Humans only share top of food chain
People who live almost anywhere in Asia or Africa donít have to be told that human beings arenít the apex predator in their part of the world.†
Several thousand of their family members, friends and neighbors become part of the food chain every year.
At least that many more die under the hooves and horns of large herbivores protesting that humans even try to exercise their hard-wired predatory instincts.
I made note of the present-day situation in a large part of the Eastern Hemisphere to contrast it with the lack of impact wild animals have had on human civilization here in the Western Hemisphere not only since the beginning of European settlement but probably for hundreds of years before.
The Western Hemisphere has several carnivores that have, are and will continue to kill and sometimes eat people.
The difference is, with the possible exception of polar bears, the dangerous animals that inhabit this hemisphere rarely make unprovoked attacks on people.
Thatís fine with me. I have no desire for one of my bank-side fishing trips to end with the smile on the face of a bear, wolf, mountain lion, jaguar, etc.
The dark cloud behind the silver lining of safety those of us who live in any state except Alaska enjoy is complacency.
Most of us donít ive the possibility we might encounter a dangerous wild animal a thought when weíre planning our outdoor activities.
Thatís not a problem 99.44 percent of the time; that other .56 percent of the time can turn you into a statistic.
Purely predatory attacks on people are at a historical high. Most actual or attempted kill-and-eat attacks involve mountain lions and occur in California where suburban sprawl and completely protected pet-hungry lions have created a recipe for disaster.
Fatal and near-fatal lion attacks occur in wilderness areas and in other states. Here are some examples from information provided by the Outdoor Media Group.
Ten-year-old Paul Schalow of El Mirage, Ariz., and his family were celebrating his birthday riding ATVís in the Tonto National Forest north of Phoenix.
Shortly after the group stopped for lunch, Paul noticed his cousin Brittany looking past him with a ďweird lookĒ on her face.
Paul turned around and was immediately attacked by what turned out to be ďan old lion with dull teeth.Ē
Having failed to penetrate the boyís skull with its initial bite, the animal temporarily broke off its attack. Paulís uncle, who was armed with a handgun, then shot the lion.
At least Paulís uncleís actions didnít embroil him in controversy.
Police officers in San Jose, Calif., and in Rapid City, S. D., who shot lions that were lurking in residential areas, werenít so lucky.
In both incidents, citizens complained that the lions ďshould have been left alone.Ē
This attitude seems especially odd in the Rapid City case because Rapid City resident Ryan Hughes was attacked and severely mauled by a lion while ice fishing at a nearby lake.
Attacks by mountain lions apparently cannot officially happen in some states.
Kansas, for example continued to deny that there were any mountain lions in the state despite decades of sightings by ranchers and hunters.
Converting the obstinate to the ridiculous, Kansas Wildlife and Parks continued its denials even after a high school runner was attacked by what, I suppose, they believed to be a phantom creature that coincidentally left ďlion-sized lacerations on his back, shoulder and arm.Ē
Although the last fatal attack by a coyote took place in 1981, many nonfatal attacks have occurred since.
Coyotes pose a far greater danger to pets than to people ó unless, of course, you count the post traumatic stress caused by dealing with bureaucrats should you choose to complain.
For example, in Lee County, Fla., a lady was walking her two lap dogs (known in Texas as Koyote Kibbles) when a coyote grabbed one of the dogs and ran off with it.
A spokesman for the county commissioners told her to contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.
An FFWC spokesman told her that coyotes didnít attack dogs and pointed her toward a U.S. Fish and Wildlife official who told her that his agency didnít manage coyotes because they werenít endangered.
It isnít necessary to travel halfway across the continent to find citified coyotes with a taste for cats and dogs.
In recent years, coyotes have killed dozens of pets in Leawood, Kan., a suburb within the greater Kansas City metropolitan area.
With the exception of the lion that attacked Paul Schalow, all of the incidents Iíve mentioned involved presumably healthy animals.
The Schalow lion proved to be rabid, a disease that is rare in lions but commonplace in Missouri mammals including but not limited to coyotes, foxes, raccoons, skunks and bats.
Fortunately, rabid small- and medium-sized mammals rarely stalk people prior to launching an attack.
Far more often, attacks by rabid animals occur when well-meaning people approach an animal thatís either obviously sick or that is behaving strangely.
I hope nothing Iíve written here will frighten anyone enough to keep them from enjoying the outdoors.
I hope Iíve reminded outdoorsmen that, despite what some organizations would have you believe, we arenít the only dangerous beasts still roaming the earth.
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