Lions more likely to attack after a full moon

Posted by Lydia Leavitt

If you didn't already make it a priority to avoid lions and other maneating creatures like wolves, scientists warn you should particularly avoid them right after a full moon when they are the most likely to eat you.

According to a recent study examining 500 lion attacks in Tanzania between 1988 and 2009, the majority occured between dusk and 10pm on nights when the moon was waning. Of these attacks, more than two thirds of the victims were killed and eaten.

As the full moon diminishes, there is less and less light, allowing lions as well as other maneating animals to surprise and attack their prey successfully from the shadows.

When the moon is full and provides lots of lights, such predators have less of a chance of catching dinner and may even go hungry for a few nights.

Indeed, attacks were 33% more frequent during the second half of the moon cycle, when the moon shines the least and provides the most darkness from which the maneaters can strike.

The study's chief investigator, Dr. Craig Packer of the Minnesota College of Biological Sciences stated,  "People start out at moderate danger during days 0-4, when the moon is only a sliver and sets shortly after sunset.

"Danger then declines as the moon gets brighter each evening, with very few attacks in the nights just before the full moon. Then, wham, danger spikes as those hungry lions can now operate in darkness for the rest of the lunar cycle."

Perhaps such negative experiences surrounding the full moon are the basis of classic vampire and werewolf stories.

"These findings provide novel insights into human attitudes towards the moon. Although we are safest from lion attacks during well-lit nights, the full moon accurately indicates that the risks of lion predation will increase dramatically in the coming days," researchers wrote in an article published in the Public Library of Science ONE.

"Thus, the full moon is not dangerous in itself but is instead a portent of the darkness to come."

What that means for you: a sunset stroll through the African tundra right after a full moon is probably a horrible, misguided idea. Just sayin'.

(Via The Guardian)