Monday, November 23, 2009

Predators and Cows--Which Threatens You?


- Who's afraid of the Big, Bad, Cow?

- Baker City Population Growth


Whose afraid of the Big, Bad, Cow?

Back in January of 2006, I wrote a letter to the Editor to the Baker City Herald that was posted to ( It concerned the hysteria over the threat by cougars and other predators. In that letter, I noted that:

"Additionally, in an apparent effort to boost hunting license revenues and income to the predator control bureaucracy, ODFW and other interests are creating near hysteria over the threats posed by allegedly ever increasing cougar populations. Keep in mind that one is about 33 times more likely to be struck by lightning than to be attacked by a cougar in the U.S. According to Brooks Fahy of Predator Defense, “not one fatal attack [by cougars] has been reported in Oregon.” The facts are that people are more likely to be killed by a collision with a deer, by a bee sting, or even by the neighbor’s dog, than they are by a cougar.

I encourage readers to engage the facts so as to avoid falling prey to anti-predator hysteria

Left out were deaths caused by human interactions with cows.

After revisiting those facts today, and given the current turmoil over wolf reintroduction, I wondered: "What is the comparison between human deaths caused by predators in general, including wolves, and human deaths caused by cattle?'

I can recall at least a few human deaths caused by collisions with cows roaming on public roads and highways here in Baker County in the last few years, so I pulled up some searches on Google. Turns out that only one wolf caused death has been recorded in North America. Cows are estimated to be involved in about twenty deaths to Americans alone every year. (Perspective: In 2006, there were about 18,600 homicides and 42,600 deaths from motor vehicle accidents in the United States.)

Here are just a few results. They do not include deaths to wild critters from habitat destruction, like neo-tropical migrant birds or fish (think steelhead and salmon and missing nesting sites), from cows.

Wolf attacks on humans:

One Person Has Been Killed By Wolves in North America

"Should we fear wolves? No, not if we maintain a sense of perspective. Wolves have not been nor are they about to become the marauding savage killers of folklore, fairy tale, legend, and story. “Mr. Carnegie’s death is a terrible tragedy,” said wolf biologist Dave Mech, “but one fatal wolf attack in the recorded history of North America does not warrant widespread alarm.”

Extensive research turned up 26 incidents of nonfatal wolf attacks on this continent. Two common elements pertain to these attacks: a majority resulted in minor injuries and 80% (21 of the attacks) involved food-habituated wolves. Also interesting to note: all but five attacks occurred after 1970. During the past three decades, the wolf population has grown, human numbers have increased dramatically, and the wildland-urban interface spreads ever outward as people continue to transform wildlands into backyards, homes, and gardens. “These were habituated garbage eating wolves,” said Ed Bangs who coordinates the gray wolf recovery effort in the northern Rockies for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife. “Wild wolves do their damnedest to stay away from people.


Other Reports of Attacks in North America

[In North America since historic settlement] "In modern times, as humans begin to encroach on wolf habitats more contacts are being recorded. Often the contact is because the person is walking their pet dog, and the wolf pack considers the dog a prey item, inciting an attack. Retired wolf biologist Mark McNay compiled 80 events in Alaska and Canada where wolves closely approached or attacked people, finding 39 cases of aggression by apparently healthy wolves, and 29 cases of fearless behavior by non-aggressive wolves."

"Cougars, Coyotes and Reporters, Oh My!
A Fact Based Look At Wildlife-Related Causes of Human Mortality in Oregon
by Bob Sallinger, Urban Conservation Director"

In part:
"Horses were the most common cause of animal related mortality accounting for a total of 41. Bees, wasps and spiders accounted for 13. Cows and bulls accounted for 9 and domestic dogs accounted for 5. One person died as a result of being kicked by a sheep and another died after being kicked by a mule. One man was gored to death by his pet buffalo, another was consumed by his pet lion, and an infant was killed by a pet ferret. The only deaths that can be described as “wildlife related” during this time period were caused by a car collision with a black-tailed deer and a fatal bite from a rattlesnake. Significantly, there has never been a single death over the entire history of Oregon attributed to either of the two species that get the most press coverage, cougar and coyotes.[1]

It is often suggested that increased hunting could reduce the risk from cougar and coyote. However it is also worth noting that in Oregon alone between the years 1990 and 1994, 67 people were injured and 14 people were killed in hunting related accidents.[2]

