If you were to ask the average American about dangerous animals, you might get a predictable answer. We’re captivated by dramatic encounters shown on shark week, and stories of encounters with grizzly bears or wolves. Yet the most dangerous animals are far more common than most of us realize.
New research shows that the most dangerous animals live on the farm. The dangers posed by pigs, cows, and horses are real, even if we think of them as docile creatures.
“Of the 1,610 animal-related fatalities in the US from 2008-2015, the team [from Stanford University] found 57 percent were the result of encounters with nonvenomous animals,” The Daily Mail writes. “The most common fell within the ‘other mammals’ category, which primarily includes horses and cattle.”
The research focused on deaths from animal encounters in the US from 2008-2015.
“From this search, we found that the rates of death from encounters with animals has remained relatively stable from the last time we performed this analysis,” said researcher Jared a Forrester, MD, Department of Surgery, Stanford University.
“Importantly, most deaths are not actually due to wild animals like mountain lions, wolves, bears, sharks, etc., but are a result of deadly encounters with farm animals, anaphylaxis from bees, wasps, or hornet stings, and dog attacks.”
“So, while it is important that people recreating in the wilderness know what to do when they encounter a potentially dangerous animal, the actual risk of death is quite low.”
Venomous snakes, spiders, bees and hornets killed an average of 86 people per yer during this time. That’s up slightly from the previous studies.
“Preventing potentially fatal farm animal encounters should be a better promoted and supported public health initiative,” explained Dr Forrester.
“Farming remains an industry with a deficit of work-related injury reporting, and opportunities exist to improve safety measures and injury reporting on farms in the US.”
Dog attacks are also common, and often fatal for children under the age of four.
“The burden of fatality upon young children after dog encounters remains troubling,” said Forrester. “These are preventable deaths.”
What may be most surprising is that roughly 200 people die from animal encounters annually in the U.S. That is a minuscule percentage of the total number of fatalities.
Still, the research team is calling for more of a public health initiative.
“Little in the way of public health policy in the farm workplace has changed since our previous paper,” Forrester writes. “Increased specificity in the coding of deaths due to animals in farm environments would help public health professionals target interventions.”
There’s an interesting logic at work in the study, though, that many may miss. More people die from encounters with cows than grizzly bears. Yet far more people come in contact with cows. If the study were able to catalog the number of encounters (fatal and nonfatal) that Americans have with cows and grizzly bears, odds are ratio of fatal encounters would reflect a more troubling statistic.