7 Shocking Animal Attacks You’ve Never Heard Of

Animals are our friends, companions, resources, and a beautiful part of nature. But what happens when the tables turn, and they become deadly assailants?

May 14, 2024By Kassandre Dwyer, M.Ed History

animal attacks you never knew


Humans have coexisted with animals since the beginning of humankind. Creatures of all shapes and sizes have been essential to human success and happiness, whether they have been used as companions, food, for work, or simply enjoyed as part of the wild world. However, it’s common knowledge that some animals just can’t be tamed, and people have learned to use caution around these critters. Despite an abundance of care, confrontations still happen, sometimes because of human error, and sometimes the reason for an attack is unknown. Regardless, the results can have life-altering consequences.


1. A Snake From the Sky…and a Hawk

animal attack peggy jones
Peggy Jones shows off her bandaged arm during her recovery from a snake/hawk attack. Source: Faith Pot


Peggy Jones got the shock of her life in August of 2023 when she was doing yard work on her property in Texas. All of a sudden, she saw something fall from the sky and hit her arm. As the object wrapped around her arm, she realized it was a snake. Jones screamed for her husband and began shaking her arm to remove the approximately four-and-a-half-foot-long snake, but this only angered the creature, who tightened its grip and began striking at her face, hitting her glasses.


The situation got even stranger in a matter of seconds when a brown and white hawk swooped down from overhead and joined the fray. The hawk had been flying overhead with the snake, its meal, in its talons and had inadvertently dropped it. It had now returned to claim its dinner. As the hawk attempted to grab the snake, its talons scratched Jones’ arm, lifting it into the air. Eventually, the bird managed to uncoil the snake and fly off with it, leaving Jones slashed, punctured, and bruised.


Her husband didn’t see the attack but soon heard his wife screaming and came to her aid, finding her arm covered in blood. He drove her to the hospital, but through her hysterics, it took her several minutes to explain the story so that he fully understood the unbelievable tale. When she arrived at the hospital, it was determined that the majority of the wounds were from the hawk, and she did not appear to have been bitten by the snake. She was successfully treated with antibiotics and wound care, though she has suffered mental effects from the attack, especially since she was previously bitten by a venomous snake two years prior.

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2. Night of the Grizzlies

Glacier National Park ranger Leonard Landa with the bear that killed Michele Koons at Trout Lake, photo by Bert Gildart, 1967. Source: Outside


A summer night in Glacier National Park in 1967 forever altered how the United States and the National Park Service manage bears and the human-bear relationship. National parks were very different than they are today. Littering was common, as was feeding wildlife. These practices had helped condition various wild animals, particularly Grizzly Bears, to associate humans with food, contributing to the tragedy that took place deep on the night of August 13th. Two women, Michele Koons and Julie Helgeson, both nineteen, were fatally mauled to death after being dragged from their campsites by two different bears several miles from one another within the park.


granite park chalet
Granite Park Chalet by T.J. Hileman, 1925. Source: Great Falls Tribune


This incident served as a wake-up call to park officials as wildlife experts and rangers, some of whom had been making complaints before the attacks, began calling for widespread change to prevent future attacks. Near the attack sites, at Granite Park Chalet, the restaurant would feed the bears table scraps nightly as a spectacle for visitors. At Trout Lake, one of the attack sites, seventeen trash bags were picked up after the attack.


As journalist Jack Olsen wrote in his book Night of the Grizzlies, “It is pure coincidence indeed that two grizzlies chose a few hours of a single night to take two victims…but it is no coincidence at all that the year…was 1967 and place Glacier Park.” Changes were put into effect, and today, the results are evident. National parks are cleaner, visitors are educated on wildlife interactions, and bear sightings are reported and managed effectively.


3. The Beast of Gevaudan

animal attack beast gevaudan
An 18th-century engraving depicting the Beast. Source: National Geographic


A not-as-recent tale dates back to eighteenth-century France, when a still unidentified creature terrorized the French countryside in the region of Gevaudan. The first victim was 14-year-old Jeanne Boulet, who was tending her sheep and was later found brutally killed. Many more victims would follow, many with their throats torn out or bodies ripped to shreds.


Women and children were often victims, some alone, some with others. Eventually, around 100 would be killed and up to 300 injured in attacks that lasted about three years. To this day, no one knows exactly what the Beast of Gevaudan was. Modern guesses include a wolf (possibly an infestation, not just one wolf), a wolf hybrid, a serial killer in a costume, and a big cat or hyena that had escaped a menagerie.


