I hear than another person has been attacked by a shark in Australia whilst another seven have died so far in 2020 - eighteen known shark attacks in all. This is apparently a record number since 1934 and I have to assume they have been biding their time.
Notwithstanding the awfulness for the individuals and the families of those involved, it made me wonder if animals around the world are getting angrier.
In Canada it was reported that a nest of 'Murder hornets' had been found. The word 'murder' is not usually applied to flying insects but these two-inch long creatures may deserve the prefix. Just a handful of them are capable of destroying a whole colony of bees at the same time as providing a very painful sting and 'spitting' venom at anything they don't like - which is just about everything. The insects in question were carefully gathered up by a battalion of heavily-protected people wearing what appeared to be Martian space-suits - an indication of just what they are capable of doing to you.
And it is not only dangerous insects that are invading our cities. In California a couple of racoons broke into a locked bank before trashing its' offices whilst a puma crashed through a couples' front door before taking a nap in their bathroom. A young jogger in Utah also filmed himself being stalked and chased by another puma. Other stories abound of animals doing odd things in houses and even birds attempting to remove people's facial features in Australia - But then again this is Australia, a country that has more dangerous, biting, stinging and fanged creatures per capita that just about anywhere else.
And what were these people doing to earn the ire of myriad mammals, birds and insects? Apparently not much. The papers like to remind us that most of the instances we hear of bears mauling, sharks biting and insects stinging are 'unprovoked' and this would certainly appear to be true. Most people won't, for example, wander off into the American woods with links of sausages dangling from their shoulders to attract hungry bears or take a bucket of chump with them whilst swimming the Great Barrier Reef, so in this respect, most attacks are 'unprovoked' although this is of little comfort to people like me. I have to assume then that the numbers of 'provoked' attacks by fearsome creatures is much greater and I also worry about what it actually takes to 'provoke' an animal that has more teeth than it rightly needs.
For example, does accidentally stumbling across a snake pit count? Taking a swim in the wrong place at the wrong time in the wrong area of the wrong ocean? What about kicking a ball that hits a tree, bounces off a rock and hits what you thought was a log but turns out to be 500 pounds of grizzly that happens to have just awoken with a headache?
When people confidently say things like "There have been no recorded, unprovoked attacks on people by (insert: Bears / Sharks / Killer whales etc) for 100 years," what they really mean is "There have probably been many unrecorded, accidentally-provoked attacks by (Bears / Sharks / Killer whales etc) in the last 100 years."
And as for the unprovoked ones? Well there is always going to a first.
All of this is a little unsettling to those people who regularly swim in coral reefs or take delight in tramping through the American wilderness in search of the self - but actually find a great deal more.
This made me wonder if our distant ancestors, who lived in the same general environs as creatures like Mammoths and Sabre-toothed cats, ever had concerns about walking the ancient grasslands of pre-history or if they also had stock phrases like "Look, Zug, there hasn't been a single recorded case of a woolly rhino mashing a person to pulp for, oh, ages...Just don't, you know, provoke it."
I think the safest option is just to stay at home.