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Photo: Hal Gatewood

The Inertia

I hate to fearmonger but this last month has been a weird one. Maybe I’m editing too much clickbait, lately? Or I’m just a sucker for animal attack stories (truth). No matter how I rationalize my love of the macabre, there were definitely five bizarre wildlife run-ins that caught my attention in the last 30 days or so.

First a caveat: collectively, as humans, our idiocy knows no bounds. We endlessly put ourselves in horrible situations that show we’re asking for it (see Yellowstone). But not always. Most of these attacks are extremely fluky, some even fatal.

I tried to find solid data: what’s the highest rate ever for combined animal attacks on humans in a single month? Nothing. I doubt much research exists studying our more ferocious co-inhabitants’ propensity for ganging up to take us out. There’s no doubt this is likely just coincidence. But the anecdotal evidence is trippy. If we didn’t just see the most animal attacks on humans in a single month, we certainly experienced the weirdest collection of human vs. animal encounters in recent memory. Here’s a quick run down:



In what was a shocking encounter between man and beast that rocked the outdoor community of the Cascade Mountains, a pair of mountain bikers were riding near North Bend, Washington when they were attacked. One of the men was killed. And they reportedly did most everything right. After realizing they were being stalked by what is now being described as an emaciated animal, the two tried to look big and scare the lion. But the desperate cat attacked one of the men. As the other ran for help the lion went after him, fatally wounding the cyclist. The lion hung around the man’s body until it was put down by officials. “The fact that it stayed in close proximity to these folks and attacked and stayed with them is highly, highly unusual,” Alan Myers with Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife told local media.


In Florida, dealing with alligators is as much a part of life as humidity and small waves. According to reports, 47-year-old Shizuka Matsuk was killed Friday when a gator attacked her while she was walking her dogs around a pond near Davie, Florida. A witness saw her walking the pets and then later noticed the dogs were alone and one was sporting a fresh gash. The witness then called police. Authorities and fish and wildlife officials apparently located the large beast in the water and tests were done on the animal to confirm it was the culprit (a human arm was reportedly found inside the animal). Matsuk’s body wasn’t found until around 10 p.m. that night. “Any body of water in Florida, you’ve got to know at some point or another there’s an alligator,” Heather Porrata, who lives near the pond, told the local CBS affiliate.

Photo: GoFundMe


Amber Kornak’s tale turned out to be a true story of grit. Kornak, who had posted on social media about how stoked she was to be working as a Grizzly Bear Wildlife Technician for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife, was attacked from behind by a bear in northwest Montana while out in the field collecting grizzly samples like hair and feces. The bear grabbed her from behind, severely mauling her before Kornak could reach her bear spray. She managed to get the animal off her (after reaching her spray) but was left with skull fractures and a lacerated face. Kornak then had to settle her nerves enough to walk the two miles out of the backcountry to help. She underwent four hours of surgery to remove bone fragments and relieve brain swelling.




This isn’t just a random story. It’s f***** weird. A man in Corpus Christie was protecting his wife from a four-foot rattlesnake she’d seen in the backyard while they were gardening. He beheaded it with a garden tool. As he bent down to dispose of it the head sprang forth, biting him intensely, releasing such a nasty dose of venom it nearly killed him. The man immediately experienced seizures and vision loss. He had to be airlifted to a hospital where he reportedly received massive doses of antivenom and no one was sure he’d make it for the first 24 hours. A week later and he’s apparently just starting to recover. The reason the snake was able to bite after death, according to scientists, is that its bite reflex is extremely strong, much like a chicken that has had its head lopped off but keeps moving. And snakes are cold-blooded, and therefore don’t need as much oxygen to keep moving, or blood flow.


If a beheaded rattle snake nearly killing a man isn’t bizarre enough for you, try this: in Minnesota, 5-year-old Xavier Garza was brutally attacked in his front yard by something wild. And no one knows for sure what it was. Garza and his brother told his parents that he went to pet what he thought was a cat when the thing latched on to his noggin’, brutally ripping at his face and cheek, leaving deep gashes that required a series of stitches by doctors. Xavier actually had to bite the animal’s ear to get it off him. He and his brother told authorities it resembled a large, black panther-like animal.


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