As it turns out, the two creatures run a close race in terms of how many people they kill, according to Savannah River National Laboratory scientist and feral hog expert Jack Mayer.
Shark attacks, however, get all the publicity.
Last year, for example, there were 12 fatal pig attacks worldwide vs. just 10 shark fatalities.
“When the final 2013 stats for fatal shark attacks came out earlier this month, amazingly there had been more fatal wild pig attacks than fatal shark attacks, as was the case in 2007, 2008 and 2009,” he said. “Again, however, in 2013 one heard about several fatal shark attacks on the news - but you never heard about fatal wild pig attacks.”
Mayer, who served as lead consultant for National Geographic Explorer’s 2005 hour-long special on “Hogzilla,” has collected data on feral hogs for decades.
“Back in the 1970s when I started to work on wild pigs, as soon as people learned what animal I was working on, they would either express how dangerous they thought those pigs were or they had a story to tell me about a wild pig attack on someone,” Mayer said.
Over time, he collected stories about hog attacks – and by 2000, Mayer was using computer searches to actively seek out and confirm such reports.
Earlier this month, he presented a paper summarizing his findings during the 15th Wildlife Damage Management Conference held at Clemson University.
“The bottom line is, wild pig attacks on humans do occur, although these incidents are rare,” Mayer said. “However, the consequences can be serious.”
His analysis included 412 wild pig attacks involving 665 human victims worldwide, over a 15-year period.
Among the key findings:
• Only four fatal wild pig attacks were reported in the U.S., three of which involved wounded animals being hunted. The most recent such case occurred in Texas in 1996.
• Hogs that kill or attack people tend to be described as solitary (82 percent), male (81 percent) and large (87 percent), which is consistent with the social behavior of mature boars.
• Most attacks occurred in non-hunting circumstances and appeared to be unprovoked, but wounded animals were the main cause of attacks during hunting situations.
• Between 2003 and 2012, an average of 3.8 people died worldwide each year because of wild pig
• Hog attack injuries were primarily in the form of lacerations and punctures, while fatalities were typically because of blood loss.
• In terms of all fatal and non-fatal attacks, the U.S. had the largest percentages (24 percent), followed by India (19 percent) and Papua New Guinea (6 percent). England and Germany had 5 percent each.
• Of 21 U.S. states where attacks occurred, Texas had the most (24 percent), followed by Florida (12 percent) and South Carolina (10 percent).
• The first fatal wild pig attack of 2014 occurred New Year’s Day, when a 17-year- old shepherd was killed by a wild boar in southern Turkey while tending a flock of sheep.
All things considered, hog incidents don’t generate near the hype as shark attacks, which Mayer attributes to the “Jaws” mentality.
But here is some final food for thought to remember next time you are hiking in the swamp and a big boar steps out from behind a cypress tree: Hogs eat people, too.
“In four of the attacks reviewed in the present study, the wild pig either partially or mostly consumed the remains of the human victim that had been fatally injured by that animal in the attack,” Mayer wrote.
So be careful.
SAFE BOATING COURSE: Sav-annah River Sail & Power Squadron will offer a six-week safe boating course on Mondays from April 14 to May 19 at the Fire Station No. 1 at 1 Broad St., in Augusta. Class hours are 7-9 p.m.
Cost is $29, which includes course materials.
To register, contact Paulette Harris-Holmes,(706) 737-8113 or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
FLY FISHING GROUP: The CSRA Fly Fishers will meet at 7 p.m. Monday at Rivers & Glen Trading Company in Surrey Center.
Charles Murphy will talk about Trout Fishing in Argentina.
For more information visit www.csraflyfishers.org.