If you, like me, suffer from an extreme debilitating phobia of sharks or bees or carnivorous cows, which would be the absolute worst places to live in the United States -- that is, where are animal fatalities the highest? I'm glad you asked*.
Fortunately for us, the CDC provides geographic breakdowns of its fatality data. The map above tallies all 2,989 animal-caused deaths in the U.S. from 1999 to 2013 (if you want these numbers as a table, they're at the bottom of this post).
It's important to note that these are raw numbers, not rates. The reason for this is that the numbers are generally so small that rates aren't terribly useful -- the CDC often suppresses them or lists them as "unreliable."
So a certain amount of the variation here is just due to population size: California and Texas have a lot of people, so they also have the highest number of animal fatalities -- 212 and 356 respectively, since 1999. But animal deaths in Texas are still disproportionate to its population: Texas has about 2/3rds as many people as California, but the state experienced about 150 more animal-related deaths since the late 1990s.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Florida has the third-highest number of deaths-by-critter, at 171. North Carolina and Tennessee come in at 4 and 5, with 122 and 120 deaths, respectively.
Conversely, the fewest deaths happen in the New England states and the Northern plains, although again -- that's probably primarily a function of population.
But we can drill a little deeper into the different kinds of animal attack to get a more detailed picture of what's going on. The CDC doesn't provide reliable state-level numbers for different animal categories, but it does provide some of that data at the level of Census divisions, which you can think of as 9 geographic regions made up of clusters of states.
One of the most common types of animal fatality are those caused by "other mammals" which, as a 2012 article in the journal Wilderness and Environmental Medicine notes, are mostly farm animals -- cows, horses and the like (sorry kids, but I couldn't break out cows separately here like I did with yesterday's data).
"Other mammals" caused 36 percent of all animal related fatalities in the CDC Wonder database. As you can see in the map, that south central region containing Texas and Oklahoma has the highest number of these fatalities, corresponding with concentration of livestock operations in this area.
But most of us don't come in contact with farm animals on a daily basis, so this map might not be terribly useful. So let's look at a more familiar animal: dogs.
As you can see, the South is home to the nation's baddest dogs -- or rather, the bad owners who raise bad dogs. That South Atlantic region has about 4 times as many people as New England, but roughly 12 times as many canine-related fatalities. As the Wilderness and Environmental Management paper notes, "the majority of [dog-related] deaths occurred in children younger than 10 years of age and adults older than 65 years of age." Most childhood dog bites are from dogs known to the victim, meaning that preventing many of these fatalities might simply be a matter of better supervising small kids when they're around dogs.
The regional bee map looks similar to the dog map -- again, population counts are a factor here. But it's worth pointing out that the plains region in the center of the map has a disproportionately low number of bee-related deaths relative to its population. If you're deathly allergic to bees (literally) and are really serious about minimizing your chances of a sting, best pack your bags and head to North Dakota.
Here's a fun one: if you don't want to get killed by a venomous snake, consider a move to the Northeast. Kind of makes sense, considering snakes don't like the cold. The regions in the Northeast and plains hold about a third of the nation's population but only account for roughly 1 in 10 snakebite deaths, so your odds there are pretty good. Of course, even in the Northeast you'll still have the occasional Timber Rattlesnake to deal with.
Finally, here's a map of all the deaths from the other terrible venomous bugs not included above -- spiders, scorpions, centipedes (!!!) and some others. Once again, stay out of the south and you'll be okay. Frankly I blame Florida.
In the end, it bears repeating: you are not going to get killed by an animal. Especially if you don't work on a farm. But I get that the thought of something trying to eat you is terrifying -- they build whole movie franchises around it, after all! If you won't feel safe until you've built yourself a concrete bunker that's impervious to assaults from sharks, bears and bees, these maps should give you a good idea of where to start building.
* Nobody actually asked this.
Here's the table I promised.
|State||Animal-caused deaths, 1999 to 2013|