The cheeky answer is humans.
People committed 17,837 homicides in the U.S. in 2008, according to a preliminary report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s down 3% from 18,361 homicides in 2007, according to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.
Coming in a distant second is deer, which kill an average of 150 people a year in collisions with automobiles in the U.S.
In third are bees, hornets and wasps. Their stings kill an average of 48 people a year.
In fourth place are dogs, which usually kill 19 people a year. In 2010, they killed 34 people. So much for being man’s best friend.
Deaths caused by animals in the U.S. per year
Annual average 1991-2001, except where noted
- Motor vehicle fatalities involving deer, other animals, 223*
- Bee, hornet, wasp, 48
- Dog, 34**
- Scorpion, centipede, other venomous arthropods, 7
- Spider, 6
- Snake, 5
- Fatalities involving cattle, 4***
** 2010 (Average 1991-2001: 19)
*** Average 2003-2008
Sources: See footnotes.
But all of those causes of death are a drop in the bucket compared with heart disease, cancer, lung disease and stroke.
Leading causes of death in the U.S., 2008
- Diseases of heart, 617,527 deaths
- Malignant neoplasms, 566,137
- Chronic lower respiratory diseases, 141,075
- Cerebrovascular diseases, 133,750
- Accidents (unintentional injuries), 121,207
- Alzheimer’s disease, 82,476
- Diabetes mellitus, 70,601
- Influenza and pneumonia, 56,335
- Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome and nephrosis, 48,283
- Septicemia, 35,961
- Intentional self-harm (suicide), 35,933
- Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, 29,963
- Essential hypertension and hypertensive renal disease, 25,823
- Parkinson’s disease, 20,507
- Assault (homicide) 17,837
Centers for Disease Control, National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 59, No. 2, “Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2008”; Dec. 9, 2010
Wilderness and Environmental Medicine, 16, 67-74 (2005); “Animal-Related Fatalities in the United States – An Update”
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, “Collisions with deer and other animals spike in November”; Oct. 30, 2008
Dog Bite Law, statistics page
Agri-View, “Fatalities Grim Reminder Cattle Can Be Dangerous”; Nov. 5, 2009
Photo: Deer impaled in windshield after collision with a Dodge Durango in Minnesota in October 2002. See more photos from the crash at Car-Accidents.com.