HARVEY CEDARS — They look cute and harmless, but a fisherman was hospitalized on Sunday after Cownose ray he hooked stung him as he tried to throw it back.

The fisherman first removed the hook from the ray and tried to throw it back into the water at the 73rd Street beach in Harvey Cedars, according to Harvey Cedars Beach Partrol spokesman Brian Devlin said. The throw didn't make it all the way to the water, so the fisherman picked the ray up and threw it further.

As the fisherman was picking it the ray up, the barb went into his arm, exposing him to the venom.

Lifeguards Will Weiss and Russell Hill escorted the man, who was driven from the beach to a waiting ambulance.

Dr. Paul Bologna, head marine biologist at Montclair State University, said he was not surprised about the sting given the circumstances.

"Cownose really don't want anything to do with us. They're swimming in the water calm. They have sharp barbs that are kind of away from their body. That's actually the first time I've ever heard of anybody being tagged by a Cownnose ray," Bologna said, adding that they are likely to swim away at the sound of nearby splashing.

Bologna said the sting, while rare, is painful.

"All stingray stings are pretty darn painful. The southern stingrays when I worked down in Florida, people would get tagged by those and generally you went to the hospital because it was really painful and they're worried about infection from various bacteria that may be living in those things. It's a heavy dose of exposure of whatever's out there when that gets jabbed deep inside you," he said.

Although common in the Atlantic from New England to the Carribean, Cownose rays have been frequent visitors off the Jersey Shore.

"I saw a bunch off Barnegat and Shrewsbury this summer. I mean packs like 20 or 25 circling in the shallow water looking for clam beds," Bologna said.