Sunday, March 7, 2010

Animal attacks on humans

Animals wild and tame
by Robert A. Waters

Wild animals don’t abide by the rules of man. Instead, they live by the law of the jungle: kill or be killed. Even pets and creatures in captivity can have killer instincts. The much-publicized chimpanzee attack that left Charla Nash blinded and mutilated is a grim reminder of this unalterable fact. While more animals are killed by man than vice versa, it is still true that lions, tigers, snakes, and bears attack thousands of humans each year, particularly in so-called Third World countries. In the water, alligators, crocodiles, sharks, and other creatures take a similar toll on humans. Even in our civilized domiciles, we’re never quite safe from predators--human or animal.

Less than a week ago, a mountain lion entered the home of Michelle Bese in Chaffee County, Colorado. The lion came inside through a doggy door while chasing one of Bese’s five dogs. The other four dogs attacked the young lion. The fight between the dogs and the lion raged for several minutes as Michele and her five-year-old son hid in a bedroom. After responding to a 911 call, deputies who entered the home found a bloodbath. One dog had been killed, and two blinded by the lion. After officers shot the creature, investigators from the Colorado Department of Wildlife said the young lion weighed about 40 pounds, much less than he should have weighed. A newspaper report stated that humans are moving into wildlife habitat and that encounters are becoming more common.

In August, 2009, again in Colorado, Donna Munson, 74, was killed and partially eaten by a 450-pound bear. Munson, who lived in a remote area of the wilderness, took joy in feeding bears. In fact, she built a fence around her porch so she could hand food out to them without getting too close. On August 7, she was attempting to feed a small bear that had been injured. As she fed the young cub, a much larger bear appeared. Munson, who was on the phone to her son, told him she was going to use a broom to drive the large bear away. According to an article in the Denver News, “Sheriff's investigators said that the bear ‘clubbed’ her through the wire fence that she had built around her porch, rendering her unconscious. It then grabbed her, pulled her underneath the fence to the back yard and then slashed her to death.” Forestry officials said they had warned Munson time and again about feeding the bears.

In Lee County, South Carolina, a woman was mauled by a pit bull. Ethel Mae Horton rushed from the house to help her husband who had first been attacked. During the confrontation, she died of a heart attack. Newspaper articles said the couple was trying to feed several dogs in their back yard when the pit bull named Brutus attacked.

And who can forget this attack at one of Florida’s most popular tourist spots?

“A whale trainer at SeaWorld died from ‘multiple traumatic injuries and drowning’ after a 12,000-pound killer whale grabbed her ponytail and pulled her underwater in front of shocked onlookers at Shamu Stadium,” the Orange County Sheriff's Office said. The headlines were everywhere--Dawn Brancheau, 40, the whale’s trainer, was mangled by the Orca. It turns out that Tilikum, the 22-foot-long whale, had killed twice before. Authorities say they don’t know whether the whale was attempting to play or whether it launched a full-fledged attack. One tourist said that the whale seemed upset. Officials will not euthanize the whale. According to friends and family, Brancheau, who had worked as a park trainer for 13 years, would not want her killer put to death.

Killer bees. Deadly frogs. Scorpions that have more venom than a rattlesnake. Snails with enough toxin to kill in minutes. These are just a few of the less well-known killers. They are more numerous in some parts of the world than lions, tigers, and other animals that attack. They all take a deadly toll each year.