4. The Champawat Tigress

animal attack champawat
The head of the Champawat tiger, left, and a sketch of her, right. Source: Reddit


The record holder for human kills by an animal belongs to a Bengal tigress known as the “maneater of Champawat,” with 436 documented kills to her name. In the late 1890s, she was injured, likely by a shot to the face by a hunter. This broke her canine teeth on the right side, restricting her ability to hunt a tiger’s normal prey. She turned to an easy catch: humans.


The tigress’ attacks started in Nepal, and she eventually moved to neighboring India. She outsmarted multiple attempts to capture her and moved long distances at night to haunt various villages. Jim Corbett, who was not a professional hunter but a skilled one, was recruited to take down the maneater in 1907. He would eventually be successful just after the tiger made her 436th known kill. Corbett was disturbed by the fact that human injury had likely caused the Tigress to turn to consuming people, contributing to his interest in wildlife conservation in future years.


5. Croc (Not Snakes) on a Plane

animal attack crocodiles
Young crocodiles. Source: University of Tennessee, Knoxville


Samuel L. Jackson popularized snakes on a plane, but what about crocodiles on a plane? In 2010, a small passenger plane crashed in Africa as a result of a smuggled crocodile. A passenger had hidden a crocodile in their carry-on bag, and it escaped. The passengers panicked, getting out of their seats and rushing to the other side of the plane. Due to the small size of the plane, it was thrown off balance, and the pilots were unable to regain control. The resulting crash would result in the death of the two pilots and eighteen passengers, with one passenger surviving to tell the story. Though the crocodile didn’t actually attack, its simple presence was enough to cause a panic that led to the death of twenty people.


6. Coyotes Attack Emerging Folk Singer

animal attack taylor mitchell
Taylor Mitchell. Source: CBC


The first and only confirmed case of an adult being killed by coyotes happened in Nova Scotia, Canada in 2009. Aspiring folk singer Taylor Mitchell was enjoying a solo hike when she was attacked by at least two coyotes. She was discovered by other hikers who had to chase the coyotes away from Mitchell. She was rushed to the hospital but passed away later that day.


The reason for this attack is still a mystery, as the coyotes in this region had not been food-conditioned by humans, and Taylor was not carrying any food. The coyotes, who were later trapped, were in excellent physical condition and health. This attack led to ongoing research on coyotes by Parks Canada to hopefully better understand coyote behavior.


7. Tilikum’s Revenge

Tilikum performing in 2011 by Gerardo Mora. Source: NPR


Captured in 1983 as a two-year-old calf, orca Tilikum, known as “Shamu” to the public, was the star attraction of SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida. What the public didn’t know is that he had been involved in two deaths, one in 1991 when a trainer slipped and fell into his pool, and Tilikum and his two tankmates submerged and dragged her until she died several hours later.


The second occurrence happened seven years later when a twenty-seven-year-old man was found lifeless in Tilikum’s tank, draped over the whale’s back when the staff arrived in the morning. The man was covered in wounds and abrasions. SeaWorld kept both events under wraps, but the horror that happened in full view of visitors in 2010 would reveal Tilikum’s horrifying history and lead people to question whether or not orcas should be kept in captivity at all.


animal attack dawn brancheau
Dawn Brancheau with an unidentified orca. Source: Tribune News Services via the Mirror


On the evening in question, experienced trainer Dawn Brancheau was at the edge of his pool, feeding the orca fish as part of a “Dine with Shamu” show. Tilikum suddenly grabbed her, some witnesses say by the ponytail and dragged her underwater, rapidly moving her through the pool. Rescuers were unable to get to Brancheau due to the whale’s aggressive response.


By the time Brancheau’s body was removed from the pool, her scalp had been torn off, her spinal cord severed, and her jawbone and ribs fractured. Her cause of death is listed as blunt force trauma and drowning. While some were quick to label the whale a murderer, many blamed SeaWorld and similar businesses for their treatment of Tilikum and other whales, particularly after the release of the 2013 documentary Blackfish, which exposed the consequences of keeping these highly intelligent mammals in captivity.

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By Kassandre DwyerM.Ed HistoryKassie is a farmer with a passion for history who has a day job teaching middle school social studies in her hometown. In addition to earning NBCT certification and M.Ed. in History, she holds an M.Ed in Curriculum & Instruction and a B.S. in Sustainable Agriculture/Animal Science. She is particularly interested in telling the stories of often overlooked historical perspectives or hidden truths, and is especially intrigued by the history of America’s Indigenous peoples, war, and the “wild west.”