Should we kill wild animals after they attack humans? | The Tylt

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Should we kill wild animals after they attack humans?

According to Slate's Jackson Landers, killing an animal responsible for a human attack, even if that animal is part of an endangered species, is necessary for that very species' continued protection. If the culprit is not caught swiftly, Landers says, civilians will retaliate against the species at large in the face of a tragedy.

Plus, if a wild animal exhibits behavior that directly threatens humans, that behavior must be addressed:

Man-eaters do have a tendency to turn a one-time thing into a habit. A small number of aberrant animals are responsible for a shockingly high share of human attacks.

According to Landers, attacks on humans cannot be universally categorized as animals acting within their nature:

It is undeniably the nature of predators to hunt and kill. But the scarcity of attacks on people suggests that hunting humans is not normal behavior among predators. 

Landers concludes:

The man-eater is exceptional. It isn’t a normal predator. The idea that the man-eater is an innocent totem of nature while man is the guilty interloper simply does not hold up to scrutiny.

According to The Washington Post's Karen Brulliard, there are two broad categories of animals who attack humans: so-called "maneaters" and those who simply find themselves in populated areas and lash out. Regardless of the reason for an animal attack, experts agree human safety is paramount, and no one should risk a second wave of aggression from the animal. 

Brulliard spoke with Craig Packer, a University of Minnesota biologist, on the issue:

Packer said wildlife managers work hard to mitigate these conflicts, both by teaching people to avoid them and by tracking and killing the offender. The latter can prevent indiscriminate killings, he said, which often happen after lions kill valuable cattle. But he said killing a suspected maneater, even without being absolutely sure it’s the guilty party, is the right strategy.
“Oh yeah, no question. You’ve got to get rid of them once they start doing it,” he said. “When it’s people, you don’t want to take chances.”

But this kind of strategy offers no justice for the animals who "lash out." In response to Landers' article, Marc Bekoff writes via Psychology Today

We are the most invasive species who has ever roamed Earth, redecorating nature willy-nilly with little regard about the lives of the other animals into whose homes and lives we've trespassed. When we choose to live or go where dangerous animals live there is a risk involved.

Bekoff points out that many of Landers' claims are based off pure assumption and folktale, rather than hard data. Even Brulliard concedes that despite anecdotal evidence that animals who attack humans will do so again, "there's not a lot of statistical support." With this in mind, Bekoff concludes:

...I have never seen any data that suggest that killing [animals] would help others of their kind.

We simply don't know if violence begets violence among animals or if these creatures are punished unnecessarily.


Whether a person got to close to a wild animal, accidentally invaded their habitat, or presented food, the animal responsible for the attack is obviously never able to plead its case. According to The Inertia's Emily Colins, killing wild animals responsible for attacking humans only furthers the tragedy of an already horrible situation. Colins offers an alternative: 

According to the 2017 International Consensus Principles for Ethical Wildlife Control, current methods to handle these human-wildlife conflicts include “exclusion, trapping, hunting, poisoning, or otherwise destroying animals,” yet often these techniques lead to harm or death for non-target animals. Relocation – or even putting the animal into a zoo – can, on the other hand, provide a more humane alternative.

Colins concedes that relocation is not always possible, but says that this tactic, along with preventative measures, should be used whenever possible.

Should we kill wild animals after they attack humans?
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