MOST DANGEROUS ANIMALS IN UTAH? HORSES, HEALTH DEPARTMENT SAYS

Published: Tuesday, March 4 1997 12:00 a.m. MST

Utah has plenty of wild animals that are good candidates for being most deadly to humans: Rattlesnakes abound, cougars prowl the foothills, bears raid campsites and irritated elk may charge.

But according to the Utah Health Department, the most deadly of the state's animals is the beloved equine.Of the 45 people who died of animal-related injuries in Utah from 1984 to 1994, 82 percent were horse-related, the agency states.

And what of Utah's snakes, cougars, bears and elk? Zip. Health officials say no humans were known to have died at the fangs, claws, teeth or antlers of those members wild.

Health officials recommend equestrians wear an approved helmet, with the chin strap fastened, to prevent head injuries in a fall. But that isn't total insurance: actor Christopher Reeves was wearing a helmet when he fell from a horse and was left a paraplegic.

Another problem is many Utah riders died after they and their horses were hit by cars.

Riding a horse and driving a horse-drawn vehicle at night also can be dangerous and should be avoided, the health department states.

Red Rock Outfitters, a horse rental and riding site in Huntsville, said the best precaution riders can take is to ride a horse of their own ability, and not higher.

Rebecca Yoak, who owns the outfitter with her parents, said if a horse becomes unruly, quit riding.

"Don't sit and fight the horse," she said.

A distant second on the health department's list of deadly lifeforms is the insect kingdom, which accounted for four deaths. Three people died of reactions to bee stings; another succumbed to septic shock caused by an insect bite infection.

Three different species were responsible for the remaining four deaths.

Two men died after being gored by a bull at a rodeo. A 14-year-old boy died after being kicked by a deer. A 1-year-old girl died after being kicked in the head by a mule.

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