The natural wilderness of our planet has always been both fascinating and dangerous. The majestic rolling hills, the dry and barren desserts, the colorful tropics—which encompass the organic simplicity that many people admire—are just fragments of the larger scope of our wildlife. Networks, mini-series, and channels such as National Geographic, NOVA, and Discovery have all brilliantly shown viewers the depth of Earth’s natural landscape and all its glory. It’s really amazing to witness the type of footage that these talented photojournalists and wildlife videographers capture. Although, it seems like anyone can be an animal and wildlife enthusiast nowadays. All you need is to have some basic camping experience, a love of animals and nature, and some sort of delusion that you can speak and understand animals. Let’s look at the reality of our wildlife. Whatever we may see and assume about nature is not always beautiful and pleasant. Those who are committed to show the brutality of survival do it well and with respect. Animals, and nature in general, don’t have the time to care about us humans. We are part of its cycle of survival. It’s true that we are at the top of the food chain, but are we really, though? Are we equipped to handle being face-to-face with a leopard or a crocodile? In all cases, the answer is a gigantic NO. When humans go into the realm of animals, we are simply no match. Let’s explore some of the examples below in this list of 15 famous victims who died from animal attacks.
15. Historical Legend: Cleopatra
Earth’s history is filled with pompous and selfish rulers and royals. It’s juicy, complex, and mysterious. One of the most mystical and obsessed historical figures that we know of is Cleopatra. She’s the siren of Egypt, who brought some life back into Cesar’s old and limp toga. We’ll probably never know who she truly was as a human being, but one thing will certainly leave a mark—the symbolic snake bite that took her life. The shortest history lesson ever was—in five lines or less—that Cleopatra was on the come-up. She met Cesar and became his beau and tried to pull baby-mama status. Cesar went ‘f*** that’, but brought her a*s over to Rome. Cesar got assassinated by his homies, which got Cleo twisted until she met Mark Anthony. They slayed together, until Anthony’s bro (Octavian) offed him. With no beau nor power, Cleopatra took a few asps and got cozy.
14. Folksinger Taylor Mitchell
Taylor Mitchell tragically died at the young age of 19 in 2009. She was a singer with a country folk style hailing from Canada. Her style of singing and songwriting can be described as Sheryl Crowe and Taylor Swift’s musical offspring if they ever decide to breed one. She was an independent artist; and before a series of scheduled concert events, Mitchell, a nature-granola lover herself, was enjoying some down time and decided to explore Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Allegedly, she was being stalked by an unusual pack of coyotes who didn’t fear humans. Statistically, coyotes are known to be more fearful than aggressive. But with humans encroaching on their territory, it’s no surprise that they’d get used to human contact, especially in an active park. The pack of coyotes shredded Mitchell apart, and caused a lot of blood loss. She then died in the hospital from her wounds.
13. Infamous Tilikum Orca Victims
Tilikum, or “Tilly,” is the famed killer orca whale featured in the documentary Blackfish. If you’ve ever taken the time to see the documentary, the heavy and sad stories that intertwine both the victims and the whale are pretty obvious. All three victims became infamous in the media after the orca was said to kill all three. The first victim was Keltie Byrne. She was 21 at the time when she accidentally slipped into the tank and was drowned in front of a crowd by “Tilly” and two other whales at Sealand of the Pacific. The second victim was Daniel P. Dukes, a 27-year-old delusional trespasser who wanted to go skinny-dipping with the orca. He was found dead and mauled on the orca’s back the next day. The last and third victim was captured on video. 40-year-old Dawn Brancheau was killed during a show, when Tilikum suddenly grabbed her and drowned her.
12. Aviator Jean Batten
When the Wright brothers successfully nailed aviation, it became a sensational virus. Flying was the new frontier in adventure and transportation. So, when aviation took off, everyone wanted to be a part of the trend; especially women. Move over, Amelia Earhart. Jean Batten, or the “Greta Garbo of the Skies,” was here to make her mark in the clouds. When World War II broke out, Batten’s plane was commissioned to serve without her. She never flew again, and this probably broke her spirit. She became a recluse and rarely made a public appearance. It was in 1982—while living privately and alone in Spain—when she decided to visit the island of Marjorca. There, she encountered a wild and rabid dog, which was curious in finding out how she tasted. The bite got infected and was never treated, because strangely, Batten refused treatment. The infected bite eventually led to her death.
