Walton (CNN Sci-Tech)
--Forget the lions, tigers, and bears. Toss out the
sharks, the alligators, even the poisonous snakes.
When it comes
to humans' worst enemies in the animal world, don't
think big. Or sharp teeth. Or even mean.
and fairy tales may demonize the shark and the big
bad wolf. But the animal that claims far more lives
in the United States is one that many people urge
their kids to walk up and touch at the petting zoo.
because they attack, but because hapless deer wander
onto roadways that they and other creatures claimed
83 human lives in car crashes in 2000, according to
the U. S. Department of Transportation .
Tens of thousands
of deer are killed when hit by cars. Erie Insurance,
which keeps detailed records on car vs. deer claims,
says the number of claims increased from 23,000 in
2000 to 26,000 in 2001, up 16 percent. That company
alone spent $50 million on car/deer accidents in 2001,
the vast majority of their claims in Maryland, Pennsylvania,
Virginia, and West Virginia.
of lots of hyped movies and media coverage, the Florida
Museum of Natural History reports that sharks killed
five humans in 2001, down from 12 in 2000. In the
United States, alligators and crocodiles have killed
on average one person a year for the past 30 years,
says the University of Florida.
big bad wolf may be the villain of fairy tales, this
animal doesn't even cause a blip on the radar screen
when it comes to animal/human conflict. Brad DeVries
of the Defenders of Wildlife says there are no records
of wolves killing a person in the United States.
But the wolf's
"tamer" cousin does not always live up to
the motto of man's best friend. From 1979 to 1996,
dog bites killed 340 people in the United States,
with most of the fatalities involving children 14
and younger, according to the Centers for Disease
Control. While Rottweilers and pit bulls were responsible
for more than half of those deaths, experts stress
that it's not fair to condemn a breed for what's usually
the sin of its owner. Dozens of breeds, from dachshunds
to Yorkshire terriers have caused deaths.
likely the kind of person who was an irresponsible
owner of a Doberman in the '70s is the same kind of
person who is an irresponsible owner of a Rottweiler
in the '90s or a Presa Canario in 2002," said
Dr. Randall Lockwood, an animal behavior expert.
attacks, Lockwood says, are predictable and preventable,
the result of an owner's failure to properly raise,
train, socialize and supervise an animal. That's often
the result of the wrong dog for the wrong reason.
a dog as an offensive or defensive weapon is a lot
like having a loaded handgun in the nightstand,"
said Lockwood. Usually a child, a family member, or
a neighbor is the one who gets harmed. In his studies
of more than 300 fatal dog attacks over the past 25
years, he says just one was a burglar.
and grizzly bears killed 133 people in North America
in the past century, six more in 2000 and 2001, according
to Steve Herrero with the University of Calgary. But
each year across the United States and Canada, there
are millions of uneventful human/bear encounters.
population is about 700,000 black bears, and 60,000
grizzlies on the continent, says Herrero, professor
emeritus of environmental science. He's spent more
than 10,000 hours studying grizzlies, and has written
and produced books and videos on bears and keeping
safe if you confront one.
He says the
usual reason for injury or death is a too-sudden encounter,
when the bear perceives the human to be too close.
Usually, he says, in those defensive situations the
bear simply growls and runs.
a confrontation can be accomplished, says Herrero.
Sometimes you can just "talk it down" like
you would an enraged, out of control human being.
If that's not working, there are effective cayenne
pepper bear sprays on the market now that give the
human enough time to escape. Playing dead can work,
he says, but if you have no other choice, and if the
bear is being offensive, just attack the bear all
you can, with a stick, a stone, a knife, or smack
it on the nose. Usually the encounters last two to
10 seconds, but in that time they can inflict terrible
injuries, says Herrero.
of bear attacks in North America has gone up in the
past 50 years, mostly, says Herrero, because more
and more people are working, camping, and hiking in
what was their turf for many years. Ten people were
killed in the 1950s, 14 in the '60s, 22 in the '70s,
27 in the '80s, 29 in the '90s
that humans should fear the most usually is dismissed
as a mere annoyance, a pest at a picnic or the pool.
But the disease-carrying mosquito, delivering encephalitis,
the West Nile virus, malaria, and Dengue fever, makes
it far and away the deadliest beast in the animal
world. The World Health Organization says mosquitoes
cause more than 2 million deaths a year worldwide.
Another insect, the tsetse fly, kills another 66,000