Actually, you could argue that deer are more likely to kill you than any other animal (apart from your fellow man), at least in the U.S. According to “11 animals more likely to kill you than sharks,” an oft-repeated Mother Nature Network article on the internet, the most likely animals to kill you, are 1) mosquitoes, 2) hippos, 3) deer, 4) bees, 5) dogs, 6) ants, 7) jellyfish, 8) cows, 9) horses, 10) spiders, and 11) rattlesnakes. On average, < 1 person per year is killed by a shark in the U.S. (and < 6 worldwide).
The article referenced above doesn’t limit its listed killers to the U.S., and some of its assertions are debatable. For example, it’s not the mosquito itself that kills people, but a species of Plasmodium, a microorganism that infects female mosquitoes and causes malaria when introduced to a person’s bloodstream via a mosquito bite. Similarly, the article lists deer as the number 3 killer, but the actual cause of death is the result of drivers hitting deer with their cars. If we restrict the list to U.S. deaths and omit mosquitoes and deer, the listing becomes 1) bees (53 deaths each year in the U.S.), 2) dogs (30-35 deaths), 3) cows (22), 4) horses (20), 5) spiders (6.5), and 6) rattlesnakes (5.5). Yep – you are 10 times more likely to die in the U.S. because of a bee sting than a bite from a rattler and 22 times more likely to be killed by a cow than by a shark.
Using statistics from the Center for Disease Control, J.A. Forrester, C.P. Holstege, and J.D. Forrester conducted a more scientific investigation of human fatalities from animals in the U.S. (“Fatalities From Venomous and Nonvenomous Animals in the United States (1999-2007),” published in Wilderness and Environmental Medicine, June 2012). “The CDC WONDER Database was queried to return all animal-related fatalities between 1999 and 2007. Rates for animal-related fatalities were calculated using the estimated 2003 US population. Inclusion criteria included all mortalities that were a consequence of bite, contact, attack, or envenomation…There were 1802 animal-related fatalities with the majority coming from nonvenomous animals (60.4%). The largest percentage (36.4%) of animal-related fatalities was attributable to “other mammals,” which is largely composed of farm animals.”
The results of the study by Forrester et al. for the 7-year period, from highest to lowest (source), are:
- #1. The number of deaths that resulted from interactions with other mammals, a category that includes cats, cows, horses, pigs, raccoons, and other hoofed animals: 655. The biggest bringers of death are cows and horses.
- #2. The number of deaths that resulted from interactions with hornets, wasps, or bees: 509.
- #3. The number of deaths that resulted from interactions with dogs: 250.
- #4. The number of deaths that resulted from interactions with nonvenomous insects or nonvertebrates: 85.
- #5. The number of deaths that resulted from interactions with non-venomous reptiles. This would include lizards and non-venomous snakes and the cause of death being bitten or crushed by the animal: 77.
- #6. The number of deaths that resulted from interactions with venomous spiders: 70.
- #7. The number of deaths that resulted from other venomous arthropods such as fire ants: 63.
- #8. The number of deaths that resulted from interactions with venomous snakes or lizards: 59.
- #9. The number of deaths that resulted from interactions with marine animals: 10, 8 of them from sharks.
- #10. The number of deaths that resulted from interactions with crocodiles and alligators: 9.
The study concluded by stating: “Prevention measures aimed at minimizing injury from animals should be directed at certain high-risk groups such as farmworkers, agricultural workers, and parents of children with dogs.” “A disproportionate number of fatalities result from animal encounters in the South. This region is one that could possibly benefit from improved education about risky animal encounters, as well as legislation to reduce potentially fatal encounters. Interactions in the agricultural environment, preventive techniques and rapid treatment for those exposed to hornets, wasps, and bees, and preventing encounters between children and potentially aggressive canines represent 3 possible arenas for improvement.”
Article by Bill Norrington