officials said. It is believed the rays were forming “near the surface as they migrate north.”
Groupings of cownose rays are commonly called a “fever,” according to Nature’s Academy.
Cownose rays can travel in the thousands as they migrate and are known for leaping from the water and “landing on their bellies, making loud smacking sounds,” reports the Saint Louis Zoo.
The largest cownose ray on record is more than 7 feet across from “wing tip to wing tip,” according to Oceana.org.
Most stings involving rays off the North Carolina coast are blamed on stingrays, including multiple incidents in August off Topsail Beach, reported WITN. Most of the people were stung while walking in shallow water, the station reported.