Here’s the Pitch: Tennessee a hotbed for wild animal attacks


If you work as an editor at a news publication, you’re bound to get a steady diet of story ideas sent your way from public relations professionals.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t get pitched an idea from a PR professional in New York, Chicago or even Canada. Millennials and their side hustles, robot apps that make people better at networking, 2022’s best cities for hockey fans – I see a little bit of everything when I open up my inbox.

As you know, we focus exclusively on local news here in Johnson City and Washington County, so I usually don’t end up writing stories generated by these pitches. But every now and then something comes in that catches my attention.

That was the case recently when I scanned the subject line of an email that claimed Tennessee is a hotspot for dangerous animal attacks. I see animals every day. Could one of them attack me? I couldn’t afford to not open the message.

It turns out that analyzed all reported animal attacks across the United States since 2000 and did a study that revealed the states where people have the greatest chance of being involved in a combative incident with an animal. When the computer spit out the results, Tennessee was ranked as the fifth most dangerous state when it comes to the frequency of adverse animal encounters. If you care to read the entire survey, you can do so by following this link:

Needless to say, I had a lot of questions, so I reached out to Allen White, the fella who sent me the story pitch. He was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

First off, I told Allen about the time last summer when I saw one of my neighbors staring down into a yellow jacket hole in his backyard. When he went over near the tree in his yard to grab a stick, I obviously went in the house and watched the rest through the window.

That proved to be a wise move when my neighbor, in the interest of science, jammed the stick down the hole to make sure it was indeed occupied by yellow jackets. That was followed quickly by a mad dash toward his house with the angry swarm hot on his tail.

When things died down, he came back outside with a gas can, poured the gas down the hole and dropped a match in there, which seemed to solve the problem. At the end of the day, however, he was a statistic and I was not. So I asked Allen if the frequency of animal attacks in a given state has more to do with the animals or the people.

“I guess you could argue either way really,” Allen replied via email. “Granted,some states have a larger number of more dangerous animals than others, however, from your entertaining story, clearly, there’s a human element that comes into play.”

My next observation was that New Hampshire and Vermont had not recorded an animal attack in 20 years. Two entire states full of people, yet not one animal attack was recorded. So I asked Allen if animals might be deterred by the off-putting accents of the people who inhabit those states.

This is the point where Allen hedged his bets a little bit, which I understand. He probably pitches his story ideas to Yankees and doesn’t want to alienate them.

“That’s a good question and a possible answer,” he said from the figurative fence he was straddling. Allen went on to say the folks up there may have been attacked by animals and not reported it. This guy has a future as an elected official.

Finally, I told Allen I couldn’t help but notice a website called was doing research on this sort of thing. So I had to ask if people in Ohio were entertaining themselves by placing wagers on how many Texans would go “mano a mano” with a rattlesnake or how many Tennesseans would try to pet a bear cub with disastrous results.

“Unfortunately, I cannot comment,” Allen replied, telling me all I needed to know.

When that new casino opens in Bristol, I’m going to put down a chunk of change on those yellow jackets getting the best of my neighbor again this summer.


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