Sometimes the animals that look the most threatening do not actually amount to the biggest danger. Believe it or not, deer are actually more dangerous to people than cougars.

That’s not to say deer are attacking people in their backyards — and it’s not even their fault — but more deer contribute to human deaths by wandering onto roadways than are killed by cougar attacks, by far. 

For that reason, wildlife biologists are suggesting that state regulators introduce and foster cougars as a way to reduce the deer populations, according to the New York Times.

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Sure cougars kill people too now and then, but they estimate less than one per year. Over 30 years, that’s far less than the 155 human deaths and 21,400 injuries that could be prevented, according to their study in the Journal Conservation Letters.

“The idea of being killed in a car crash with a deer just doesn’t scare people the way the idea of a cougar leaping on your back in the woods does,” one of the authors, Dr. Laura Prugh told the Times.

Researchers collected data on just how many deer a cougar consumes per year and how much space that might require in order to determine whether bolstering cougars would be a viable strategy to reduce deer numbers. Turns out cougars consume about 259 deer in their lifetime and need about 850 square miles to roam. 

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Cougar populations throughout the United States have increased in recent decades, but the researchers say there needs to be a greater effort on conservation. In the Los Angeles area where mountain lions are roaming strong in the nearby Santa Monica mountains, researchers recently found that they hunt much closer to human populations than previously realized. 

While males tended to hunt in wooded areas, females often chose to hunt closer to suburban areas as a means of protection from aggressive males, according to the study published in PLOS One and reported by the LA Times. 

The information, obtained from radio tagged cougars, shows that people and big cats can live symbiotically. And they might actually keep you safer.

Photo credit: Flickr CC