A Rottweiler scalps a five-year-old boy—wild elephants terrorize villagers—sharks invade popular beaches. What is behind the recent surge in unusual wildlife behavior?
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After tucking their nine-month-old twin girls into bed, two parents and their four-year-old son watch television downstairs in their suburban row house in Britain. As they unwind, a fox fearlessly sneaks through an open door and into the twins’ bedroom. Oblivious to the peril of their little ones, the parents realize the girls are in danger only upon hearing strange muffled wails from upstairs. As the parents flip on the bedroom light, they are shocked to find a fox viciously attacking one of the babies.
“It’s a living nightmare,” the twins’ mother told BBC Radio London. “It’s something I would never have expected to happen—let alone to us and my beautiful girls.”
The Mammal Research Unit at the University of Bristol estimates that across Britain there are up to 33,000 urban foxes and 225,000 rural foxes. Although they eat nearly anything they can scavenge, officials said the attack was unusual for the normally timid animal.
Yet Britain is not the only country experiencing such strange animal behavior. The number of reported animal attacks is also growing in North America, such as in Rye, an upscale town outside of New York City.
“In this idyllic suburb, dotted with basketball hoops, training wheels and bubbling creeks, life has been upended by mangy intruders that seem to be on a tear: coyotes,” The New York Times reported. “In the past nine days, two young girls playing outside their homes were attacked in separate episodes, officials said. Both girls survived with minor injuries, but the highly unusual attacks have prompted a wide-ranging response that has included helicopter searches, errant gunfire and an endless stream of gossip.”
The article continued, “The police have advised parents not to let small children roam farther than an arm’s length away, and to keep them indoors at night. People walking their dogs at night carry large sticks alongside their leashes.”
In the last two decades, thousands of the carnivores have migrated to metropolitan areas in search of food. Experts maintain there could be several thousand coyotes living in New York, with a similar number in cities such as Washington, Los Angeles and Chicago.
Then there are rabid vampire bats in Peru that have attacked over 3,500 people, killing at least 20—6,000 wild camels that surrounded a northern Australian town of 350 people, destroying infrastructure and homes—an elk that charged out of the woods and trampled a woman as she walked her dog in a Swedish residential area—uncharacteristic, deadly attacks by komodo dragons in Indonesia…the list goes on.
Nearly every day, headlines of attacks surface worldwide. What is causing this surge in such unusual, aggressive animal behavior?
Since human beings first began to expand and urbanize their surroundings, they have been at odds with wild animals. Yet experts have warned for years that these creatures are becoming increasingly violent.
“Many wildlife experts agree on the reasons wild-animal attacks are seemingly on the rise,” the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported. “One is provocation. The other seems to be the astounding rate at which humans are encroaching on wildlife habitat. Summer homes, subdivisions, heavily trafficked parks, diverse outdoor recreation—these all put people and wild animals into increased, and tense, contact.
“Such contact can cause animals to lose their innate fear of humans. These desensitized animals—including many National Park and campground bears—are widely considered the most dangerous animals of all.”
The presence of housing developments in once-remote wildlife habitats often blurs the boundaries between people and animals, officials say.
“When you have a big dangerous predator living in large numbers in an area where there are large numbers of people, you’re going to have things happen that are not good,” Mike Conover, who studies animal-human conflict at the Berryman Institute in Utah, told CNN. He called animals losing their fear of people and people losing their fear of animals “a deadly combination.”
Compounding the problem are open garbage containers, barbeque grills left unclean, and pet food left outside, all of which attract predators.
Animals becoming more familiar with human surroundings means small children and pets are often the first to be attacked, as The Associated Press reported when an increase of maulings by cougars was first noted more than 10 years ago: “It emerged from the forest behind the Collins house one evening in May and zeroed in on Sandy, the family’s 50-pound Labrador mix. As two of Collins’ children watched from the doorway, the cougar chased Sandy around the house and cornered her by the back deck.
