1941 poster for the Cleveland Division of Health encouraging dog bite victims to report dog bites to the proper authorities.
Animal attacks are a common cause of either human injuries and fatalities worldwide. Up to five million people in the US are attacked by cats and dogs each year. The frequency of animal attacks varies with geographical location. In the United States, a person is more likely to be killed by a domesticated dog than they are to die from being hit by lightning.
Animal attacks have been identified as a major public health problem. "Unprovoked attacks occur when the animal approaches and attacks a person(s) who is the principle attractant, for example, predation on humans..." In 1997 it was estimated that up to 2 million animal bites occur each year in the United States . Injuries caused by animal attacks result in thousands of fatalities worldwide every year. All causes of death are reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention each year. Medical injury codes are used to identify specific cases. The World Health Organization uses identical coding, though it is unclear whether all countries keep track of fatalities caused by animals. Though animals, excluding some tigers, do not regularly hunt humans, there is concern that these incidents are " ...bad for many species 'public image'.” Though some pets will feed on people if they die, are sick, or unconscious, this is not characterized as an attack.
Injuries and infections
Bite injuries are often the consequences of an animal attack, including those instances when a human attacks another human. Human bites are the third most frequent type of bite after dog and cat bites. Dog bites are commonplace, with children the most commonly bitten and the face the most common target. In 1936, amputation was required in one third of cases in which treatment was delayed for 24 hours or longer.
Epidemiology and treatment
Animal bites are the most common form of injury from animal attacks. The US estimated annual count of animal bites is 250,000 human bites, 1 to 2 million dog bites, 400,000 cat bites, and 45,000 bites from snakes. Bites from skunks, horses, squirrels, rats, rabbits, pigs, and monkeys may be up to 1 percent of bite injuries. Pet ferrets attacks that were unprovoked have caused serious facial injuries. Non-domesticated animals though assumed to be more common especially as a cause of rabies infection, make up less than one percent of reported bite wounds. When a person is bitten, it is more likely to occur on the right arm, most likely due to defensive reactions when the victims uses her or his dominant arm. Estimates are that three quarters of bites are located on the arms or legs of humans. Bites to the face of humans constitutes only 10 percent of the total. Two thirds of bite injuries in humans are suffered by children aged ten and younger. The subsequent treatment for those who have been attacked (if they survive) depends on the injuries. Though trauma may be addressed first, subsequent infections are also treated with appropriate antibiotics.
Up to three fourths of dog bites happen to those younger than 20 years-old. In the United States, the costs associated with dog bites are estimated to be more than $1 billion annually. The age groups that suffer most from dog bites are children 5 to 9 years-old. Often, bites go unreported and no medical treatment given. As many as one percent of pediatric emergency room visits are for treatment for animal bites. This is more frequent during the summer months. Up to five percent of children receiving emergency care for dog bites are then admitted to the hospital. Bites typically occur in the late afternoon and early evening. Girls are bitten more frequently by cats than they are by dogs. Boys are bitten by dogs two times more often than girls.
Medical codes for animal attacks
Injuries resulting from encounters with animals occur with sufficient frequency to require the use of medical codes by clinicians and insurance companies to document such encounters. The ICD-10-CM Diagnosis Codes are used for the purpose of clearly identifying diseases, their causes, injuries in the United States. Clinicians use these codes to quantify the medical condition and its causes and to bill insurance companies for the treatment required as a result of encounters with animals.
Crocodile attacks often result in fatalities. Estimates of deaths due to attacks by the Nile crocodile is estimated to be hundreds and possibly thousands yearly. Attacks by Nile crocodiles range from 275 to 745 per year. 63% of these are fatal. Only 30 attacks have been recorded per year by saltwater crocodiles, of which 50% are fatal. Fatal attacks are typically made by very large crocodiles. The Nile crocodile is considered to be the most prolific predator of humans among wild animals at this time. Crocodile tracking technology is currently under development that would prevent attacks.
