March 6, 2024 | Allison Robertson

America’s Deadliest Wildlife


Deadliest Wildlife in America

North America has some seriously deadly wildlife. While not all are particularly aggressive, if they happen to attack, your chances of survival are slim.

Here are 10 of America’s deadliest wildlife, and what to do if you encounter them.

snake and scared hiker split image

Quick Stats

Before we dive into the details, these statistics will help gain some perspective.

According to a study done by the Berryman Institute, over 47,000 people annually in the US sought medical attention after being attacked or bitten by wildlife.

Approximately people experience a fatal attack each year.

Man in Hospital bedFreepik,tonodiaz

State Specific: Texas

Texas has been named the state with the most fatalities caused by wild animals.

According to the CDC, Texas tops the list with 520 fatalities caused by animals between 1999-2019, and an average of 26 fatalities each year.

Man on horse holding the Texas flag.Carol M Highsmith, Rawpixel

State Specific: California & Florida

California comes in second with 299 fatalities in that 20-year span, and Florida comes in third with 247 fatalities caused by animals.

Now, lets find out which animals pose the biggest threat.

Clearwater Beach, FloridaPeter, Adobe Stock

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Spiders

Some of the deadliest species of spiders live in North America. Two of which are the notorious black widow, and the brown recluse.

The black widow spider - 2008Konrad Summers, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Spiders: Black Widow & Brown Recluse

The black widow venom is considered the second strongest of any spider. The venom of the brown recluse is necrotic, even though they are not particularly aggressive.

Brown recluse or violin spiderRosa Pineda, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Scorpions

A scorpion uses the stinger on the end of its tail to inject venom into unsuspecting enemies or predators.

The Indian red scorpionShantanu Kuveskar, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Scorpions: The Arizona Bark Scorpion

The Arizona Bark Scorpion has established itself as the most potent species of scorpion in the USA, and carries a potentially lethal sting.

In the 1980’s, there were over 800 deaths reported in Mexico as a direct result of the Bark scorpion.

Arizona Bark Scorpion on the ground.Andrew Meeds, CC BY 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Bears

Bears are usually represented as cute and cuddly, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. They are easily one of the most dangerous species in America.

Bear and Cub in ForestDan Voican, Pexels

Bears: Black, Brown & Polar

There are three species of bear native to North America, all of which have the capacity to be particularly dangerous: the black bear, brown bear and polar bear.

All of which will attack if they feel even the least bit threatened.

Brown bear - head shot.Petr Ganaj, Pexes

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Wolves & Coyotes

Wolf attacks within North America are actually quite rare, but there has been an increase in recent years.

Coyotes are a different story.

Coyote looking at camera.Henry, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Coyotes

Coyotes, on the other hand, have been involved with numerous fatalities over the years. Small children are at the greatest risk, with numerous reports of coyotes attempting to snatch children under the age of 5.

Coyote in back yard.Tracie Hall, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Wolves: The Gray Wolf

Weighing up to 90lbs, gray wolves hunt in packs of 40 or more. Over the years, many of them have become acclimated to larger human populations, resulting in more attacks.

Grey wolf looking at side.Andy Witchger, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

American Bison

The American Bison is the biggest land animal in the United States, standing at a whopping 6 feet and weighing 1.5 tons.

The American Bison rarely attack unless provoked, but when they do, its deadly.

American bison in forest.Jack Dykinga, Wikimedia Commons

Alligators

Alligators will devour anything that they come across. Studies have found that the power generated by the jaws of an alligator surpasses any laboratory-measured bite of any animal.

Florida has approximately 1.5 million alligators—and they experience about 10 fatal attacks each year.

A large adult American Florida Alligator.cuatrok77, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Sharks

Shark attacks are also very common in Florida, as well as other coastal states. Not all bites are fatal, but they sure do cause a lot of pain and suffering.

All three of the main man-eating species of sharks can be found off the coast of North America.

A great white shark swimming in the oceanVova Kras, Pexels

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Sharks: Great Whites, Bull, & Tiger

Every recorded fatality in California has been attributed to great white sharks. On the other hand, in Florida, bull sharks and tiger sharks carry out most attacks.

Photo of a Bull Shark swimming in oceanUnknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

Snakes

There are several species of venomous snakes within the USA.

Each year, there are an estimated 5 deaths per 8000 cases of venomous bites—this number would be much higher if anti-venom medication wasn’t readily available.

A large Red-bellied Black SnakeOliver Neuman, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

The Coral Snake

The most venomous of all snakes within North America is the coral snake, a member of the cobra family. Its venom will cause paralysis of the respiratory system, leading to the suffocation of the victim..

Roatan Coral SnakeJoelAmaya, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

The Rattlesnake

The Rattlesnake is the most recognized species of snake and has a much more aggressive demeanor.

