More Animal Attacks & Common Sense

Cranky Cougar

Above: Cranky Cougar–as mountain lion attacks hit the news this week.

Some of you know that I follow a variety of news topics as related to animals. A few years ago I was looking at occupation trends and the risk of animal attacks in that capacity. One guy I knew used to proudly spout off about how dangerous elephant training was when we worked together training elephants at a prominent zoo.

It is an occupational hazard…

Today, I track attacks in general. Last year I tracked pit bull and dog attacks but there were so many I finally stopped doing it.

Just this last week I dumped a list of attacks attributed to dogs that came through on a “pets” search. If you search on Google News under “pit bull attacks” you might be surprised.

My last search gave me over 150 result such as these:

In Michigan a young boy lost his arm in an attack (10 years old), a toddler was injured in Massachusetts, (Uh, why would a parent leave a young child alone with an animal unsupervised anyway?), and then there was the pit bull that ran over to the neighbors in Cincinnati to cause mayhem.

The Cincinnati owner said this, “He ain’t a vicious dog at all,” said Jeffrey Todd, owns Lefty. “He isn’t a mean dog. He’s very friendly. You can ask a lot of people around the neighborhood.

So, does that mean the incident was everyone’s imagination? Sheesh, these types of “accidents” happen almost every week.

The AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) published a special report on dog bites (PDF)

From the report: Children—
Children are the most common victims
of serious dog bites. Seventy percent of fatal dog
attacks and more than half of bite wounds requiring
medical attention involve children. In addition,
almost half of all children are bitten before 18 years of
age. The most vulnerable youngsters are 5- to 9-
year-old boys, but smaller children can also be seriously
injured. Dog bite injuries rank third only to
bicycle and baseball/softball injuries as a leading cause
of emergency admission of children to hospitals.
Children’s natural behaviors, including running,
yelling, grabbing, hitting, quick and darting movements,
and maintaining eye contact, put them at risk
for dog bite injuries. Proximity of a child’s face to the
dog also increases the likelihood that facial injuries
will occur.

In my experience, dog bites can be attributed to poor socialization, lack of training, irresponsible pet ownership, failure to alter pets, and non-supervision. I have suspected poor genetics in some cases.

As for wild animals attacks, most of the attacking animals are predators but even deer attacks are something people naively dismiss. The Discovery Channel just aired a show that contained stories of some deer attacks from 2005 and 2006.

Today I found this story about the cougar that entered a home in Colorado and grabbed a sleeping pet. Wild animals are getting too habituated to humans–plus we are encroaching into their limited habitats. Just a few weeks ago two other cougars were causing problems in Durango–including one cat that attempted to attack a boy driving a mower–the cat missed.

I’ve heard an interview where one of the lion dog guys (guys that track mountain lions with dogs) mentioned that many of the incidents with mountain lions involve younger animals. I need to find that source…they are probably going out on their own and then getting run out of established territories but humans also provide a lot of resources–like cougar snacks (dog, cats).

Back in bear country, it also seems that there are incidents every week. In Alaska this isn’t anything new. An eighteen-year-old was attacked by a grizzly on his way home late at night in a region known for bears who are currently feeding from a nearby stream.

In another situation a Utah woman went out for an evening stroll while in Alaska and was attacked by a brown bear.

Finally, in Oregon a camper was mauled by a grizzly in a campground.

Brown bear attacks (just for clarity a grizzly IS a brown bear) are pretty well known but what has surprised some people is that black bear attacks have been on the rise since about the mid-1990s. I mentioned this earlier this week so if you have not yet checked it out read this article about the increase in black bear attacks from 2005. (PDF)

Now these are not the only cases that have crossed my desk but I just want to point out that animal attacks are not that uncommon. Only the sensational ones get a lot of attention.

Is there anything you can do to avoid animal attacks?

First, if you are out in the wilderness, adjacent to it, or hear about a predator in the area follow the suggestions put out by authorities–and find out if there is risk in the area you are visiting.

It amazes me how many people are surprised to find a bear or other animals in their yard when they feed wildlife, keep pet food and water sources just outside their doors, or place trash outside a day before pickup.

Also, be aware that most animals are highly active at dawn or dusk and at night.  So a bit of common sense to avoid meandering into their territories at those times might help.

Now there is always the bad luck factor–being in the wrong place at the wrong time but using common sense and taking precautions helps mitigate that.

Take this poor example of the idiot hiker who lacked common sense and took liberties by petting a cougar cub and then got attackedscratched by a mad mother lion. I hope that human’s stupidity won’t cost the female cougar her life–but I bet it will.

Then there was the woman who used her common sense and a machete to thwart off a lion attack.

I’ve already posted some of the tiger attack and bear attack links to my comments earlier this week but you can find my past comments on how to avoid cougar attacks here. 

Also, you might enjoy the comments on wildlife encounters–I sure did.

Funny, I didn’t really intend to focus on animal attacks all week but now that I am at it–stay tuned for more.

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  1. I agree with the comments about the cat possibly being a younger male. Somewhere around 2 yrs of age male cougars disperse from their native home ranges and, in trying to establish their own, often run into encounters with humans. As you mentioned, it could be because they’ve had trouble establishing their own home range.

    In the story about the woman defending herself with a machete, I don’t believe that was a mountain lion. They don’t usually grow as large as 500 lbs; about half that would even be large for a male cougar.

    Frankly, I also don’t buy the story about the guy getting scratched trying to pet a cougar cub. If he did stumble on some little ones and momma cougar was really feeling threatened, he’d have gotten a lot more than just a scratch. If he really did find a cub and try to pet it, it was probably the cub that let him have it.

  2. Thanks for stopping by Andy. The animal in Mexico escaped from a zoo and I think I wrote mtn lion instead of lion. I don’t buy the story either–yes cougar cubs can be pretty nasty. Somewhere I have a picture of a captive bred cub who was protesting for the camera…I should dig out some photos.