- Jacques van der Sandt, 29, was killed by a crocodile on a South African golf course while trying to recover a missing ball. The crocodile grabbed him and pulled him underwater.
In the early 1990s one African village suffered at least one human death and more than one attack from buffalo in the area of their village. The attacks stopped after a fence was built around the village to protect it.
Bees, wasps, scorpions, and other stinging or biting arthropods cause human fatalities but these are not as often characterized as 'attacks'. It may be difficult to characterize some of these encounters as offensive or defensive. An arthropod 'attack' instead of causing tissue trauma such as cutting, lacerating, crushing or the severing of body parts may instead cause a physiological reaction that results in human death. These effects are toxic effects and allergic effects.
Listing deaths due stings and allergic reactions from arthropods is not practical but some of the more unusual cases include:
In 2006 a 68-year-old South Carolina woman died after being attacked by fire ants while gardening. Residents in nursing homes have been attacked.
Jack jumper ants have caused numerous fatalities. In 1931 two adults and an infant were killed in New South Wales allegedly from jack jumper ants or Myrmecia pyriformis. In 1963 another caused by an ant attack documented in Tasmania. Identification of venom allergens began in the early 1990s. all in Tasmania and all due to anaphylactic shock.[a] The fatality rate was one person every four years from the sting.
Africanized honey bees are known to attack people unprovoked.
Asian giant hornets in China have killed at least 42 people and injured 1,675 more.
- 1998 – A two-year-old boy died in Tampa, Florida when yellow jackets stung him.
- 2002 – An 83-year-old man died when yellow jackets stung him while doing yardwork in Hillsborough County, Florida.
- 2013 – A family in Atlanta, Georgia, were attacked and hospitalized.
162 bear attacks were reported in the United States between 1900 and 1985. This is about two reported bear attacks per year. During the 1990s bears killed around three people a year in the U.S. and Canada. A black bear killed three teenagers in Algonquin Park in Canada. The majority of attacks happened in national parks. 1028 incidences of black bears acting aggressively toward people, 107 of which resulted in injury, were recorded from 1964 to 1976 in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. After a 20-year ban, Florida is considering legislation that may permit bear hunting to stop the expanding population of black bears that are a menace in suburban neighborhoods.
Asian black bears
Asian black bears are comparatively more aggressive toward humans than those of Europe. In India, attacks have increased. These occur near the Himalayan region. Here, attacks increased from 10 in 1988–89 to 21 in 1991–92. Recent bear attacks on humans have been reported from Junbesi National Park and Langtang National Park in Nepal, and occurred in villages as well as in the surrounding forest. Li Guoxing, the second person in history to have received a facial transplant, was a victim of a black bear attack.
Between 1979–1989 nine people were killed in Japan . In 2009 one bear attacked a group of tourists in central Japan.
European brown bears
Brown bears are considered unpredictable. In 2007, a fatality occurred in Finland from an attack by a European brown bear. Typically one or two people are attacked rather than groups, with no attacks being recorded against groups of more than seven.
When a cassowarie attacks, it will charge and kick and even jump on top of the person. Cassowaries are described as being able to use their legs to kick in a forward and downward motion.They are also able to head-butt and charge. The most common injuries that are sustained by those who are attacked consist of puncture wounds, lacerations and bone fractures. The severity of the injuries are increased if someone is crouching or lying flat. The large birds will attack dogs and cats. Dogs attack cassowaries.
In 1997, a woman in South Africa was killed while walking through a field on an ostrich farm.
- Anthony Hensley, 37, was kayaking in Illinois when two swans managed to flip his boat, drowning him in April 2012.
Bulls attack and kill people on farms.
During 2010, a man and woman were walking through a field where a bull was pastured. The man was killed.
Some studies cite encroachment as the cause of attacks by primates resulting in injuries and deaths to humans. Many African states offer government sponsored insurance programs that will dispense payments to those who are attacked (unprovoked) or killed by large primates. In some instances "...local people feel that the needs or values of wildlife are given priority over their own needs..." Gorillas often raid the crops of some villages. Villagers are sometimes hurt or killed defending their crops against gorillas. Women and children are more likely to be attacked by a raiding gorilla than men. Domestic animals are also attacked by gorillas.
