Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! A review of 2010 wild animal attacks, starting with sharks
The idea that people can be killed by a lion, tiger, bear, crocodile, shark or other beast in the modern age is fascinating to me. A century ago this was much more common. But man has largely wiped out these threats. So when nature occasionally strikes back today, it captures my attention.
I haven’t found a current website yet devoted to wild animals challenging humans for the top of the food chain. I’d love to see one. I’ve considered doing one myself, but my interests are too varied for that to satisfy me.
One website Top Secret Animal Attack Files documented notable animal attacks from July 1997 to June 2008. It operated for 11 years then ceased. Wikipedia has picked up the slack with multiple entries on animal attacks.
In the U.S., we’ve pretty much eliminated wild animal threats. People are much more likely to be killed by a pet dog or animal in captivity than out in the wild.
What follows are some of the more notable animal attacks and killings from last year.
Shark attacks are among the best documented wild animal threats.
The International Shark Attack File keeps a database of shark attacks. It’s administered by the American Elasmobranch Society and the Florida Museum of Natural History.
The group says 70 to 100 shark attacks are reported worldwide each year, resulting in five to 15 deaths. Not all shark attacks are reported, however. Information from Third World countries is especially poor.
In 2010, there were 72 shark attacks worldwide with six fatalities, according to the ISAF.
Of those deaths, Florida and California had one each. The number of shark attacks was at its highest level since 2000, when there were 80 attacks, including 11 fatalities.
Here are summaries of three particularly newsworthy fatal shark attacks last year:
On Feb. 2, 2010, a 38-year-old man was attacked by a bull shark off a beach in Martin County, Florida. The victim, Stephen Schafer, was kitesurfing when he was attacked. He died from massive blood loss from a leg wound. (Read accounts by TCPalm.com and the Associated Press.)
On Oct. 22, 2010, a 19-year-old man died of massive blood loss when a great white shark bit off his leg while he was bodyboarding off a beach in Santa Barbara County, California. The shark that attacked Lucas Ransom was believed to have been 17 to 18 feet long and weighing about 4,000 pounds. (Read accounts in the Los Angeles Times, MSNBC and the Santa Barbara Independent.)
One of the most notable fatal shark attacks occurred at a resort in Egypt. An oceanic whitetip shark killed a 70-year-old German woman who was snorkeling close to the shore in Sharm el-Sheikh on Dec. 5, 2010. (Read accounts in the U.K. Mail, Telegraph and the Huffington Post.)
Next: Ferocious felines
Photo from September 2005 issue of Africa Geographic.