Sharks, bears and bees? Beware the selfie


During a rare moment of breath-catching the other night, I slowly sat on the couch — my attention divided between watching my 10-month-old bundle of mayhem attempt to reach out and grab all that she should not grab and catching glimpses of the evening news on the television.

Young Riley was attempting to eat, well, the house, and the news was showing a kayaker off the coast of California fight off a hammerhead shark with his paddle. The two scenes were actually similar in nature, as each predator maneuvered back and forth with mouth open, hoping to catch whatever came within the reach of deadly jaws.

Of course, shark “attacks” have been all the rage this year, with videos seemingly posted daily from New England through the Carolinas to Florida. Our sports reporter, Tripp Colonell, has become obsessed with Septima, the tiger shark that has made several appearances along our nearby shorelines, and what I believe caused him to be so paranoid while surfing one day that he broke his clavicle trying to avoid some seaweed his panicked little heart made him believe was the shark.

Regardless, the thought led me to do a little digging into how many people actually die from shark attacks and, in particular, how that number relates to other methods in which we ultimately meet our maker.

For instance, the universal number I came across for shark-related deaths around the world each year is approximately 10, with an average of about one a year in the United States. A graphic from Bill Gates’ blog in 2014, courtesy of Tech Insider, estimates that 50,000 people a year die from venomous snakes worldwide. The World Health Organization reports that 600 of the 3,000 species of snakes in the world are venomous, and the Australian Zoo says that the Australian taipan snake can kill 100 people with the venom from just one bite. Granted, that would be one big bite to kill 100 people, but...

But I digress.

Another graphic from Gates, via Tech Insider again, states that crocodiles kill approximately 1,000 people per year, or 10 times as many people as sharks. Shark Attack Files says that 16 people died in the U.S. between 1990 and 2006 by falling into holes while walking along the beach, compared to 11 shark attack deaths, and that 2,000 were struck and killed by lightning in this nation between 1959 and 2010, compared to 26 killed by sharks. And...

Sorry. I had to wrestle a chair from my daughter’s mouth. Where were we? Right. Shark attacks.

Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post wrote an article this summer where he cited numbers from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. He used the same figure of one shark-related death in the nation each year between 2001 and 2013, and compared it to alligators and bears (also about one a year each), snakes (six a year in the U.S.) and spiders (seven a year domestically). Also, cows kill about 20 people a year in the United States, dogs are responsible for approximately 28 deaths a year, and bees, wasps and hornets combine for 58 deaths each year in this country.

This is the point when Tripp just builds a bunker to hide from all that is around us — and I haven’t even looked into bird-related deaths yet, a personal favorite of our young scribe.

After pulling a remote control, my left shoe and a small pug from Riley’s grip, I continued on my mission, and discovered a story posted by UPI on Tuesday that absolutely garnered my interest. I’ll share with you the headline and let it settle in for you: “Selfie-related deaths outnumber shark attack deaths in 2015.”

You know selfies. Those photos people take by extending their arms and shooting supposedly-spontaneous images of themselves at locations they wish to share with the world. Well, the UPI story cited information from Mashable.com that states that eight people have died worldwide from shark attacks this year, while 12 have expired while taking selfies. The 12th victim, according to the story, happened earlier this month when a Japanese tourist fell down the stairs at India’s Taj Majal (not to be confused with Gumboro’s) while attempting to take a selfie.

According to the story, the leading cause of selfie-deaths is indeed falling, while train-related accidents came in second place. It’s makes one wonder...

Train-related accidents while taking selfies? I couldn’t find any further information, but I’m wondering if it’s a case of train conductors taking selfies of themselves while navigating tricky curves or people actually stupid enough to stand on train tracks and take pictures of themselves with an incoming train coming behind them. Or maybe they were sitting on a train taking a selfie when a sharknado came around and they were eaten by wayward sharks?

Well, you can hardly blame the sharks in that instance. I mean, there they are, swimming around looking for some food when... Boom. Sucked up into a tornado and randomly sent hurtling through the air into a train window and onto the lap of some yahoo taking a pic of himself eating a muffin.

It’s amazing it doesn’t happen more often, actually.