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Despite The News Reports, It’s A Lot Safer Than You Might Think Out There!
Posted on Monday, July 25, 2016 by eNature
Ghost-faced Bat
Ghost-faced Bat
© Merlin D. Tuttle/Bat Conservation International
Grizzly Bear
Grizzly Bear
© G. C. Kelley/Photo Researchers, Inc.

Every summer, the news is full of reports of folks encountering wildlife in unexpected places.

And this summer has been no exception— there have been reports of people unexpectedly encountering bears, sharks, mountain lions and even beavers.

Given all that, it’s good to know that it’s a lot safer out there than TV’s Shark Week or When Animals Attack would lead you to believe.

Sometimes fear serves us well. It keeps us from taunting bears, which is definitely a good thing. But fear can also be unfounded. As the numbers prove, the animals that most likely scare people the most seldom pose a real threat.

Consider the snake. Of the 137 different snake species in the United States, only 20 are venomous, and the majority of these are rattlesnakes, which thankfully carry warning devices (rattles) to alert potential victims.

The risks of a harmful snakebite are further reduced by the fact that half of all the bites administered by venomous snakes are benign—no venom is released. Thus in the United States, where some 7,000 snakebites are reported annually, a mere 15 or so prove fatal.

Another feared animal is the spider. The best known venomous U.S. species are the widows, which reside in all the lower 48 states. But despite their tendency to live near human habitations, widows are very shy, and it usually takes some effort to get close to them.

The other famous “deadly” spider in the U.S. is the Brown Recluse. It’s found only in a handful of states, and even their bites are rare. As for tarantulas, our scariest spiders, the truth is that there are no dangerously poisonous tarantulas anywhere in the world.

Like spiders, bats are almost universally feared, so it’s probably a good thing that few people know just how many species are out there. Most states have more than 10 species of bats, and roughly 1,000 species exist worldwide.

But the only time bats pose a threat to humans is as carriers of rabies. Even then the threat is infinitesimal. A Colorado study showed that of 233 cases of bats biting humans, where 30 percent of the bats were rabid, none of the victims contracted the disease.

The most widespread large predator in the United States, meanwhile, is the Mountain Lion, and as its numbers increase in areas, the fear of attacks rises. But even among researchers who devote huge amounts of time to tracking these animals, many have never seen a live specimen in the wild. During the entire last century there were only 12 recorded fatalities attributed to Mountain Lions in all of Canada and the United States.

And then there are sharks, which are probably responsible for keeping more people out of the water than the smaller organisms that should really be feared. Annually in the United States there are less than a dozen shark attacks, with one or two fatalities. By comparison, some 300 people are struck by lightning every year.

The numbers don’t lie. Without a doubt, the most dangerous thing a person can do when embarking on an outdoor adventure is driving to the trailhead in a car.

So head on out and enjoy nature— just be careful if you have to drive to get there!

eNature's Poisonous and Dangerous Species Field Guide Will Tell You What To Avoid in Your Neighborhood »

Here are some tips to follow if you happen to encounter a mountain lion »

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Comments

I live in Northwest Ohio and I absolutely love watching the backyard birds every morning and evening, but lately a hawk has been terrorizing the birds at my feeders and the poor chipmunks. Earlier this morning that stupid hawk had something corners on the ground, not sure how if it actually got something?! I’ve noticed there’s only 1 chipmunk instead of 2. I’m always chasing it off with my pups, but it comes back daily, now it’s personal.. My family thinks I’m crazy because I sit vigil outside to do my best to protect my birds, and chipmunks!! What to do?!! Hate that Hawk!! Thank you for letting me vent!!

Posted by Mary Jacobs on 8/5

We too have had hawks in our area. We have noticed a big decline in the number of squirrels and grackles stealing food out of the bird feeders. This is the third year we have seen them working our yard. Now we have a neighbor who chased then out of their nest. We are hoping the chicks were old enough to go on their own. And we hope they will return next year. We have not have any rabbits raiding the vegetable garden this year. I bet that changes now that the hawks are gone.

Posted by Gene on 8/11
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