Diamondback rattlesnakes are larger in size, and have a venom that can cause intense pain and damage to body tissues.

Eastern Diamondback RattlesnakeGerald A. DeBoer, Shutterstock

Deer

Deer may surprise you because they seem so innocent, but they are actually responsible for more fatalities than any other animal in the US.

deer male and female in winterDelbars, Shutterstock

Deer: Fatalities

Most fatal accidents involving deer happen when they cross the road and get hit by cars, resulting in catastrophic crashes and human fatalities.

Deer on the roadFlickr, Images by John 'K'

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Africanized Bees

More commonly known as killer bees, Africanized Bees attack in swarms, often with devastating results. They even chase their victims for up to a quarter of a mile.

One sting may not be fatal, but several stings certainly can.

Africanized BeeCarlos Eduardo Joos, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Africanized Bees: Fatalities

The number of Africanized Bees is increasing in the United States, leading to an increase in fatalities; annually, 40 to 50 people pass from allergic reactions following stings.

People collect Africanized bees honey.Scott Bauer, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Wikimedia Commons

Cougars

Although cougar attacks on humans can be rare, they are not unheard of—and their attacks are absolutely brutal.

Cougar laying on the grass.National Park Service from USA, Wikimedia Commons

Cougar Attacks

In the past few decades there have been over 100 cougar attacks in the US, 27 of which were fatal. Unfortunately, many of them were children.

Mountain Lion In Glacier National ParkNational Park Service, Wikimedia Commons

Livestock

Believe it or not, farm livestock is one of the most dangerous class of animals in the entire country. From a horse’s powerful kick to a goat’s sharp horns, farm animals have been known to cause quite a stir.

But those aren’t the worst ones.

Horse and cows outside.Maël BALLAND, Pexels

Cows

Surprisingly, cows—who are typically slow and docile—can be dangerous if they all begin to stampede at the same time. Their sheer body weight makes them dangerous.

Hikers and cyclists whom exercise in the countryside can attest to the danger of spooking a herd of cattle.

3 Cows in FieldPixabay, Pexels

Humans

And finally, the most dangerous being in the United States is the human. While not classified as wildlife, humans still post a significant threat to each other.

There are over 3 million human fatalities each year in the US, caused by other humans.

Police Officers investigating a case.cottonbro studio, Pexels

States With Least Attacks

The states ranking last with the least number of fatalities caused by animals were Delaware, North Dakota, and Rhode Island, all with zero fatalities caused by animals recorded over the last 20 years.

Girl in blue dress standing beside cow.cottonbro studio, Pexels

Deadliest Animal of All

The brown bear can undoubtedly be classified as the deadliest creature in North America due to its fiercely territorial nature.

If provoked, brown bears will fight till the very end.

Portrait of a brown bear standing outdoors.Chen Te, Pexels

Second Deadliest

The second deadliest animal in the US is a tie between sharks and snakes—with most snake-related fatalities being from rattlesnake bites.

Man holding a small rattlesnake.Peter Haden, Flickr

How To Avoid Wildlife Attacks: Bears

When facing a black bear, it is advised that you make yourself as big as possible and make lots of noise.

But when facing a brown bear, it is advised you do the opposite: stay as still as possible and slowly move away from the bear, without making any sudden moves.

Angry brown bearStuart Muzzy, Flickr

How To Avoid Wildlife Attacks: Bears

Knowing the difference between a black bear and a brown bear can save your life. It is also advised that you carry bear spray when you plan to visit areas where bears are present.

bear sprayJames Brooks, Flickr

How To Avoid Wildlife Attacks: Sharks

Most shark attacks happen unexpectedly, so it is tough to be prepared. But if you find yourself being attacked by a shark, it is advised that you immediately attack back—and with as much force as you can possibly manage.

Use anything you have as a tool to help you fight. Target the eyes, gills and nose.

Diving with a Shark - 2014NOAA Ocean Exploration, Flickr

How To Avoid Wildlife Attacks: Snakes

In the event of being bitten by a venomous snake, it is advised that you keep calm to avoid the spread of the venom throughout your body.

Keep the bite below the heart level, clean it with warm, soapy water, and cover with a clean dressing while waiting for EMS.

Scared senior man in the woods.Ron Lach, Pexels

How To Avoid Wildlife Attacks: Snakes

Contrary to popular belief, sucking out the venom is not advised.

Remembering the colors and shape of the snake can be vital to identifying the correct treatment quickly and effectively.

Man holding a snake.MART PRODUCTION, Pexels

Final Thoughts

While wildlife attacks are not as common as people may think, when they do happen, they can be seriously detrimental.

Most wildlife attacks have the potential to end in fatalities. It is important to be aware of your surroundings, and be prepared for possible attacks so that medical help can be reached within a reasonable time frame.

People walking in the wood.Dewa Prabawa, Pexels

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