Animal Attacks

25 thoughts on what happens when we attack the animals who attack us

Scott Giffin:For more than two weeks in early 1978, the adventures of Bubbles the hippo captivated the nation. A fugitive from Irvine's Lion Country Safari, Bubbles eventually relocated to a nearby pond, peeking out at TV cameras from just above the water's surface. Eventually, she did venture out onto a hillside and was shot by park rangers with tranquilizers. She fell, her enormous girth crushing her lungs and suffocating her.

Type in "animal attacks" on Borders.com, and among the 70 corresponding hits you'll find are books written specifically about attacks by sharks, bears, wolves, coyotes, lions, tigers, ants, alligators, crocodiles, killer bees, hippos, rhinos, snakes and rats. Yet wildlife attacks on humans are rare. For example, before the recent mountain lion attack on two cyclists in Whiting Ranch, there had been only 11 recorded attacks by cougars on humans in the state since 1914, resulting in five deaths. (Last year, state wardens issued 212 permits to hunt down problematic lions; 122 were killed, most of them in rural Northern California.) By comparison, according to the website Dog Bite Law, nearly five million Americans are bitten by dogs every year, with nearly 800,000 of those requiring medical attention. Dog bites send 334,000 victims to the emergency room per year—914 per day. The average number of dog-bite deaths per year is 17. The most common victim is a child.

The pit bull that lived next door to us in Big Bear had a reputation for being aggressive and territorial. I had never let my kids go near the fence because of the dog, but I was persuaded to walk over when the dog's owner asked me to see her newborn baby.

I remember looking at the dog, then turning to look at the baby. The dog must have been watching my eyes move because as soon as I looked at the baby, he let out a growl, then jumped over the four-foot fence and grabbed on to my upper lip. He hit me so hard it felt like a head butt on my face. The attack happened so fast. My kids were standing right there. After taking a slice out of my face, the dog fell back into his yard. I was bleeding terribly, so I ran into my house and yelled for my husband to take me to the hospital.

I cried for days after the attack. My face was so bruised and swollen. I kept thinking I would have a scar on my face for life. The doctors stitched me up from the lip to the side of the nose—12 stitches in all. It's been three years, and now I'm pretty much okay, except for my wrecked lip line. After the accident, I was freaked-out about my own black lab getting close to my kids' faces. The pit bull was quarantined but never disposed of, which I thought was weird.

Marsha Robinson, Westminster, environmental planner: As the grizzlies declined in number and the surviving bears moved farther from human settlement, this sort of hunting continued, but with one notable change: bears were more frequently taken alive to be used in such entertainments as bear and bull fights. The grizzly had gone from menace to source of amusement.

Englishman Frank Marryat, who wrote one of the most accurate descriptions of these fights, found nothing amusing about them, calling them "the most cruel and senseless" thing he had seen in California. (Marryat was by no means a green in the current sense of the word. In his 1855 book, Mountains and Molehills, he recounts with pride killing a grizzly cub he happened across while hunting, even though he says he found the cub to be perfectly harmless and extremely cute.) "The bear, cramped in his limbs by the strict confinement that his strength and ferocity have rendered necessary, is placed in the arena; and attached to him by a rope is a bull, generally of fine shape and courage and fresh from the mountains. Neither animal has fair play, and, indeed, in most instances, each one avoids the other. The bull's power of attack is weakened by the shortness of the tether, while the bear, as abovementioned, has scarcely the free use of his muscles. . . . The fight generally ends without much damage on either side, for the simple reason that neither of the combatants means mischief."

Paul Brennan, OC Weekly

From the creators of MTV's Jackass comes Wildboyz, an action/adventure show spearheaded by its two stars of low moral caliber, Chris Pontius and Steve-O. In each episode, the boys travel afar to exotic lands of wonder, mystery and intrigue as America's foremost ambassadors of absurd goodwill. Engaging in close cultural encounters with a diversity of dangerous wildlife and native peoples, Chris and Steve-O discover just how far off the evolutionary mark they may actually be.Episode 1 Steve-O and Chris take a swim with a Great White shark, play football with a pack of wild hyenas, and run naked with ostriches. MTV.com press release: I got picked on so much in high school. One day, I got slugged and ended up on the ground where all these people stood around in a circle and laughed at me. It was an awful situation. A month later, I was on a fishing trip with my dad and brothers. I actually caught a fish, a flounder, and pulled it aboard the boat, and it flopped around. It was such an ugly fish, and people beat it with poles and laughed at it. All of these people were just standing around, laughing at this poor, ugly fish, and at that moment, the flounder was the only living thing I could relate to on that boat. I suddenly realized that I'd become the bully. I instantly stopped eating fish.

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