Whether it’s by stinging, crushing, biting, butting, kicking, or any other variety of accidental or nefarious means, animals injure millions and kill hundreds of people every year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) keeps a database of the fatalities.
Dr. Joseph Forrester and colleagues pulled all of the agency’s statistics from 1999 to 2007, organized and analyzed what they found, and then wrote a paper appropriately titled “Fatalities From Venomous and Nonvenomous Animals in the United States (1999-2007).”
Some motivation to write the paper, which was published this past June in Wilderness and Environmental Medicine, came from Forrester’s job as a general surgery resident. He sees small children who have been bitten in the face by dogs. And some motivation came from further afield: Forrester has paddled down the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers with the help of his brother Jared, and the two have climbed mountains from Africa to South America. ”Whenever we are traveling in these areas, it is easy to let one’s mind drift and wonder, What if?” Forrester says. “Particularly with respect to aggressive animals. We wanted to see how our perception of animal-related fatalities corresponded to reality as defined by the CDC database.”
Here’s a breakdown of what they found, by the numbers.
1,802: The number of animal-related fatalities that resulted from a bite, contact, attack, or envenomation in the United States from 1999 to 2007. On average, that’s 200.2 deaths a year. (What’s not included in that number: Over the same period, 980 fatalities resulted from accidents where people were riding on an animal or were in a vehicle pulled by an animal. The U.S. averages 217 fatalities a year due to crashes with animals. That average is taken from data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration between 2006 and 2010.)
84: The percentage of people who died that were Caucasian.
46.7: The percentage of deaths that occurred in the South.
5: The number of deaths that came from interactions with scorpions, which were the #11 cause of death in the CDC database. While some animals were separated out in the database, many animals were thrown into larger groups—as you’ll see below.
#10. 9: The number of deaths that resulted from interactions with crocodiles and alligators.
#9. 10: The number of deaths that resulted from interactions with marine animals. The International Shark Attack File counts 8 fatalities from 2000 to 2007.
#8. 59: The number of deaths that resulted from interactions with venomous snakes or lizards.