It’s been kind of tough to be an animal recently. Fourth of July weekend saw beach closures in Cape Cod because a couple of Great White Sharks have been cruising the area. Little people splashing in the water appear to be seals, and may therefore be tasty.
Yet another foolish human has been attacked by chimpanzees. If you’re not Tarzan, you probably shouldn’t be sharing meals with them.
A Virginia State Trooper struck and killed a bear just outside the city limits of Richmond, Virginia. This is in a pretty generic and suburban area, was on the interstate, and just a few miles from a very popular shopping mall. It was also about a mile from a Starbucks. Didn’t know that was an attractive bear lure, but there it is.
Virginia certainly has its share of scary creatures. You can get bitten by a shark in the waters off of our beaches. A 250 pound black bear is not an animal to be poked or prodded. We have copperheads and rattlesnakes and little spiders that can put a hurting on you.
But is this a reason to not leave the house or abandon our wild spaces? Heck no!
The Centers for Disease Control keep a tally on how we get sick or die, and one of the categories is kind of a “Death By Wildlife.” Between the years 1999 and 2007 ten people died from attack by a marine animal. According to the International Shark Attack File, only 8 people died world-wide from shark bite through that period. While almost half of the deaths recorded occurred in Southern States, the majority of them were from creatures that we take for granted. 250 of us died from a dog attack, 509 from bee stings, and 655 from animals like cows, horses, pigs, raccoons, and cats.
Dogs are actually more terrifying than sharks if you look at it statistically. We love dogs, but almost a million of us sought medical attention last year because of a dog bite, it cost us about $1 Billion, and the dog was most often a loving member of our family. At the end of the day, though, they are dogs…as are wolves and coyotes.
The winner for the most dangerous animal in Virginia is (in our eyes) the Odocoileus virginianus. Sound familiar? It’s the White-tailed deer. You’ve probably met one.
A healthy stag can weigh as much as 350 pounds, and some have been heavier. That’s larger than our Richmond bear. They feature impressive antlers, which are great for goring humans, and our State is loaded with their favorite foods. They love acorns, clover, corn, apples, and grass. We have plenty of all of these things.
They are also rife in Virginia. In the 1930’s there were an estimated 300,000 of them in the entire country. As we started to lose big predators like wolves and panthers, and as we started to regulate hunting, the deer population bounded back. There are currently around 30 million deer in the U.S. today, so they effectively outnumber our Facebook friends. Not that we aren’t trying.
It isn’t their size, dangerous headgear, or population that makes them dangerous, however. It’s us.
Around 1.5 million of us hit a deer with a vehicle each year, and at a couple of hundred pounds, that’s going to leave a mark. We file over $1 Billion each year in insurance claims, and deer ticks give 13,000 of us Lyme disease. We’re big fans of Virginia’s agriculture, and deer cost America’s farmers around $1.2 Billion in crop loss and damages.
We’re not here to suggest that all Virginians need to arm themselves against this deadly menace. Virginia’s hunters are actually quite interested in conservation and do a great job at reducing the number of deer each season. And we enjoy a breezy afternoon and watching the deer graze in a beautiful meadow. It reminds us that nature does exist and is closer to us than we think.
But for goodness sake! Watch where you’re driving, and if you get scared out there, go hug a shark!