DEAR DR. FOX: Your statement in a recent column, "Time to give protection to natural predators -- especially wolves, grizzly bears and mountain lions/cougars," leads me to believe that you, your loved ones or people you know don’t work in the forest or live near these predators. This is such an ignorant statement due to the fact that these creatures kill people and target small children.
Introducing more of these beasts will only increase human death and destruction as more people venture into the forests for recreational activities. Cougars are already a threat in many residential areas. Do some research on grizzly bear attacks and cougars coming into people’s yards. -- J.L., Sedro-Woolley, Washington
DEAR J.L.: Your concerns about possible risks to people, especially children, living near the habitats of these predators -- whose ecological services keep these environments healthy -- are shared by many. The usual response after an “incident,” be it a fatality or not, is for the police or wildlife agents to kill the animal that was responsible. This is an understandable reaction, but should be avoided when the individual animal cannot be identified or is not a “repeat offender.”
According to Pounce Conservation, only 30 wolf attacks are on record for North America during the last 100 years, with five of them being fatal. Cougar attacks are also rare, occurring much less frequently than fatal snake bites, fatal lightning strikes or fatal bee stings. In the past 100 years, a total of 126 cougar attacks were documented in North America, 27 of which were fatal. As for grizzly bears, between 2020 and 2022, there were eight fatal grizzly bear attacks in North America.
The risks of large predators attacking humans -- often because their territories are being invaded or because they are hungry and/or defending their young -- can be minimized by leaving core areas of their habitats off-limits to all people except wildlife managers and scientists. Children and dogs should never be left unattended or allowed to roam free in these areas.
Expansion of housing developments close to, and even into, wildlife areas should be prohibited, along with agricultural activities and any ranches that use lethal methods of predator control. Nonlethal methods include the use of guard dogs, as promoted by the USDA. For details, visit projectcoyote.org and search "nonlethal solutions to reduce conflicts."
More people are harmed by deer colliding with their vehicles than by these large predators. For details about how wolves in Wisconsin have helped reduce the incidence of vehicular collisions with white-tailed deer, see instagram.com/reel/Ch7ohZgp5Qx.
Fewer than 100 hunters die yearly from firearm accidents, according to one analysis, along with some 300 to 500 annual deaths from tree-stand accidents in the United States (see legaljobs.io/blog/hunting-accident-statistics). These are far more than the deaths and injuries caused by large predators.
J.L. REPLIES: I just know there is real fear with people I know. One couple is afraid for their 3-year-old granddaughter, who runs in the woods between her house and theirs. I fear for my sons who hunt and work in the woods. I fear for strangers. And I fear for myself, if I go out in the forest.
As more creatures are introduced, and more people move in, there will be more attacks. That, we know. Field cameras are expensive, but can be used for awareness and safety. However, that only helps on private property.
DEAR J.L.: It is good to be fearful -- that is a natural state of heightened awareness where there is potential danger, be it any big city or an area where people are out hunting. Some hunters accidentally shoot each other!
Learning to be vigilant from an early age is enlightened education. I am shocked how parents allow their children to run and shout and scream when outdoors, along with people yelling to each other on mountain bikes. Vigilance in such places is called for, and being as silent as possible is respectful for the wild animals who live there.
HELP FOR DIABETIC CATS
The FDA has approved a medication for diabetic cats that is given orally, so that such cats can now be treated without the discomfort (for them) and difficulty (for their owners) of insulin injections. (Full story: vetmed.illinois.edu, Nov. 2)
This medication, Senvelgo, has great promise in alleviating this condition, which is especially common in cats fed high-carbohydrate kibble. Routinely feeding cats a good-quality canned cat food is one of the best preventives.
(Send all mail to email@example.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)