Bears, coyotes, wolves and cougars trigger fear, but watch out for those farm animals

Quick now, if I ask which animals cause the most deaths in North America every year, what would you say?

If you guessed bears, coyotes, mountain lions or wolves, you’d be wrong. I was surprised to learn that according to researchers at Stanford University, it’s farm animals. Not only that, the study reported people who are afraid of being bitten by a snake are far more likely to die from the venom of a bee or wasp sting than from that of a poisonous snake.

Two years ago, I stopped by the farm I hunt to ask permission to hunt turkeys. I was surprised to see the farm owner walking slowly with a cane. I asked if he was all right and he replied he was “getting better.”

Curious, I asked what happened, and he related how he was in a pasture where he kept a herd of cows and a bull. “I was looking at one of my cows when the bull charged and hit me from behind. He broke my back and pelvis and I had to be airlifted to a hospital right from the field,” he told me.

Wilderness & Environmental Medicine is a journal for those physicians who practice medicine in extreme environments, and last January it stated that from 2008 to 2015, more than 1,600 animal-related deaths were reported, and 57 percent of those deaths were from non-venomous animals.

What this tells us is it’s not the bears and coyotes we need to fear, it’s Bossy, or Ol’ Dobbin that deserve our attention. I hunt a large 200-acre cow pasture, and many times after an evening hunt I’ve been followed by a herd of cows as I walked through the woods back to my truck. I’m secure in the knowledge that there is no bull in that pasture, otherwise I might have to pick another hunting site. I’ll readily admit, walking through dark woods with the sound of 60 hoofs pounding the ground behind me gets my attention.

I’ve never been afraid of anything in the woods, and many times I’ve tracked a wounded deer until well after dark. It never even occurred to me that anything in those dark woods could do me harm.

I have to confess, however, I had some concern last spring when I had three small bear cubs walk past me as I was hunting turkeys. I knew the mother was nearby and I wasn’t wrong. I saw the big mother bear ambling about 20 yards behind the cubs. I was concerned that if she spotted me I could be considered a threat to her cubs. Under the circumstances, reason dictated I simply sit still until the bear family moved on. The encounter was short, sweet and uneventful, and before I knew it, the bears faded into the underbrush. Even though encountering a potentially dangerous animal can be problematic, the risk of death or injury is rather low.

The Stanford study showed the animals that caused the highest number of deaths were cows, horses, cats, and raccoons. The study also said dogs were the second most common cause of non-venomous deaths and children under the age of 4 are most likely to be killed by a dog.

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction cause by a number of things, including bee and wasp stings. More people die each year from the venom of one of these stinging insects than die from snake bites.

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