Generally, chimpanzees are aggressive in the wild. Males are more aggressive than females. Male chimpanzees will attack other chimpanzees sometimes engaging in 'warfare'. They are capable of serious mutilation of the face, hands, feet, and testicles. They also can commit infanticide.
In 2012, villagers living near Virunga National Park were attacked by common chimpanzees. One girl was killed.
A six-week-old infant was killed in her home while sleeping by a macaque that entered through the window. The animal had escaped from a zoo.
When a deer attacks, they use their antlers and hooves. They can cause severe injuries and fatalities. People are more likely to die from a deer attack than they are from a wolf attack.
- 2003 – a man in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. was injured and subsequently died from antler wounds to the face when he was picking tomatoes in his garden.
- 2005 – a woman from Clearlake, California received head injuries outside her home. Her husband was also injured when he tried to rescue his wife.
- 2017 – a woman was attacked in Preston, Idaho.
- 2017 – a deer attacked students in Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and other people in the area in a series of attacks.
- 2011 – a woman in Arizona was trampled in her front yard.
- 2012 – a woman was attacked and trampled outside her apartment by an elk.
A boy vacationing in South Africa was bitten by a cheetah.
In 2005, a British man was attacked by what he described as a black panther.
Though very rare, cats have attacked and killed people. Cat bites may be under reported. Cats also can attack other animals and cause significant injuries.
A jaguar at the John Ball Zoo fatally mauled a pregnant employee on December 9, 1985. A jaguar at the Denver Zoo killed a young female employee on February 24, 2007. A jaguar in Belize killed a young American man on October 25, 2010. It escaped after a tree fell on its cage during Hurricane Richard one night earlier.
Leopard attacks remain a danger in some areas. One leopard in India killed over 200 people. Leopard attacks usually occur at night.
- A wild leopard wandered into an Indian village and attacked at least 11 people in 2011.
Lions enter areas occupied by humans. Lion attacks in Tanzania increased from 1990 to 2005. At least 563 villagers were attacked and many devoured over this period. Researchers argue that conservation policy contributes directly to human deaths. Lions have taken people from the center of large villages. Estimates stand at 550–700 people attacked by lions every year.
- Katherine Chappell, a 29 year old was killed by a lion while on a safari vacation in South Africa. It had jumped through an open window in a vehicle and killed her on June 1, 2015.
Tigers kill more people than any other big cat, and tigers have been responsible for more human deaths through direct attack than any other wild mammal. One hundred and twenty-nine people were killed by tigers in the Sundarbans from 1969–71. The Sundarbans are occupied by 600 Bengal tigers who before modern times used to "regularly kill fifty or sixty people a year". Attacks continue to increase.
- Maqsood, a 22 year old man who had a fascination with tigers, was killed on September 24, 2014, in New Delhi when he entered a tiger's enclosure. He is believed to have been intoxicated at the time.
Well-known and documented tigers
African Painted Dogs
On November 4, 2012, a two-year-old boy lost his life when African painted dogs mauled him after he fell into their exhibit at the Pittsburgh Zoo. Zookeepers immediately rushed to that area, trying to fire darts in order to frighten the dogs away, and police shot one particularly aggressive dog, which had refused to retreat from the exhibit when called. The other dogs were quarantined for thirty days but there were not plans to put them down. The dogs were sent to other North American zoos.
Coyote attacks are uncommon and usually cause little harm but have become more frequent. This is especially true in California. Beginning 30 years prior to 2006 one hundred sixty took place mostly in the Los Angeles County region. 41 attacks occurred during 1988–1997, 48 attacks were verified from 1998 through 2003. The majority of these incidents occurred in Southern California. Some coyotes chase joggers and bicyclists, confront people walking their dogs, and stalk small children. The coyote-wolf hybrids that roam Eastern Canada and parts of the Northeastern United States are known as coywolves.
