By Joseph O'Leary
BOSTON (Reuters) - A man mauled in the waters off Massachusetts' Cape Cod was probably bitten by a great white shark, authorities said on Tuesday, the first such attack in the state in 76 years.
Gregory Skomal, a biologist with the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game's Division of Marine Fisheries, told a news conference in Boston that the attack at Ballston Beach in Truro had all the hallmarks of a great white.
Eyewitness accounts of a large fin in the water, the presence of seals in the area, and descriptions of the man's wounds make the injuries likely attributable to a great white, Skomal said.
Christopher Myers was attacked Monday while body-surfing and suffered severe lacerations to his lower legs. He was taken to a hospital on Cape Cod before being transferred to Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital.
Officials at Mass General confirmed that Myers is being treated there, but could not give details on his condition, citing patient confidentiality.
Despite the popularity of the 1975 blockbuster movie "Jaws," set on a fictional island patterned after Massachusetts' Martha's Vineyard, the last documented attack by a great white shark in the state was in 1936.
In that instance, 16-year-old Joseph Troy died in surgery after being attacked while swimming at Hollywood Beach in Buzzards Bay.
Skomal said a recent shift in the location of the shark population, in which more sharks now swim closer to shore, made the attack on Myers possible.
"However, only with examination of the injury and direct testimony from the victim will we have 100 percent confirmation," he said.
The Division of Marine Fisheries said they were aware of nine great white sharks off Cape Cod, and have been monitoring and tagging them since 2009.
Researchers theorize that the sharks may be attracted to Massachusetts waters so they can hunt the growing population of gray seals, migrating off the coast, the Division of Marine Fisheries said.
Ballston Beach in Truro, near the northern tip of the Cape, remained open Tuesday, but the town's beach department said they were putting up signs that warned of the possible shark attack and said, "Swim at your own risk."
(Reporting By Joseph O'Leary; Editing by Ros Krasny and Stacey Joyce)