Watch out, residents of Salem, Oregon. Be warned. Danger is afoot in city parks, including the popular Minto-Brown Island park which has almost 900 acres of open and wooded areas, with many trails.
People and dogs have been sighted in the park! So be extremely cautious around them. These pose the greatest risk to you.
Cougars, not nearly so much.
So don't worry about a recent cougar sighting at the Minto-Brown Island park. Focus on the much greater danger you face from two other species: Homo sapiens and Canis familiaris, people and dogs.
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.
Today's Salem Statesman Journal had a great letter to the editor on this subject from Linda Bierly. I heartily agree with her. Thanks for stimulating this blog post, Linda.
Regarding the recent possible cougar sighting in Minto-Brown Island Park, while it is always prudent to be aware of one's surroundings, cougars have not demonstrated a threat to humans in Oregon.
Top predators such as cougars and wolves are critical to ecosystems. Without these keystone species, ecosystems collapse and degrade. Lack of top predators is the true threat to all species.
Park visitors have much more to worry about from other threats surrounding parks, including the drive to the park, other human park users, off-leash dogs and especially, inadequate funding for Salem city parks.
— Linda Bierly, Salem
this is the dumbest fucking thing I've wasted my time on in quite a while.
Posted by: Jeff | February 14, 2012 at 05:35 PM
Jeff, thanks so much for the compliment. Sounds like this blog post made so much sense, you couldn't think of any way to refute it other than through an insult.
Cougars rule! Save the cougars! They're so much safer to be around than humans (or dogs).
Posted by: Blogger Brian | February 14, 2012 at 05:41 PM
The real danger is the irresponsible dog owners who let their dogs run free in areas that are clearly marked at the entrance to the park to be leashed dog areas. These people walk around with their off leash dogs and are totally oblivious when their dog chases joggers, wild life, hikers and other leashed dogs. I believe that the most dangerous thing in Minto Brown park are these self centered irresponsible morons.
Posted by: Garv Sleeth | May 31, 2013 at 09:53 PM
I appreciate the wry approach, but it's kind of a pointless comparison. The demographic predominantly visiting the dog park area has a near-zero rate of murders committed.
What's more interesting and applicable is the risk presented by the cars within and approaching the park. Visibility isn't perfect, driving skills are pretty evenly distributed across the population, and there are plenty of opportunities for interactions with cars. So, don't worry about the cougar, the dogs, or the people. Worry about the cars.
Posted by: Jeff (a different one) | August 14, 2013 at 04:14 PM
Ridiculous commentary, thanks for wasting my time ! The dogs and people I
Run into have always been polite and respectful to be around .
Posted by: Taylor | July 17, 2022 at 07:31 AM