(Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff)
Heading south for the winter isn’t just for the birds.
As the weather cools with the arrival of autumn, the great white sharks that have lurked beneath Massachusetts coastal waters, both frightening and fascinating beachgoers all summer, are finally heading south, officials said.
“They’re certainly on their way out of the area,” said Catherine Williams, a spokeswoman for the Division of Marine Fisheries. “It has very much to do with water temperature. Typically, they will stick around until October.”
The sharks prefer waters in excess of 60 degrees. Once the temperatures drop, they leave the area for Florida, Williams said.
But they may not have left quite yet. September has seen at least one great white shark sighting, Williams said.
The state has tagged eight great whites this season, she said. Last year, five sharks were tagged.
Multiple shark sightings this year made waves across the state. Three communities – New Bedford, Chatham, and Westport – were forced to close some of their beaches over the summer after great white shark sightings.
South Beach in Chatham remains closed due to the sharks, according to the Chatham harbormaster Stuart Smith.
The ">hype surrounding the sharks was remarkable this year, Smith said. Communities were more proactive about informing beachgoers about the lurking predators, which in turn, seemed to bring shark gawkers out in droves, he said.
But does that mean there were more sharks around Chatham this summer? It's just not clear, he said.
"There were a lot of people looking for sharks this year," Smith said. "Whether there were more or less sharks its hard to say."
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