There Are Smaller Things to Fear Than Sharks

ChihuahuaAfter the two shark attacks inside of two hours on the same North Carolina beach, it’s not surprising that people get shook up. It could be that normal prey were in the area that attracted the sharks. Or it could just be a statistical fluke. Regardless, it is good that both victims were given immediate help and survived — albeit with life changing wounds. I haven’t been able to find any information on what kind of sharks they were, but one eye-witness said one of the sharks was about seven feet long. My guess would be that it was either a blacktip or bull shark. The blacktips are more common, but the bulls are more likely to attack.

Although I love and respect sharks, I really won’t go in the water. Blame it on Jaws. But I find it amazing that people actually dive with big and dangerous sharks — including great whites. But that’s their business. In general, being around sharks is a lot safer than you would think. For one thing, most sharks aren’t that aggressive. But even the supposed “man eaters” don’t really see us as prey. We are too boney. Not that this is much comfort to someone who just had her arm bitten off.

Christopher Ingraham wrote a good article following these recent shark attacks, The Animals That Are Most Likely to Kill You This Summer. He noted that people tend to dismiss concerns about shark attacks by pointing out things like heart attacks or traffic accidents. These really aren’t very helpful because the fear is not just about dying but the manner of death. Being bitten in half is not how most of us want to go — although it is probably better than getting mauled to death by a bear.

He put together an infographic that lays out our risks. It’s interesting. Looking at the United States from 2001 to 2013, we find that on average, only one person is killed per year by sharks, alligators, and bears. Venomous snakes and reptiles kill six. Spiders kill seven. And shockingly, nine people are killed by non-venomous arthropods — I assume ants. What’s up with that? Let me just say right now that I would rather be killed by a shark.

Similarly, bees and such kill almost 60 people per year. They are the biggest animal killers. But I’m more interested in the animals that we choose to be around — the ones we think of as our friends. Cows kill a lot of people — not because they are mean, but because they are big and people work with them. But dogs are responsible for 28 deaths per year. I’ve written about this, Dog Violence Is Completely Unacceptable. Too often it is one of those aggressive dogs that men with small penises refuse to castrate — usually resulting in the deaths of children and pregnant woman. Horses also kill a lot of people.

But the truth is that we shouldn’t worry about animals killing us. Mistakes made in US hospitals result in roughly 100,000 deaths each year. It’s important to keep things in perspective. Just the same, I don’t see myself making a categorical statement like, “Don’t go into the hospital!”

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