A new study has worked out which animal is responsible for the most deaths in the US. So, what will it be: Sharks lurking off the coast of Florida? The 220-kilogram (485 pounds) grizzlies in Alaska? Rattlesnakes causing trouble in the dusty south?
Well, actually, the answer is a lot closer to home. According to the study, published in the journal Wilderness & Environmental Medicine, the deadliest animals in the US are actually farm animals, insects, and dogs. It looks like the age-old wisdom that “most accidents happen in the home” is still true, even when those accidents involve animals.
The research gathered data on the 1,610 reported animal-related fatalities between 2008 and 2015. In total, just 43 percent of fatalities, around 86 deaths a year, were caused by venomous animals.
"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," lead investigator Jared A Forrester, MD, Department of Surgery, Stanford University, said in a statement.
"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."
A startling 576 people were killed in this period by "other mammals." Although this category includes a range of animals such as cats and raccoons, the study notes that “the majority of these 'other mammals' deaths occur on farms, likely as a result of encounters with farm animals.”
The second highest killers were hornets, wasps, and bees due to anaphylaxis, which killed a total of 478 people. This, the researchers note, stresses the importance of people with known bee sting allergies to always carry a portable epinephrine delivery device, ie an Epipen, with them at all times.
Man’s best friend, the dog, was third in the ranks, accounting for 272 deaths within the seven-year period. Most of these deaths involved young children, according to Dr Forrester: "The burden of fatality upon young children after dog encounters remains troubling. These are preventable deaths."
Not all animals are out to get us, however. Rats and venomous marine animals didn’t kill a single person in the whole 7-year period. Crocodiles and alligators killed just one person, scorpions killed two, and other reptiles killed one. Marine animals, which includes sharks and other marine mammals such as whales, killed a mere 13 people, less than 2 people a year. Which just goes to show Jaws-related hysteria surrounding sharks is ridiculous, plus the fact that humans kill over 273 million sharks every year.
This researcher was a follow-up to their previous study covering the period 1999-2007. Comparing both sets of data they discovered that despite most animal deaths being preventable, mortality rates haven't decreased. Apparently, we'll never learn.