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msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 5/31/2011 4:02:39 PM ET 2011-05-31T20:02:39

Just three days after the state issued a warning to boaters to beware of jumping sturgeon, one of the fish did just that — breaking a woman's leg.

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Witnesses say the sturgeon was about 5- to 6-feet long and weighed about 60- to 75-pounds.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers say Tina Fletcher, 25, was a passenger in an airboat Sunday on the Suwannee River when the sturgeon jumped and hit her leg.

According to wildlife officials, this is the fifth report this year of a person injured by a jumping sturgeon. The first happened on April 27.

In a warning to Memorial Day weekend boaters, the commission on Friday said the river has a large population of sturgeon: up to 14,000.

"We recommend boaters reduce their speed to reduce the risk of impact and to give people more time to react if they do encounter a jumping sturgeon," commission officer Lee Beach said.

Why sturgeons jump isn't certain, but the commission noted theories include as a way to communicate or to show dominance.

"I have seen these encounters referred to as 'attacks,'" Allen Martin, a commission biologist, said in the statement. "However, these fish are in no way attacking when they jump. They are simply doing what they have been doing for millions of years: jumping. They aren't targeting the boaters."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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