And more of these predatory animals seem to be on the move, according to numerous reports. Though they were once hunted to the point of extinction, during the 20th century, the populations of many apex predators - carnivores with few or no predators of their own - rebounded, due, in large part, to endangered-species protections.
"When I was a boy growing up in Florida during the 1950s, alligators were endangered, and I never saw one outside of a zoo or Everglades National Park," Michael Conover, a wildlife management expert at the Berryman Institute, wrote in a 2008 editorial in the journal Human-Wildlife Conflicts. "Today, alligators are abundant throughout the state."
Success breeds conflict Similar success stories with wolves, bears, cougars and other predators have resulted in human-animal encounters that don't always end well for the human. During one deadly week in 2006, three Florida women were killed and partly eaten by alligators in separate incidents.
The month prior to the alligator attacks, a 6-year-old girl in Tennessee was killed by a black bear, which also injured the girl's mother and her 2-year-old brother. As the population of black bears has grown nationwide, a greater number of bear-human conflicts have been reported. [See Photos of the Black Bears' Return]