- 1978 – a coyote attacked a five-year-old girl in Pasadena, California outside of her home.
- 1979 – a coyote attacked a five-year-old girl in La Verne, California. Her father and a neighbor saved the child from being dragged off, but not before she had suffered deep bites on neck, head, and legs.
- 1980 – a coyote in Agoura Hills, California grabbed a thirteen-month-old baby girl by the midsection and started dragging her off. The baby suffered puncture wounds but was saved by her mother.
- 1981 - a three-year-old girl in Glendale, California named Kelly Keen was dragged by a coyote from the driveway of her home. Her father made an attempt to rescue her, but she died from a broken neck.
- 1988 – an eight-year-old girl was bitten by a coyote while rollerskating in Oceanside, California when she fell to the ground. Two women chased the coyote away by throwing rocks at it.
- 1992 – a coyote in San Clemente, California attacked a five-year-old girl biting her several times on her back. The girl climbed her swing set to escape, and her mother chased the coyote off.
- 1995 – a five-year-old girl was knocked down twice by a coyote before being rescued by her mother in California's Griffith Park.
- 1997 – a coyote attacked a two-year-old boy in Tucson, Arizona's Wildlife Ridge Park, but did not damage his skin. The next day in that same park, a four-year-old boy was bitten and scratched and a twenty-two-month-old toddler was bitten around her right eye and required seven stitches for serious puncture injuries.
- 1998 – a four-year-old boy who was bitten by a coyote while playing in the backyard of his home in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. His mother tried force the coyote to go away, but it kept being around. A police officer responded to her telephone call to shoot and kill it.
- 2001 – a coyote seriously injured a seven-year-old girl in Northridge, California, but was finally fought off by her mother.
- 2003 – an eastern coyote bit an eighteen-year-old girl on the arm while she was hiking with her parents on the Skyline Trail at Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia.
- 2007 – a coyote jumped out from a small line of bushes and bit a 5-year-old boy as he and his sister walked home from a neighbor's house in Middletown, New Jersey. He survived due to his sister's scream when she saw the incident, but needed 46 stitches in the back of his head and rabies shots.
- 2008 – a nine-year-old boy was bitten by a coyote while snowboarding with his six-year-old brother on a golf course behind their house in Erie, Colorado. He used the snowboard to fend off the attack, but was bitten on the arm. A coyote in the area was then killed, but it wasn't clear if that was the same one that had bitten the boy, so he began a course of treatment for rabies.
- 2009 – a two-year-old girl in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia was bitten by a coyote on a school playground. Adults near the area came to the little girl's aid and frightened the coyote away.
- 2010 – a five-year-old girl was bitten by a coyote while she was walking with her parents and their dog in Vernon, British Columbia. An eastern coyote bit a sleeping sixteen-year-old girl on the head twice in her tent while she was camping with her parents at Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Ingonish, Nova Scotia. She was taken to a hospital for stitches and treatment to prevent any rabies. Two teenage Boy Scouts were bitten a coyote while they were sleeping outside their camping tent near Pole 3 in Port Aransas, Texas. These two boys were taken to a hospital in Corpus Christi for a treatment in rabies shots.
- 2011 – a two-year-old girl was bitten on the neck by a coyote at a playground in Cave Creek, Arizona. She began a course of treatment for rabies after the adults saved her.
- 2012 – a fourteen-year-old boy was attacked by a coyote while riding on his dirt bike in Westmount, Nova Scotia. His body armour, motocross pants and boots prevented his fatal injuries.
- 2013 – a three-year-old boy in Chicago, Illinois mistook a coyote for a domestic dog and was bitten in the face.
- 2015 – a middle-aged man in Norwood, New Jersey was working in his garden when a coyote attacked him. Two men were assaulted by a coyote in Groveland, Massachusetts outside both of their houses. One of them had his four-year-old daughter with him.
