Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Our Greatest Animal Menace?

A new site, Book of Odds, has an entertaining piece about the relative likelihood of being killed by a shark versus being killed by a vending machine:

The odds a person will die from a vending machine accident in a year are 1 in 112,000,000, while the odds that a person will die from a shark attack in a year are 1 in 251,800,000. One can say with confidence that while vending machines crush an average of 2 to 3 unfortunate Americans every year, the number of recorded US shark fatalities is typically nil.

The author goes on to remind the reader that, despite these numbers, sharks are physically more dangerous than vending machines. So if people abused sharks as often as they abused vending machines, those numbers would be very different.

For comparison’s sake, I consulted the Center for Disease Control’s Compressed Mortality File and found that in 2006:

  • Eight Americans died from “contact with venomous snakes and lizards.”
  • 32 Americans died from “bitten or struck by dog.”
  • 72 Americans died from “bitten or struck by other mammal.”

Thus, by the aggregate mortality numbers, our fellow mammals, especially “man’s best friend,” are our greatest menace (excluding ourselves) in the animal kingdom.

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