Humans have a way of romanticizing animals (think Free Willy, and Mighty Joe Young), but we sometimes forget that getting too close can be risky. Predatory instincts can’t be fully suppressed through captivity or extensive familiarization with humans. Ultimately their behavior is unpredictable. Most animal attacks occur due to humans encroaching on the animal’s territory, as a result of provocation, or simply reckless human behavior. For example, 35% of alligator attacks in Florida are the result of humans deliberately seeking to encounter them.
Sometimes wildlife experts are too confident in their own abilities and don’t take sufficient precautions and sometimes people is just in the wrong place at the wrong time. The following are some of the most tragic examples of animals acting according to their nature. Check out these 10 very disturbing animal attacks.
10. Charla Nash
The only non-fatal animal attack to make it on the list, Charla Nash’s stomach-churning injuries have become famous. In February of 2009, the 55 year old was in the cage of a two-hundred pound pet chimpanzee named Travis. The chimp was owned by her friend and employer Sandra Herold. When Travis attacked Nash, Herald was unable to fight him off with a knife and called the police.In a recording of the 9-1-1 call, Herald can be heard screaming, “He’s eating her!”
When police arrived at the scene they shot Travis several times before he was subdued. By the time paramedics were able to treat her on the scene, Nash had sustained devastating injuries and was barely clinging to life. Her hands, eyes, nose and lips were bitten off and eaten. In ground-breaking surgery, Doctor’s successfully reattached her jaw and later performed a full face transplant, but she was permanently blinded and disfigured by the attack. Travis had shown signs of disturbing behavior prior to the attack and was on medication for Lyme disease that may have caused aggression. He was found dead near his cage the next morning.
9. Timothy Treadwell
The remains of Timothy Treadwell and his girlfriend Amy Huegenard were found in the Katmai national park in Alaska in October of 2003 as a result of animal attacks. Treadwell was dubbed “grizzly man”, an eco- warrior who campaigned for the conservation of bears. He was also known for his unusual desire to live among them in the wild. Katmai National Park is home to roughly 3000 Native American Brown bears and Treadwell filmed close-up encounters with several of them in the days before his death. Willy Fulton, an air taxi pilot who was scheduled to pick them up that day, arrived at the camp site and found it to be empty. He noticed a bear lingering nearby and immediately contacted the park rangers.
They suspected the worst when they were forced to shoot dead a large and aggressive male grizzly in the area. Rangers found remains of Treadwell and Huegenard torn apart and partially consumed by the bear. After reviewing audio captured by a video camera that had been running during the attack, it was speculated that the bear first approached the tent at night and attacked Treadwell. Hueguenard tried to fend it off with a frying pan but was driven away. In her distress, Huguenard’s screams may have sounded like that of a smaller animal of prey which prompted the bear to hunt her too.
Timothy had mentioned in the film footage that there was one bear with whom he did not feel entirely comfortable. Despite this, he refused to carry bear spray or weapons. In his documentary Grizzly Man, Warner Herzog suggests the same bear Treadwell captured footage of a few hours before his death maybe have been the one that killed him.
8. Dawn Brancheau
In February 2010, in what is called a rare case among animal attacks, an experienced trainer was killed by whale at Sea World in Orlando, Florida. According to witnesses, forty year old Dawn Brancheau was performing a normal routine in the pool when it all went wrong. Eyewitness accounts vary. Some allege that the killer whale dragged her into the pool by her arm, others believe she fell in, and some say she was pulled by her pony tail.
The 12,000 pound whale named Tilikumhad been with the park since 1992 and was known to be a temperamental and possessive animal. The minutes prior to the attack were caught on a tourist’s video camera but official footage from Sea World surveillance cameras was not released to the public. Once she was in his grip, Tilikum apparently swung Brancheau around in his mouth, causing a broken jaw, fractured vertebra and a dislocated knee and elbow. She was then pulled under the water and drowned. Sea-world employees distracted Tilikum and finally coaxed him to another smaller pool.
The autopsy report determined that alongside her broken bones, Brancheau’s arm had been severed and part of her scalp had been forcibly torn off. The incident caused public outcry over the confinement of animals at Sea World. Experts in the field stated that killer whales and other predators are innately aggressive. Being in captivity can cause them additional stress which may have contributed to Brancheau’s death, but ultimately their behavior with humans in such close proximity can’t be predicted.
7. Olga Moskalyova
In August, 2011, 19 year old Olga Moskalyova and her stepfather, Igor Tsyganenkov, were killed in one of the most horrifying animal attacks ever, in a remote area of east Siberia. The pair had been fishing by a river and was attacked when they returned to the spot to retrieve a fishing rod. The bear first overpowered her stepfather, breaking his neck and crushing his skull. The young woman tried to flee but was unable to outrun the bear.
She managed to call her mother on her mobile phone while the attack was taking place. During this phone call Moskalyova screamed, “Mum, the bear is eating me! Mum, it’s such agony. Mum, help!”
Her mother initially thought it must be a joke, but realized the truth of what was happening when she heard the sounds of the bear growling and chewing in the background. The bear summoned her three cubs who began devouring the body while still alive. Her mother called the police and begged them to rush to the scene but it was too late.
They found the badly mauled bodies of Moskalyova and her stepfather. It was suggested that the increase in bear attacks on humans in this region was due to humans encroaching on their former habitats and a shortage of natural food sources in the area.