Nationally the numbers are not much different. Over the entire history of the United States there has only been one documented death attributed to a coyote. This occurred in Glendale, California in 1981. A family punctually put out food for a wild coyote each day between 4:00 and 4:30. Unfortunately one day their toddler-aged daughter wandered out “to greet the coyote” before her parents had a chance to put the food outside. The coyote consumed her instead.[3] Cougar account for a slightly higher death toll. Between 1970 and 2000 cougar accounted for 73 attacks and 13 deaths across the North American Continent. [4]

The most common wildlife related cause of human mortality in the United States is not associated with a predator species, but rather with white-tailed deer. A report recently published on the CNN Website cited US Department of Transportation Statistics that car collisions with white-tailed deer account for an average of 130 human deaths per year. [5] Domestic animals take an even higher toll. According to the US Department of Health an average of 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the United States. 800,000 of these bites require medical attention, 10,000 require hospitalization and an average of 18 people die each year from their dog-related injuries.

Deaths From Interaction between Cows & Humans:

Vale man dies after car hits cow on I-84
Lisa Lednicer, The Oregonian
September 26, 2009, 1:47PM

A 62-year-old man from Vale was killed Friday night after the car in which he was riding struck a cow on Interstate 84 approximately 30 miles east of Baker City.

Wilderness and Environmental Medicine, 12, 168 174 (2001)
Occupational fatalities due to animal-related events
From the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Section of Human Ecology and Epidemiology, Raleigh, NC.

Objective.—To better understand the extent of animal-related fatalities in the workplace.

Methods.—This study utilized Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries files from the US Department of Labor for the years 1992–1997 to describe the events surrounding human workplace fatalities associated with animals.

Results.—During the 6-year time period, 350 workplace deaths could be associated with an animal related event. Cattle and horses were the animals primarily involved, and workers in the agricultural industry experienced the majority of events. Many deaths involved transportation events, either direct collision with the animal or highway crashes trying to avoid collision with an animal. Exotic animals, primarily elephants and tigers, were responsible for a few deaths. A small number of workers died of a zoonotic infection.

Conclusions.—We found that approximately 1% of workplace fatalities are associated with ananimal-related event. Methods to decrease the frequency of an animal injury are suggested.

Sep 26,2007
Motorcyclist killed in collision with cow
by Bend Weekly News Sources

"A Milwaukie, Oregon-area man was killed and his wife injured Monday night after their motorcycle collided with a Black Angus cow on Highway 7 about 35 miles southwest of Baker City. The cow was also killed in the crash, Oregon State Police (OSP) reported."

87-Year-Old Farmer Trampled To Death By His Cows

VERNAL, Utah - "A farmer from Vernal who was trampled by his own cows last week has lost his fight to survive. 87-year-old Cecil Holmes of Vernal died after a week in the hospital."

AUGUST 03, 2009
Death by cow
A TierneyLab blog post explains that “about 20 people a year are killed by cows in the United States.”

One of the many reasons why it’s better to be an officer worker than a farmer.

August 03, 2009

Conclusion: cows are dangerous! To put the 20-death figure in perspective, dog attacks result in less than twice the number of human deaths (33 in 2007) despite the fact that human contact with dogs is vastly greater than with cows.

In addition, as far as I can tell from the article the 20 deaths do not include vehicle collisions with cows. Those would probably account for some additional deaths, especially in western "open range" areas where cattle on the road can be quite a hazard.

Posted by: Peter | August 03, 2009 at 11:57 AM

VERNAL, Utah - A farmer from Vernal who was trampled by his own cows last week has lost his fight to survive. 87-year-old Cecil Holmes of Vernal died after a week in the hospital. The family believes it’s because two of the cows have calves and they become very protective and must have thought they were in danger. But this is a man who spent his entire life on a farm and was very familiar with how to deal with cows. Out in the open range 170 miles east of Salt Lake City sits a farm that has belonged to the same family for nearly 100 years.

The only human death from wolves I could find was from Canada, and even that one was susect:
Four Wolves Suspected in Man’s Death in Remote Area of Canada

By Jess Edberg, Information Specialist -- International Wolf Center, 12/12/2005

OK, hit me with your savage stories of days gone past, but I'm thinking cows kill more people than wolves.


"Open range" doctrine does not prevent lawsuit against owners of bull that wandered onto highway and caused accident

Larson-Murphy v. Steiner, - P.3d -, No. 98-441, 2000 WL 1835580 (Mont. Dec. 14, 2000).