11. Lacrosse Athlete Diane Whipple
A member of the U.S. Women’s Lacrosse World Cup team, Diane Whipple was a well-rounded, educated, beautiful, and talented female athlete. She showed strong skills in high school for her athleticism and eventually proved herself by winning several titles in the lacrosse sport. Whipple moved to San Francisco, where she would ultimately get killed. In 2001, Whipple came back to her apartment complex after running errands and was suddenly attacked by two aggressively bred Canary Mastiff breeds—Bane and Hera. The dogs were supposed to be a part of an illegal dog-fighting scheme, which was to be run in prison by a high-ranking Aryan Brotherhood member. Since the member was serving a life sentence, he asked his two married attorney’s (who eerily adapted the prisoner as their son) to take care of the dogs. Whipple was literally mauled to death, especially by the bigger dog, Bane, who weighed in at 140 lbs.
10. Greece King Alexander I
King Alexander I of Greece was nothing more than a puppet king. The guy really didn’t get much respect after his own father and brother were put into exile, while the prime minister held much of the power. So, with no real ruling power, what was he supposed to do? With not really having a job, Alexander decided to marry someone under his social class, cause some controversy, and then, be forced to be banished himself. All was as planned and done until this young buck met his demise when he returned to Greece only to be bitten by two Barbary apes. Basically, the animals belonged to gardening grounds and was said to be domesticated. But one day, the royal dog triggered the apes to launch a vicious attack. When Alexander stepped in to defend his own domesticated pet, he was then attacked himself. The bites became infected, and he died (at 27) from sepsis.
9. Indian Deputy Mayor
Keeping with the theme of royals, here’s another one who got it in with some monkeys, which led to his fall—literally. When we think about and imagine the country of India, we might think of the spicy smells of curry, the Taj Mahal, or maybe the terrible slums brought on by poverty. The last thing we’d imagine is a plague. Well, what sort of plague? For a while, Delhi, the capital region of India, has been besieged by a plague of monkeys. Again, when humans encroach on wildlife, wildlife will always find a way to get revenge. These monkeys have been reported to attack, steal food, and invade government offices and temples. These monkeys are true thugs and give absolutely zero f***s. They don’t even care what position of power you’re in either. Deputy Mayor SS Bajwa fell from the terrace of his home and completely bashed his brains out while fighting off monkeys.
8. Minister George Hensley
There are plenty of delusional people in this world. We have people who say they can speak with the dead and people who can speak to animals. You might even run into a crazy pastor who preaches that everyone should handle poisonous snakes for their better good. No, for real. A guy like this truly existed. Minister George Hensley was not only popular, but he’s the most well-known religious figure to use snakes in his sermons. In the ‘50s, however, that all came to an end. This man of faith used not just ordinary snakes but venomous ones. He’d take a handful of snakes in both hands and then, tell other people to do the same. Well, guess what happened? You’ll never believe it. Hensley got bitten; and of course, the venom rapidly went into his system causing immense pain. On top of that, his death was ruled a suicide because he refused treatment.
7. Entertainer Marty Feldman
Marty Feldman was a very well-known British actor and comedian. People probably know him best from Young Frankenstein and his iconic bulging eyes due to his Graves Eye Disease. Feldman wasn’t torn to shreds nor bitten by anything poisonous, but he did die unfortunately from an unlikely animal. And yes, apparently, this story counts. Feldman was said to have a horrendous lifestyle—an active smoker, a gluttonous eater of dairy products, and the sort. He died of a heart attack. No wonder. Still, what caused the heart attack was shellfish. Believe it or not, shellfish is considered an animal. In fact, it was alleged as one of the main reasons that triggered the heart attack. While shooting in Mexico, Feldman did get food poisoning which probably exacerbated the perfect heart attack conditions on his poor heart. Well, lesson learned. Two things to avoid while in Mexico City—the water (always the water) and now, shellfish.
