Of all the stunningly dangerous things conservationist and television personality Steve Irwin did during his 44 years on this planet, nothing was more head scratching than the manner in which he died.
Is it so surprising that the self-proclaimed “Crocodile Hunter” died as a result of his interaction with a creature in the wild? I don’t think anyone would make that claim. Audiences the world over have held their collective breaths while watching him wrestle with crocodiles and swim with sharks on his television programs and documentaries. He had a passion and affinity for wildlife that always appeared, if a bit highly caffeinated, to be genuine, to say the least. But he certainly took his chances.
None-the-less, while the fact that he died as a result of his insinuation into the habitat of a wild creature is, at best, mildly surprising, the odds that his death would be caused by a stingray’s barb are mind-blowingly low.
Stingrays are extremely docile creatures that, given the choice of fight or flight, will always choose flight. They are afraid of human beings, and only attack when they feel threatened. Members of the shark family, stingrays are cartilaginous vertebrates that can often be found nestled in the sand of shallow beaches. They like their lives peaceful. They are utterly non-assertive. They do not attack. They are like the bunny rabbits of the sea.
Heavily armed bunny rabbits, that is. Many breeds of stingrays come equipped with a venomous spine at the base of their tails, which lie flat against the animals when they are resting or going about their daily lives. When a stingray is frightened or startled, however the spine can lash out from the tail, and puncture or cut anything it comes into contact with.
But, the stingray is not a fighter. They prefer to spend their days hidden in the sand of a nice, shallow beach, camouflaged from would-be predators. Almost without exception, people wounded by stingrays sustain their injuries when they either step on a buried creature, or inadvertently startle one while swimming.
Steve Irwin is only the third person in Australia to die of a Stingray attack since 1938, according to The Guardian. It is an occurrence that is almost, quite literally, unheard of.
Some might say that Steve Irwin beat the odds every day that he lived, with his Animal Planet antics. In the end, however, with a profound twist of fate, his death proved to be the biggest odds-beater of all. He bearded the lion in its den, and was killed by a bunny rabbit.