“Clamping its jaws around the dog’s neck, the cougar dragged Sandy 50 yards into the woods. There it gnawed on her head and shoulder, buried the rest for later, and stretched out for a long nap.”
A worse attack occurred several months later when two Colorado parents were hiking with their son at Rocky Mountain National Park. As their 10 year old walked on a well-known trail a few minutes ahead of his family, a cougar pounced. According to reports, the shocked parents “arrived to see the cougar dragging him away.”
While this tragic account took place more than a decade ago, the frequency of similar animal attacks is rising today.
In August 2009, an elderly woman was killed by a pack of 11 or more wild dogs while walking in rural Georgia. When her husband went looking for her, he too was attacked and killed by the same pack.
“[Coroner James] Matthews said the dogs, rounded up…by animal control officers from a neighboring county, showed no signs of malnourishment or rabies and said [his county] had never received complaints about the dogs.
“‘I’ve been [coroner] for 28 years and this is the first time I’ve ever seen anyone killed by dogs,’” he said (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution).
The following year, a woman in another part of the state was killed by a pack of dogs as she walked in a residential neighborhood.
Clearly, something is not right.
Another factor adding to the increase in animal attacks is food shortages. In northern Saskatchewan, Canada, skunks and ravens are often seen scavenging in farmyards, while huge snakes are being discovered in hay bales. Bears are also struggling due to a lack of berries.
The story is similar in Montana, where The Associated Press reported bear attacks have been the most deadly this year since record-keeping began. “Scientists report that a favorite food of many bears, nuts from whitebark pine cones, is scarce. So as grizzlies look to put on some major pounds in preparation for the long winter ahead, scientists say, they will be looking for another source of protein—meat—and running into trouble along the way.”
“Two people have been fatally mauled by grizzlies so far this year in Wyoming and Montana. Experts said that’s the most in one year in at least a century for the Yellowstone region, which also includes parts of Idaho,” the AP article stated.
Among other reasons for increasing animal ferocity and aggression is stress, with animal psychologists saying animals are “stressed out” and fighting back.
A 2006 New York Times article discussed “elephant crackups” occurring in Africa, India and Southeast Asia.
“For a number of biologists and ethologists who have spent their careers studying elephant behavior, the attacks have become so abnormal in both number and kind that they can no longer be attributed entirely to the customary factors. Typically, elephant researchers have cited, as a cause of aggression, the high levels of testosterone in newly matured male elephants or the competition for land and resources between elephants and humans. But in ‘Elephant Breakdown,’ a 2005 essay in the journal Nature…[researchers] argued that today’s elephant populations are suffering from a form of chronic stress, a kind of species-wide trauma. Decades of poaching and culling and habitat loss, they claim, have so disrupted the intricate web of familial and societal relations by which young elephants have traditionally been raised in the wild, and by which established elephant herds are governed, that what we are now witnessing is nothing less than a precipitous collapse of elephant culture.”
Noise pollution may be another animal “stressor.” Technology enables man to invade wildlife domain in nearly every part of the globe. Noisy all-terrain vehicles tear through forests, across plains and up mountains, disturbing and destroying animal breeding grounds. Power boats and jet skis frequently flood bird nests and often damage beaver dams.
Officials say that since humans are invading animals’ space, an increase in attacks is bound to happen. But then how does that explain an increase in attacks by domesticated animals?
According to various statistics, the number of fatal dog attacks in the U.S. has been rising, with a yearly average of 17 occurring in the 1980s as opposed to 30 in 2009. On top of these numbers, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that dogs bite an estimated 4.7 million people per year, half of which are children.
Yet it is not only dogs attacking people, but also dogs attacking each other, as evidenced in Britain, BBC News reported. “Although no figures have been collated, Dogs Trust veterinary director Chris Laurence said: ‘We are getting more and more reports of dogs that are perfectly innocently walking through a park being set upon by an aggressive dog.’”
