Animal Attacks: Half Of Large Carnivore Attacks Caused By Human Behavior

First Posted: Feb 04, 2016 11:24 AM EST

A team of researchers from the Spanish National Research Council, or CISC, have found that due to the minimal amounts of interaction between human beings and large carnivores, many people are lacking in knowledge about how to behave when presented with a situation that involves interaction between the two.

The number of attacks on humans in the 20th century by large carnivores like bears, coyotes, leopards and wolves, among others, number somewhere in the thousands, according to the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

Though these numbers may seem low when compared to human fatalities and injuries in other areas, many of these attacks are caused by situations that are highly avoidable, but caused by lack of knowledge.

"To go running when is dark, leaving children unattended in carnivore zones, approaching a female with young, approaching wounded animal in hunting and walking with an unleashed dog along the said areas, are the main causes of the attacks," said Vincenzo Penteriani, a researcher from the Doñana Biological Station.

The authors of the study suggest that people be informed and educated on the risks associated with interaction with large carnivores in their habitats. Some of the rules they recommend following include avoiding being out alone in these areas at night, to not leave children unattended, and to avoid approaching these animals.

"For this reason, the attacks can decrease a lot if we learn how to act when we are in nature. It is not to limit the access to public in large carnivore's areas or, as we made in the past, pursuing them, it is to coexist with them. We can't go out into the countryside as we go to the shopping center," Penteriani added.

In many times, the animals attack because they feel that their young are threatened and they respond defensively. In Spain, specifically the Cantabrian Mountains where the study was conducted, brown bear attacks in the last 40 years number at 38, none of which were noted to be a result of abusive behavior from the animals, according to a news release.

"All the cases can be attributed to a defensive behavior as an answer for approaching a female with young and other stress factors, like walking with an unleashed dog or that the bear were previously hurt, could cause a defensive answer", Penteriani said.

The findings were published in Nature's journal Scientific Reports.

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