6. Steve Irwin
The famous “Crocodile Hunter” was known for his up-close and personal approach to filming animals in the wild (this is the same man who spent his honeymoon trapping crocs with his new wife). Steve Irwin who died owing to one of the most deadly animal attacks, had spent his career tangling with all manner of deadly creatures. Tragedy finally struck when Irwin was filming an underwater documentary near the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, Australia on September of 2006.
He approached a stingray that reacted defensively by striking him with the tail barb. Irwin initially thought it was a just a punctured lung but crew members quickly realized his injuries were serious.
They immediately administered CPR and brought Steve to the shore but it was discovered that the barb had pierced his heart. Shortly afterwards he was pronounced dead by emergency personnel. The incident was captured on camera by his crew, but was destroyed by Queensland Police to respect Irwin family’s privacy. Irwin’s death is among the most famous in this list of animal attacks.
5. Carlos Sousa
On Christmas day in 2007, a four year old tiger named Tatiana escaped her open air enclosure and attacked three visitors shortly before closing time. The victims were all young men from San Jose: Seventeen year old Carlos Sousa and two brothers: Amritpal Dhaliwal and Kulbir Dhaliwal. When the tiger leaped over the fence and pounced on Sousa, the brothers ran to a nearby café. Employees in the café called emergency services amid panic and confusion and security locked down the zoo to keep Tatiana from escaping.
When paramedics arrived, Carlos Sousa’s body was found by the enclosure with a fatal cut to the jugular vein. The investigation later found many blunt force injuries to his head, neck and chest, skull and spinal fractures from the attack. Tatiana was still clinging to one of the other injured victims near the café. She was drawn away by police and shot and killed. It was noted by several bystanders and evidence found at the scene that the animal may have been provoked and assisted in her escape by the victims.
4. Bill Scott
Bill Scott was killed one of the most disturbing animal attacks by a four and a half meter long saltwater crocodile in the Northern Territory, Australia in June of 2014. The family was on a fishing trip and were moored in a calm billabong in their boat. According to witnesses, Scott was pulled from the boat and dragged under the surface.
Family members tried calling out but minutes later his body floated to the surface. His wife, Roslyn Scott described the attack: “this thing just came up from behind the motor and grabbed him.” Crocodile attacks had long been an issue in remote and impoverished areas along the Nile in Zimbabwe, but tourists and locals had become too complacent in Australian waters.
Earlier in the year a female backpacker was also killed by a crocodile in the Kakadu National Park while swimming in a billabong. The attacks brought about greater community awareness of the dangers. Crocodiles in the region can be bigger and heavier than fishing dinghies and it is often difficult to see them, therefore individuals should take extra care when delving into waterways where they may be present. In the words of police chief Brody from Jaws, if you want to go fishing in croc-infested waters, “you’re gonna need a bigger boat!”
3. Horatio Chapple
On August 5th of 2011 a party of British school boys on an adventure holiday in Svalbard, Norway, were attacked by a polar bear. Earlier in the week, the group had come across bear footprints in the snow and excitedly taken photographs, but thought nothing further. Despite a makeshift tripwire system at the party’s camp, Seventeen year old Horatio Chapple was dragged from his tent and mauled to death by a polar bear in one of the craziest animal attacks.
According to witnesses he fought aggressively but was overpowered. One witness stated that he saw the bear rear up and slam itself down on Horatio. Four other people were injured by the bear before it was shot dead with a rifle. An inquest found that the defenses at the camp weren’t up to scratch and the camp leaders didn’t have sufficient training in using the firearm. The bear was found to be in poor health and on the verge of starvation which probably contributed to its aggression.
2. Swedish Zookeeper
A Swedish zookeeper, who was not identified by name, was attacked by a pack of eight wolves she had raised since they were pups. The female worked for Kolmarden Zoo and colleagues reported that she always followed standard zoo safety procedures. On 17th of June, 2012 she entered their enclosure and notified staff as per protocol. When staff attempted to contact her by radio a short time later, she failed to answer and they went to check on her. She was victim to one of the most disturbing animal attacks.
Sadly they found her remains in the enclosure surrounded by the pack of wolves. Emergency workers had trouble gaining access and local papers reported that staff was forced to sedate the wolves to remove her body. Reports show no obvious reason for the attack and in the wild they generally fear and avoid people. However, wolves are sophisticated predators who are more likely to launch an unprovoked attack when habituated.
1. Shaiunna Hare
In June 2009, 2 year old Shaiunna Hare was killed by her parent’s pet python in Florida in one of the most deadly animal attacks ever. Gypsy, an eight and a half foot Burmese python had escaped from her aquarium and slithered into the toddler’s crib during the night. Shaiunna was bitten on her head and torso and strangled. Her mother had taken a sedative and was oblivious to her daughter’s struggles in the room next door.
Jason Darnell, Shaiunna’s stepfather, discovered the child the next morning with Gypsy still wrapped around her head. Darnell stabbed the reptile until he was able to pry it off and called 9-1-1. Sobbing to the dispatcher he said, “The baby’s dead! Our stupid snake got out in the middle of the night and strangled the baby!” The couple were later charged with manslaughter by culpable negligence. Wildlife authorities also said the snake was not properly secured and not registered as a required by state law.
10 Disturbing Animal Attacks in Recent History
- Shaiunna Hare
- Swedish Zookeeper
- Horatio Chapple
- Bill Scott
- Carlos Sousa
- Steve Irwin
- Olga Moskalyova
- Dawn Brancheau
- Timothy Treadwell
- Charla Nash
Written by: Emily Cole