A few days ago — a week before the annual beach Polar Bear plunges — the tracker on a 1,300-pound great white shark pinged about 2 miles off Folly Beach.

That set off a social media buzz.

Well, the toothsome critter isn't alone out there.

Two weeks earlier, another great white pinged off Isle of Palms but farther out. On Dec. 20, a great white and a hammerhead pinged off Savannah.

The huge beasts, along with tigers and other shark species, might as well be turning up just in time for the annual New Year's Day dips in the cold surf at Folly Beach and on Sullivan's Island.

So are the prospective plungers terrified with images flashing in their heads of the film classic "Jaws" monster pulling people off the beach?

Well, not so much.

"I'm personally not too concerned; they're frequent," said Amanda Allen, who works at Ocean Surf Shop on Folly Beach and plans to take the plunge there. And that was moments after she learned about the ping.

"Nobody's said a word about it," said Jamie Dunleavy of Dunleavy's Pub on Sullivan's Island. The pub sponsors the annual winter scramble down that beach to the surf. "We're good. We're ready to go."

Sharks are pretty prevalent off South Carolina. Ongoing federal research indicates that several shark species give birth virtually everywhere along the coast that has a fish-rich river delta. Tens of thousands of pups, or newborns, throng in the estuaries each summer.

The ones that are "pinging" are part of research, but there are more than just those out there.

Sharks aren't the swimmer-attacking beasts the movies would have you believe. A few people are nipped or worse each year in the Carolinas. But nearly all strikes are unintentional, with the animal mistaking humans for prey fish in the roiling surf.

South Carolina hasn’t had a fatal attack since the 1850s. Statistically, you're more likely to be killed by a popping champagne cork than by a shark.

"We know they're there, but they're not bothering anyone," said Bryan Frazier, a S.C. Department of Natural Resources biologist who specializes in sharks.

He's part of a larger effort that has attached about 3,000 trackers so far to great whites, tigers, hammerheads and other large sharks off the East Coast.

The great white is the mysterious, rarely seen apex predator of the ocean. Considered the “lion of the ocean,” it’s the largest known predatory fish — mischaracterized and vilified as a man-eater by the 1970s book and movie “Jaws.”

Hilton, the great white that surfaced off Folly, pinged Wednesday off Stono Inlet between the island and Kiawah Island. That was just about at dawn.

Shark bites on humans tend to be more likely to occur at dawn and dusk beaches at dawn and dusk, although researchers aren't quite sure why, Frazier said.

"It might be that in the low light they mistake humans for prey. It might be they're more actively feeding," he said.

Polar Bear Plunge (copy)

Excitement builds as swimmers get ready for a recent Dunleavy’s Pub Polar Plunge. Swimmers will take to the water again on New Year's Day.

But that's hours before the 11 a.m. New Year's Day start of the Bill Murray Look-A-Like Polar Bear Plunge at the Tides hotel, or the 1 p.m. start of the Dunleavy’s Pub Polar Plunge behind the pub on Sullivan’s Island. During both, a swarm of humans will shed most of their clothes and race into the surf for a bracing dip.

The big sharks don't tend to haunt the waters along the beach during the winter, Frazier said. Their bait fish prey are usually farther out.

"There might be one or two around, but I suspect they won't be bothering anyone," Frazier said.

Allen, a surfer, regularly checks the Ocearch site that tracks the satellite transmitter-tagged great whites, but she does so just out of curiosity. A native Folly, or Edge of America resident, she's no stranger to sharks, great white or otherwise.

"It's something you put in the back of your mind, I suppose," she said. Besides, by New's Year Day on Tuesday, Hilton should be far away, she said.

And she's likely right. By Wednesday evening, the shark had moved 20 miles down the coast and farther out, evidently feeding off St. Helena Sound.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Get the best of The Post and Courier, handpicked and delivered to your inbox every morning.

Reach Bo Petersen Reporter at Facebook, @bopete on Twitter or 1-843-937-5744.

Science and environment reporter. Author of Washing Our Hands in the Clouds.