What's Behind Deadly Animal Attacks? Page 2

Not enough to eat

The lack of prey species — whether caused by human poaching or competition from other carnivorous species — is also forcing predators such as tigers, leopards and bears to travel farther to find sustenance. [Fierce Felines? See Photos of Endangered Indian Tigers]

Wildlife officials believe that if one tiger is responsible for the 10 recent attacks in northern India, it probably traveled about 80 miles (130 kilometers) in search of food.

And more of these predatory animals seem to be on the move, according to numerous reports. Though they were once hunted to the point of extinction, during the 20th century, the populations of many apex predators — carnivores with few or no predators of their own — rebounded, due, in large part, to endangered-species protections.

Photos: An Intimate Look at Tigers

"When I was a boy growing up in Florida during the 1950s, alligators were endangered, and I never saw one outside of a zoo or Everglades National Park," Michael Conover, a wildlife management expert at the Berryman Institute, wrote in a 2008 editorial in the journal Human-Wildlife Conflicts. "Today, alligators are abundant throughout the state."

Success breeds conflict

Similar success stories with wolves, bears, cougars and other predators have resulted in human-animal encounters that don't always end well for the human. During one deadly week in 2006, three Florida women were killed and partly eaten by alligators in separate incidents.

The month prior to the alligator attacks, a 6-year-old girl in Tennessee was killed by a black bear, which also injured the girl's mother and her 2-year-old brother. As the population of black bears has grown nationwide, a greater number of bear-human conflicts have been reported. [See Photos of the Black Bears' Return]

And as the number of gray wolves in the United States has soared in recent years, the Department of the Interior may drop the animal's endangered-species status — a move that's setting off howls of protest from conservationists.

"As we begin to recover a population of large carnivores, then it becomes a decision that the public has to make about how they're going to interact with them and where they're going to tolerate species," Wildlife Conservation Society scientist Jon Beckmann told Live Science in a 2013 interview.

Why humans?

There are some people who claim that predators can develop a taste for human flesh after trying it once, which may explain why one individual animal is sometimes responsible for several human attacks.

"Since human blood has more salt than animal blood, once wild animals get the taste of salty blood, they do not like other animals like deer," Maheshwor Dhakal, an ecologist at the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation in Nepal, told CNN.

Dhakal was responding to concerns about 15 deaths in Nepal caused by leopard attacks in 2011 and 2012. Most of the victims were children, which is typically the case in wildlife predation of humans — experts have found that the animals generally attack smaller, younger people or those traveling alone or with just one other person.

But the single greatest contributor to animal attacks on humans is probably the encroachment of humans into animal habitat. The population of Florida, for example, has increased from about 6.8 million in 1970 to almost 20 million today. And India currently has 1.2 billion residents and is undergoing rapid development nationwide.

With so much interaction between humans and large wildlife, the two groups are losing their fear of each other.

"Fifty years ago, if somebody saw a wolf, they'd be terrified, and they would go inside and bolt the front door of their house," Conover told CNN. "And now, of course, people travel to Yellowstone National Park to see one, and they get as close as they can to get a good photograph."

Original article on Live Science.

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