K306 Anton

Large carnivore attacks on humans: a worldwide study to investigate spatial-temporal patterns, triggering factors, scenarios, and species attributes


Giulia Bombieri
María del Mar Delgado
Paolo Pedrini
Vincenzo Penteriani


Large carnivore attacks on humans are increasing globally in the last decades. The expansion of human population and activities in areas inhabited by large carnivores, together with the recovery which several of these species are undergoing, increases the probability of risky encounters, some of which end with the death of people or/and the carnivores involved. Since this type of human-wildlife conflict affects both humans and large carnivores, gaining a deep knowledge of the scenarios in which these attacks have occurred, as well as of the factors that might have triggered them, has a double positive effect. Indeed, reducing the number of attacks will not only increase human safety, but it will also benefit large carnivore conservation. After an attack, indeed, one or more individuals of the species are lethally removed. Moreover, each attack generally generates lasting media attention, which often overplays the facts, consequently causing increased negative public attitudes towards these species. Thus, because public opinion has become crucial in political decisions, large carnivore conservation is highly influenced by public perception and the media.
Although some studies exist on attacks on humans by single large carnivore species, the recent increase in the number of attacks by all species of large carnivores in many areas highlights the need for a comprehensive approach including all large carnivore species and a wide geographical area. Our aim is to broaden the knowledge of this phenomenon by analysing and comparing scenarios of large carnivore attacks on humans worldwide. Specifically, we collected attack reports and analysed factors related to (a) carnivore and human characteristics (e.g., species, population density, age, sex); (b) temporal patterns at different scales (i.e., circadian, seasonal, annual); (c) features of the attack location (e.g., natural vs. urban areas, presence of protected areas and their proximity to human developments); (d) characteristics of the geographical region where the attacks occurred (e.g., economic development of the local population, types of recreational and agropastoral activities) to try identifying potential factors and provide solutions to this issue both at a global and local scale.
So far, main results of our research are: (1) about half of the attacks occurred in North America and Europe in the last decades involved risky human behaviours, such as leaving children unattended and walking an unleashed dog; (2) people in a group were less vulnerable to an attack than a person alone. In North-American urban areas, (3) dogs were involved in almost half of the attacks and (4) certain landscape characteristics (e.g., vegetation cover) may be important factors in the occurrence of an attack. These results suggest that human behaviour plays a key role in the occurrence of such incidents both outside and inside urban areas and that further research is needed to investigate the role of other factors.