The number of attacks on humans from carnivorous animals has risen consistently since the 1950s – but how is climate change to blame?
Scientists have raised the subject in a study published in the PLOS Biology journal, revealing that growth in human population and the impacts of the climate crisis can be linked to this uptick in attacks.
Ecologist and contributor to the report, Vincenzo Penteriani said: “If you combine the reduction of natural habitat with the expansion and spreading of human settlements, it’s almost normal that the encounters between large carnivores and humans become more frequent. It’s just a question of probability.”
Animals natural habitats have reduced over the years due to both human expansion and climate change, which has particularly impacted the living spaces of species such as polar bears.
The study did stress that the number of attacks were still low, with 32% of these globally being fatal.
“It’s difficult to predict the full impact of climate change on carnivores. But if at the end of the summer polar bears are unable to return to their habitat because of the lack of ice, they will have to remain closer to humans for longer periods. This automatically increases the possibility of more attacks,” Penteriani explained.
The study references a fatal attack on a mother and child in Alaska from a polar bear last month, which was the first deadly attack of its kind in three decades.
Co-author Daniel Thornton, Professor from Washington State University, added: “When animals are forced into close quarters, when there’s not enough habitat or you have these climate-driven changes that are pushing animals and people together, that’s when conflict is more likely.”
Ensuring animals have adequate spaces to exist in with the impacts of climate change and human activities is critical going forward, the researchers stress.