The Montana Supreme Court held that, despite the state's traditional "open range" doctrine that permits livestock to wander freely, a motorist who struck a bull on a public road could proceed with her personal injury claim against its owners.

Larson-Murphy was injured when she struck a bull while driving on a public highway. She filed a negligence suit against the owners of the bull and the owner of the roadside land where it had been pastured. The trial court ruled for defendants.

Reversing in part, the state high court said that the traditional "no-duty" rule under Montana's "open range" doctrine-which precludes suits against owners of livestock for allowing their animals to roam freely-does not apply to the legal relationship between livestock owners and motorists on highways. The assumption that an individual's livestock may wander upon public areas does not translate into blanket immunity for that individual from subsequent negligence suits. The owner must still exercise ordinary care, the court determined.

Anyway, I think you get the idea. . . Cows, horses and deer are more important than wolves, other predators, or people.

Baker City Population Growth

The growth button

The Herald has explained their view on population growth in Baker City, and it is worth reading:

"We’re concerned, though, that residents, after reading “Inventing the Future," will believe that if Baker City’s population continues its post-World War II stagnation, then the fault will lie with city leaders who refused to push the growth button.

There is, fortunately, one paragraph in the report that exposes the fallacy; we only wish the paragraph were given more prominence.

The issue is whether the population growth in the preferred No. 3 scenario — rising from 10,000 to 20,000-25,000 over 20-25 years — is “even a possibility.”

The report goes on: “That is, even with a coordinated effort and consensus vision supported by the community [?], what were the odds that even modest growth and economic development could be achieved? In truth, this is a far more relevant consideration than a concern that the community could be overrun by growth. The real issue for Baker City, put into economic terms, is that deflation is far more a risk to the community than inflation.”

In other words, there is no growth button.

To reiterate, we credit the city for trying to involve citizens in thinking about the future of their town.

But we hope our fellow residents aren’t misled into believing that “economic development” — that favorite prescription for whatever ails small towns — is an omnipotent force that’s exempt from economic reality

The first sentence indicates that they are worried that "if Baker City’s population continues its post-World War II stagnation, then the fault will lie with city leaders who refused to push the growth button."

The truth is that some city leader are pushing the "growth button." That's why we are spending so much money on “economic development.” Fortunately, pushing the "growth button" hasn't worked . . . so far.

The last sentence of the editorial is worthy of consideration. All I can add is that we need to highly value what we have, and to seriously consider the costs to our quality of life that we face from too much poulation growth.

See Also: Calculating Growth, Doubling Times, and etc.:
Edited for clarity and information added on 11/24/09.


Forest Access for All said...

Chris, Growth in Baker City is a complicated issue. Most people who have lived here for several generations and most who hold influence don't want any growth. Baker City and County is a nice place for people to retire and for several generations of people who have very little to still have a high quality of life for much less money than it would cost to have a crummy quality of life just about anywhere else in the country.
Besides, the city water and sewer systems cap the growth Baker City at 17,000. It would cost at least $10 million to upgrade the water system, and good luck getting Baker City voters to help pay for another water system improvement after the shenanigans of the 80s. The money would have to come from the help of the federal government.
And, the population estimation issue is interesting as well. When PSU estimated that Baker City was over 10,000 population, Baker City was then required to fulfill certain obligations to the state including the update of the city's Comprehensive Plan. When it appeared to me that the city management was using the PSU estimate to push a certain agenda, I contacted PSU to ask questions about their statical methods and I never did receive adequate answers to my questions. I worked on the Census in 2000 and I remembered the count was less than 10,000. One more thing about population; if the 2010 determines that Baker City has just barely climbed over 10,000, as the PSU estimate indicates, that is because of the 625 inmates at Powder River Correctional Facility, as they are counted as residents in the census count. I could go on. We should start a newspaper - who do you think would be shot first, you or me? I know, you'd be shot by a local and I'd be carted away under some 'dangerous' label by the federal government.
Brian Addison

Christopher Christie said...

Thanks Brian--Good to read your comments.

We can only hope you are right about population, but we can't under estimate human ingenuity when it comes exploiting water resources. In California, Nevada, and elsewhere they have found a way to move water hundreds of miles from its source and to pump aquifers nearly dry.

I'm looking forward to the results of the Census--especially households (as opposed to people) for Baker County.

An e-news paper perhaps? Maybe bullet proof windows for me, not sure how you will be able to keep the Feds from dragging you off--Maybe Steve Culley has some tips?

PS Re did the blog this morning--Who's afraid of the big, bad cow?