- 2016 – a rabid coyote mauled a man who was walking in the woods with his two daughters in Lincoln, Pennsylvania. A coyote bit two women and a domesticated dog in Wolcott, New York.
- 2017 – a sixty-six-year-old man who walked with two other adults and their domestic dogs along the Columbia Trail in Long Valley, New Jersey was mauled by a rabid coyote. The man fended it with a stick and police officers subsequently euthanized the animal. Three coyotes in Alliston, Ontario attacked a man who took his dog for a walk. The man's dog was able to fend them off. Neither the man nor his dog had any serious injuries.
- 2018 - a man in Wake Forest, North Carolina was assaulted by a coyote while taking out the trash from his house. He recovered from his injuries.
In 1980, Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton was tried and convicted for the murder of her young daughter, though Creighton claimed that dingos had taken her. Evidence later proved her account was true.
Larger dogs are responsible for most animal bites overall and are the most common type of dog that bites with a fatal outcome. In the United States there are 10 to 20 fatal human attacks annually. Not one breed is responsible for most of the bites but at least 25 breeds of dogs were identified in the two hundred thirty-eight fatalities in the past 25 year.
Most of the time, the victim is known by the owner of the dog. On fewer occasions, the bites suffered by the victim is their own dog. Only about ten percent of dog bites are from strays. The National Health and Human Services agency in the United States reports that 9.9% of deaths caused by animals were from dogs.
Unprovoked fox attacks occasionally are reported.
Wild elephants have attacked, harmed and killed people. Jacky Boxberger, an Olympic athlete, Bùi Thị Xuân, a Vietnamese woman general and Allen Campbell, a professional elephant trainer were attacked and killed by Asian elephants. Elephants have attacked people in villages in India.
In a very rare case, according to The Huffington Post, a 7-year old girl died on Tuesday, July 27, 2016, after an elephant at the Rabat-Temara Zoo accidentally threw a stone at her.
Between 2010 and 2015 there were 37,512 cases of wild elephant attacks with 54 casualties in Pu'er, south China's Yunnan Province.
Ian Gibson, 55 and a pro big game hunter, was charged by an elephant he had been tracking and trampled to death.
Egyptian tomb relief showing a hippopotamus attacking a Nile crocodile
The hippopotamus is often cited as the most dangerous large animal in the world, killing an estimated 500 people a year in Africa. However, there are no academic or formal studies providing support for this claim, and its continued persistence seems to be dependent on the repetition of a well established folk narrative as opposed to actual reports or numbers.
In May 2003, Mark Crozier and his brother Sean were on a game walk with a group of safari hikers led by two armed rangers when a black rhinoceros attacked them during their walk at Hluhluwe–Imfolozi Park in South Africa. Two game rangers fired warning shots at the rhinoceros while the tourists hid in a dense bush. Both of the Crozier brothers had severe wounds.
On April 15, 2004, a white rhinoceros at Kruger National Park charged and lifted up safari guide Elias Chauke with its horn before he was able to pull his trigger at it. His colleague, Dumisani Zwane, hit the rhinoceros as it passed him, making it drop Chauke. Meanwhile another black rhinoceros charged at the group of five tourists, injuring one man, Botha from Vereeniging, in the buttocks and the back.
A black rhinoceros gored a female wildlife researcher in a holding pen at Hluhluwe–Imfolozi on September 21, 2004. A month later, another black rhinoceros struck a young male Zululand contractor in the right side of the chest and he fell screaming to the ground to attract the attention of his colleagues.
Attacks on humans by spotted hyenas are underreported. A pair of hyenas were responsible for killing 27 people in Mulanje, Malawi in 1962. In 1910 spotted hyenas were observed to kill sufferers of African sleeping sickness as they slept outside in camps.
A man was bitten and subsequently lost his big toe to a Komodo dragon. Attacks occur infrequently in Indonesia.
