Oh, my! Lock the doors and keep the children inside! A cougar may have killed a house cat in Seaside, Oregon. So all student activities at Seaside Elementary School were moved indoors.
Which is ridiculous, because while cougars may kill cats (so will dogs, of course, and much more often), a cougar has never killed a human in Oregon.
As I said in "Danger warning! -- people and dogs sighted in Salem park," what Seaside school authorities really should be concerned about are adult men and family dogs roaming around near the playground.
I've done some research to quantify the relative risk of being killed by (1) a person, (2) a dog, and (3) a cougar. These United States statistics cover 2001-2010, the previous ten years.
There were 162,230 homicides during that decade, an average of 16,223 per year. In 2010, ninety percent of the killers were men, according to the FBI. Fifty-three percent of murder victims were killed by someone they knew; a quarter were slain by a family member.
The lesson: if you spot a man in a park, be fearful. Especially if you know him. Males you've met before are the most dangerous killing creatures any human will ever encounter.
Dogs are considerably less likely to kill you. Still, 263 people were slain by dogs over the last ten years, an average of 26 per year.
What about cougars?
Most people are more afraid of cougars than of their fellow humans or dogs. But they shouldn't be. Cougars killed just 3 people in the United States from 2001-2010. That's an average of .3 per year.
So you're 54,000 times more likely to be killed by a person (probably a man) than by a cougar. And you're 87 times more likely to be killed by a dog, than by a cougar. This is why, if you value your life, people and dogs should be feared much more than cougars.
Unfortunately, irrationality reigns when it comes to wildlife. Why? Seemingly because they're wild. We're used to seeing men and dogs in parks. Cougars are rare, so people freak out when one is sighted.
Then there's the case of the hunter in eastern Oregon who shot and killed a wolf, claiming self-defense. His story is highly suspicious, for a number of reasons.
For one thing, he admits that at first he thought he saw three coyotes moving around him. Then he claims that one of the animals ran at him. Supposedly fearing for his life, he shot and killed the animal, which turned out to be a woif -- which can't be killed by hunters in Oregon unless it is a case of self-defense.
The man's story started to unravel when it was revealed that his bullet entered the side of the wolf and exited the other side. So the wolf couldn't have been running at him when it was shot.
The pictures and police report paint a different picture, according to wolf advocacy group Oregon Wild... Steve Pedery, the nonprofit's conservation director, said in an email that he'd like to see further investigation of the hunting incident. He's not convinced the animal was running at the hunter, and questioned why the wounds are on the animal's side.
"How can a wolf that is moving away from someone be a threat?" Pedery said, "and why would ODFW [Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife) sign off on a report that is directly contradicted by the evidence?"
A commenter on the original Oregonian story, "Go Figure," makes some great points.
According to information and photos described by KGW, the wounds on the animal are inconsistent with the description of the wolf running toward the shooter. Instead, it seems the wolf was running away from the shooter at an angle, the bullet having entered mid-body and exited through the front of the animal at the left shoulder.
"The wolf has what appears to be an entry [wound] on her right [side], midway between the hind quarters and front shoulder. A larger exit wound appears to exist near the front left shoulder of the wolf."
If the hunter was fearful of being attacked by coyotes (he said he assumed they were coyotes until closer inspection) that were surrounding him at close range, which would prevent shooting toward all of them, a quick and reasonable first response would be a warning shot into the dirt. And, indeed, the hunter describes the animals he did not kill, which were protected wolves, immediately ran away after his one shot.
Western United States wild wolf attacks on an adult human who is not running (1) in mild weather, (2) in an area of plentiful game, (3) with no record of the wolves becoming habituated to a human population, or (4) being fed in the area are, to the best of my knowledge, unheard-of. That should have cast doubt on the hunter's story of being targeted by a group of wolves as if he was prey.
In any case, the evidence does not match the story, and the story is inconsistent with not wanting to harm animals he was not hunting. It seems likely that he may have poached a protected wolf, then, upon conferring with his buddies, hatched a cover story to try to avoid responsibility for an illegal kill. Certainly, based on the description of the photographic evidence alone, further investigation is warranted.
For sure, further investigation is warranted. Wolf attacks on humans are extremely rare.
Despite what The Onion might have you believe, wolf attacks are exceedingly rare. In 2010, a fatal wolf attack in Alaska marked only the second documented case ever of a wolf killing someone in the wild. There are some 77,000 wolves in North America. The first-ever confirmed case of fatal wolf attack in the wild in North America occurred in 2005, when Kenton Carnegie was attacked by a pack of wolves in Saskatchewan, Canada.
In 2006, the San Francisco Chronicle found evidence of only 27 non-fatal wolf attacks on humans in North America. Most of those cases involved rabid wolves, which are themselves exceedingly rare, according to the Chronicle.
So it's very, very unlikely that the hunter, Brian Scott, actually was attacked by a wolf. Probably what happened is that Scott thought the animals were coyotes, decided to shoot one of them, and then made up a story after realizing he had killed a protected wolf.
We've got to get beyond irrational fairy tales about Big Bad Wolves. Just as with cougars, wolves are hugely less of a threat to humans than other people and dogs are. Live and let live should be our basic wolf and cougar policy, not shoot on sight.