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Abstract

The number of attacks on humans by large carnivores in North America is increasing. A better understanding the factors triggering such attacks is critical to mitigating the risk of future encounters in landscape where humans and large carnivore co-exist. Since 1955, of the 632 attacks on humans by large carnivores, 106 (17%) involved predation. We draw on concepts and empirical evidence from the Predator-Prey Interaction Theory to provide insights into how to reduce predatory attacks and, thus, improve human-large carnivore co-existence. Because large carnivore-caused mortality risks for humans are comparable to those shown by other mammal species in response to predation risk, framing predatory attacks under a theory underpinning predator-prey interactions may represent a powerful tool for minimizing large carnivore attacks. For example: 1) because most large carnivores have marked crepuscular and nocturnal activity, by minimizing our outdoor activities from sunset to sunrise in high risk areas, we could reduce the number of predatory attacks. Indeed, the most effective way in which prey avoid predation, but still utilize risky areas, is by adopting temporal changes in activity patterns; 2) because the human-age groups most often targeted by large carnivores are essentially the same as when predators in general search for prey, namely the youngest individuals, parental vigilance and education for children may be key factor to reduce predatory attacks; and 3) because group size can affect predator–prey encounter rates and outcomes in different ways, large groups of people can decrease predation rates (which are higher on lone individuals and children). Many humans may no longer consider predation by large carnivores to be a logical or plausible consequence of our predator-naïve behavior, because humans now only occasionally represent prey for such species. However, the solution to the conflicts represented by large carnivore attacks on humans remains implementation of correct strategies to face these rare events. But, whatever these strategies, we must base our behaviors on information, education and prevention.