- 2007 – an eight-year-old boy was killed by a Komodo dragon on Komodo Island
- 2008 – 2008, a group of SCUBA divers washed up on Rinca Island which is populated by 1,300 of the lizards and were attacked repeatedly while awaiting rescue.
In 2016, Piranha attacked a group of swimmers in Rio de Janeiro.
A Goonch fish in India was thought to have killed many people 
A warning to watch for moose
Moose attacks occur with some frequency and they have been found to attack more often than grizzly bears.
- 2006 – a man from Grand Lake, Colorado was killed by a moose.
- 2006 – a man was attacked in Grand Lake, Colorado.
- 2008 – a Swedish woman was killed by a moose during an evening walk.
- 2011 – a six-year-old boy was attacked and became unconscious after the attack.
- 2011 – an Alaskan girl was attacked while riding her bike.
- 2011 – An Alaskan women was attacked while clearing brush on her property.
- 2012 – a Vermont man woke to find a moose walking on his car.
- 2012 – a Canadian man ended up in the intensive care unit after being attacked.
- 2014 – in the city of Black Hawk, Colorado two women were walking their dogs and were injured from an attacking moose.
- 2014 – two hikers were attacked in Colorado.
- 2014 – a woman walking down a sidewalk in Smithers, British Columbia was attacked from behind by a moose.
- 2017 – Utah hikers, backpackers, and skiers were attacked multiple times.
- 2017 – snowboarders near Aspen, Colorado were attacked shortly after being caught in an avalanche. They were able to escape the avalanche with some injuries but then were attacked by a moose.
Seals and sea lions
Seal and sea lion attacks are rare on humans.
- 1985 – Gareth Wood was bitten twice on his leg by a leopard seal.
- 2003 – Kirsty Brown was dragged underwater by a leopard seal.
- 2007 – a sea lion attacks a 13-year-old-girl.
- 2015 – a sea lion attacks a 62-year-old man.
Out of the four hundred eighty shark species, only three are responsible for the majority of fatal, unprovoked attacks on humans: the great white, tiger and bull. The oceanic whitetip has likely killed castaways, not recorded in the statistics.
The World Health Organization has determined that up to five million people get bitten by snakes yearly with 94,000 to 125,000 deaths. Other consequences include infection, tetanus, scarring, psychoses, and 400,000 amputations. Other severe health consequences occur such as infection, tetanus, scarring, contractures, and psychological sequelae. Snake bites occur most fequently in South-East Asia and Africa among those who live in less afluent areas, farming communities. The National Health and Human Services agency in the United States reported 66 fatalities between 1979 and 1990 from snakes.
Species of python have attacked people and caused human fatalities. These include:
- Early 19th century – Two people in Indonesia
- 1910 or 1927 – a man on a hunting trip from Burma.
- 1932 – a Filipino teenager was consumed by his pet.
- 1995 – a 29-year-old tapper from southern Malaysia
- 2008 – a 25-year-old woman.
- 2009, a 3-year-old Las Vegas boy was attacked but rescued before being asphyxiated.
- 2009, a two-year-old Orlando area girl was killed
African Rock pythons
An African rock python allegedly killed two boys in Campbellton, New Brunswick in 2013.
Squirrels will attack unprovoked, sometimes even in packs.
- 2002 – A grandfather killed a squirrel that attacked his grand-daughter. Others in the village were afraid to let their children outdoors to play.
- In 2016, a squirrel attacked a group of people in Deltona, Florida in a Senior Care facility. Three people were injured by the squirrel and required medical care.
- A couple in San Francisco suffered an attack by a squirrel.
- An outspoken critic of aggressive squirrels in New York city was attacked by a squirrel himself while riding his bicycle.
- Joey, a crime-fighting squirrel from Idaho, scared off a burglar that entered his owner's home.
- Other instances of squirrel attacks have occurred.
In 2014, a wild boar gored a woman several times while she was walking her dogs. After the initial attack, the woman mistakenly believed the boar had left, and attempted to stand. But the boar attacked again.
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Media related to Animal attacks at Wikimedia Commons