The United States has seen a dramatic spike in animal fatalities since 2009, the first year that the U.S. National Park Service began keeping statistics on its animals, a nonprofit group said Friday.
Since then, at least 2,600 dogs and cats have been killed in parkland in the United States, with an additional 4,000 killed or injured, according to the National Park Conservation Association.
The increase is nearly three times the amount recorded from 2008 to 2011, when the first-year rate was just over 1,000.
“The number of parkland fatalities has continued to increase in recent years,” said Michael Smith, a spokesman for the National Parks Conservation Association, which is based in Asheville, North Carolina.
Smith said the increase in park fatalities may be attributed to more people visiting parks.
In 2009, about 2.5 million people visited the country’s parks annually, according the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
By 2016, the number had risen to about 5.5 billion visitors, and the average age of park visitors had grown to about 66.
The number is expected to double again in the next 10 years, with some estimates of an increase of fivefold.
Parkland fatalities are often linked to conditions like disease, neglect or overpopulation, Smith said.
To find out if your pet was lost, Smith recommends going to the park to make sure the animal is safe and sound.