Waters off Outer Banks churn as rays swarm at Cape Lookout National Seashore in NC

Cownose rays were seen swarming off Cape Lookout National Seashore on the Outer Banks on Saturday.
Cownose rays were seen swarming off Cape Lookout National Seashore on the Outer Banks on Saturday. Cape Lookout National Seashort photo

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

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.

This video from late February 2018 documents the discovery of a humpback whale carcass nearly 30 miles off Cumberland Island, and how sharks -- including some large great whites -- quickly scavenged the 28-foot-long whale until little was left.

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