6. Actor Guy Standing
Sir Guy Standing (as he was well-known as) was another British 20th century entertainer. He was a high-ranked and decorated military officer during his stint in the first World War. His father and other family members were notable actors and entertainment players as well. So why not continue on that family line? Standing first appeared onstage, and then into silent films. When “talkies” [sound films] were the next big thing, Standing was already on his way to Hollywood. Unfortunately, by the mid-30s, Standing met his doom when he collapsed due to some sort of heart ailment. A few years prior to that incident, it’s been said he was bitten by a rattlesnake or a black widow spider. It doesn’t make sense for someone to survive either of those without any complications years after. So, in conclusion, whatever the attack was, it definitely helped to increase the likelihood of his untimely death.
5. Infamous Couple Tom And Eileen Lonergan
Tom and Eileen Lonergan became infamous when the story of their disappearance at sea broke out in 1998. It really can’t get any worse than being abandoned at sea. The couple went on a scuba diving excursion in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. However, through a faulty head count, the couple was accidentally left behind. It was only when their belongings were found on the excursion boat that the news spread for their search. What was supposed to be an adventurous time, turned into a horrifying way to die. The Great Barrier Reef is one of the most important marine ecosystems and one of the most heavily protected environmental parks. It’s definitely a beauty, but dangers do lurk in those waters. The reef is home to many species, including several species of sharks. Their bodies were never found; thus, people assumed they were eaten alive. Their story lives on in the film Open Water.
4. Matador José Gómez Ortega
The art of bullfighting is deeply rooted in Spanish history and culture. Some might disagree with this “sport” because of the cruel nature, but others see no problem with it. Bullfighting is gory, bloody, and violent. It can also make any mortal matador a god. For most people, not being gored to death is pretty much a god-like status. Ortega is regarded as a matador legend and icon, especially during the height of the bullfighting era. But when you play with the bull, you’re going to get the horns. And that’s exactly what happened. It was probably just another ring for Ortega as he faced another bull, entering proudly. It was known that he was doing very well, up until the last second of the fatal attack. At some point, the bull probably had enough and in a desperate attempt to defend itself, got the perfect opportunity to gore its adversary. Success!
3. Bear Lover Timothy Treadwell
If you’re familiar with the documentary Grizzly Man, then you’re familiar with Timothy Treadwell. Treadwell was a kindhearted person, but he lacked clarity and common sense. He was an amateur environmentalist (but really a failed actor who needed a new pursuit) and an amateur zoologist, specializing in bears. Treadwell didn’t just study any type of bears. He studied grizzly bears; specifically, giant Alaskan grizzly bears. While alive, Treadwell was clowned on by media outlets because of the dangerous type of game he was playing. He would name the bears bizarre human names and make them out to be like household pets. It was only a matter of time that Treadwell would meet his end. He stayed out his welcome in the Alaskan wilderness. Eventually, a bear (late in hibernation) decided to eat Treadwell as a last source for food. The bear also ended up eating Treadwell’s girlfriend who was camping with him.
2. French Athlete Jacques [Jacky] Boxberger
Jacky [Jacques] Boxberger was a French track and field star during the late ‘60s through the early ‘80s. He went to the Olympics several times, and has won many accolades and championships. He sustained an injury which prevented him from continuing his sport. Nevertheless, he married and settled down to have a family. In 2001, he and his family decided to go on an epic Kenyan safari trip. Safaris are the most popular and well-known excursions that people sign up for. So obviously, this was a no-brainer for Boxberger and his family. Sadly, while trying to photograph a majestic elephant, he was killed. The animal didn’t want its photo to be taken and made it clear by lashing out. The creature allegedly picked up the athlete and threw him against a tree, where it’s known that he was trampled by two to seven tons of massive angry elephant pressure.
1. Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin
Irwin skyrocketed to fame through catchy stereotypical Australian catchphrases. He also warmed the hearts of his many fans with his happy-go-lucky attitude towards some of the world’s most dangerous animals—sharks, snakes, tigers, lions, and crocodiles (especially). He was a conservationist and an environmental enthusiast. Every time the viewer thought Irwin would meet his doom, he’d prove them wrong. His series lasted for five seasons. In 2006, Irwin was doing another episode on dangerous animals, when he got a little too close for comfort for a stingray who didn’t want to be stalked or bothered. Stingrays are not known to be aggressive. But, like all animals, stay clear and use sound judgment; unless you’re the ‘crocodile hunter’. If you’re the latter, then just be as annoying as possible. The stingray had enough, and put the lights out on Irwin’s episode by shoving its barb into Irwin’s chest and puncturing his heart.