According to BBC News, as neighborhood violence increases, more people are opting to keep aggressive dogs for protection. In Britain, the amount of violent dog attacks on people has doubled in the past four years and attacks on other dogs have increased significantly. This has led to proposed legislation that would require all dogs to be fitted with microchip implants to ensure they and their owners can be identified in case of a problem.
When have such measures ever been necessary?
Given the expected increase in urbanization as the population continues to rise, experts predict animal attacks will worsen. But instead of offering solutions, they can only tell people to avoid the animals and take proper precautions: do not go outside after dark, keep a close eye on children, do not leave food outside. Others advocate that human beings should give the land back to the animals because they inhabited it first.
Consider. Man built cities thousands of years ago to protect himself from wild animals, but now those animals are beginning to infiltrate urban areas and terrorize citizens. It seems no matter how hard he tries, man is unable to protect himself from nature.
Animal experts, pet psychologists, scientists and canine caregivers seem unable to figure out why the surge in animal attacks. Although they have only begun to document the increase in animal aggression, they could have seen it coming, if they had only turned to the one source that foretold it long ago, the source in which the relationship between man and animals was first mentioned—the Bible.
Notice: “And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:25).
After this, God gave man “dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth” (vs. 26).
God created Earth intending that animals and man would dwell together. But if all the animals He created were good, why then would He allow them to turn and attack?
Startling passages in the Bible reveal the answer—and the major reason for the rising surge in animal aggression.
Leviticus 26:22 states: “I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, and destroy your cattle, and make you few in number; and your high ways shall be desolate.” This means children will be dragged off by wild animals and people will be scared to come out of their houses for fear of being killed.
The scope of this prophetic trend is expanded in Ezekiel: “I cause noisome [harmful] beasts to pass through the land, and they spoil it, so that it be desolate, that no man may pass through because of the beasts…” (14:15).
Make this real in your mind! Although man was meant to have dominion, beasts are prophesied to terrorize him. Why would God allow such horrible things to happen?
Through His prophet Jeremiah, God records the answer: “Wherefore a lion out of the forest shall slay them, and a wolf of the evenings shall spoil them, a leopard shall watch over their cities: every one that goes out thence shall be torn in pieces: because their transgressions are many, and their backslidings are increased” (5:6).
The word transgression can also be translated “rebellion.” God says that He will send wild beasts to destroy people because they have rebelled against Him. These beasts are meant as punishment.
The Bible predicts that ferocious animal attacks in the near future will be increasingly used as punishment: “…I will also send the teeth of beasts upon them, with the poison of serpents of the dust” (Deut. 32:24).
For millennia, man has lived destructively. He has abused the land and mistreated the animals over which God gave him dominion. He has disobeyed God’s laws, and instead corrupted himself by becoming involved with every form of perversion imaginable. This is the reason behind rising animal attacks.
But the increase in animal attacks should point to something else. Although terrible, it is just one of many horrific trends ratcheting up. Think of the earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, violent murders and bizarre weather patterns that have been increasing in the past years. Almost every time the Bible mentions an increase in animal attacks, these events are right alongside them.
Note Revelation 6, when the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are introduced: “And power was given unto them”—the horsemen—“over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth” (vs. 8).
War, famine and disease will also worsen. Read the verse again, realizing that these trends have the power to kill a fourth of all men. That is one in four people alive today—dead!
The impact of these events is expanded in the Olivet Prophecy, where Jesus Christ answered what it will be like during the end time: “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in diverse places” (Matt. 24:7).
When beast attacks are mentioned in Leviticus, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, the context is also the last days.
Later in the Matthew 24 account, Jesus describes yet another purpose for these prophetic events: “Now learn a parable of the fig tree; when his branch is yet tender, and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is nigh” (vs. 32).
Just as one can observe when the seasons are changing by looking at the trees, these end-time trends—including increased animal attacks—signal mankind is fast approaching the time of the end.
To more fully understand the implications of these events, read our booklet Are These the Last Days?