Although we call the United States home, we’re not the only things that live here. The US has a very diverse wildlife population and some of these animals are known to be aggressive and even attack humans. While lions, tigers, and bears come to mind as predators, smaller animals and insects are oftentimes far more deadly overall. Of course, all of us would prefer to be bitten by a mosquito over a lion, but you’re more likely to catch something dangerous from a mosquito than ever encountering a mountain lion in your yard.
We decided to take a look at some of America’s most prolific predators to discover more about the creatures that pose the biggest threat. Here are 10 deadly animals lurking in your backyard that prove no place is safe. Actually, you’re probably going to be just fine, but we honestly got freaked learning about various attacks.
American Alligators & Crocodiles
Lurking in rivers, swamps, lakes, and marshes in the southeastern United States, alligators are ominous predators with dinosaur bodies, muscular tails, and powerful jaws. There are an estimated 1.3 million alligators in Florida alone. You might recall the alligator attack that happened at Disney World a few years ago that left a 5-year-old boy dead.
While being killed by an alligator attack is unlikely, as generally there are fewer than 10 reported cases per year, people in Florida know to avoid bodies of freshwater around dusk or dawn because that’s when these monsters are most active.
The same is true for crocodiles which have attacked nearly 100 people and killed 20 of them over the last decade.
Brown Recluses & Black Widows
As creepy and disgusting as spiders may be, most won’t harm you. Between 2001 and 2013, only 7 people died on average every year from spider bites, according to the CDC. And one of the most dangerous native spiders in the US is the brown recluse. Found mostly in the south, this highly venomous spider has six (instead of eight) eyes, a violin shape on its back, and has an abdomen covered in fine hairs. EW!
Anyone bitten by a brown recluse should seek medical care immediately because there’s no antivenom available. The skin tissue at the bite site can become gangrenous, turning into a huge, gaping wound. Symptoms include chills, itching, fever, nausea, and in some more serious cases, kidney failure, seizures, and coma.
The female black widow carries a venom 15 times more toxic than the prairie rattlesnake, making it the most venomous spider in North America. The venom causes muscle pain and spasms at the bite. Medical attention is required and children are especially susceptible to death if not treated.
Well, snakes are terrifying but that feat might be overblown. Each year, between 7000-8000 Americans are bitten by snakes, according to the University of Florida, but usually, there are only 5 to 6 bites that end in fatality. By the math, the chances of dying from a snake bite are 1 in 50 million.
The three most venomous species in the US are copperheads, cottonmouths, and eastern diamondback rattlesnakes. The largest of the three is the eastern diamondback rattlesnake, but despite being universally feared, it isn’t very aggressive and will only attack in self-defense.
Venom from snakes works like flesh-eating bacteria (eeeeek!) because it’s meant to break down the tissue of prey to make it easier for the snake to digest. That means it’s very important to get medical attention if you’re bitten by a poisonous one.
Mountain lions are America’s largest wildcats. They are fierce predators, with powerful limbs, sharp claws, and the ability to leap as high as 15 feet and as far as 40 feet. 40 feet??? Just a few years ago in Colorado, a mother had to fight off a mountain lion to save her 5-year-old son that was attacked in their own backyard. However, attacks from mountain lions and other wildcats like panthers are rare.
In fact, there are, on average, four attacks and one fatality attributed to mountain lions each year. That’s not a lot but we’re not going to tease fate and try to put one of these beautiful beasts. A Tiger King, we are not!
Scorpions are terrifying looking creatures. The most venomous variety in America is the Arizona Bark scorpion. Found only in the southwestern part of the country, this little creature can climb walls, trees, and other objects with rough surfaces, and because it has a wide, thin body, it can squeeze into tiny spaces. The critter likes to hide in dark, moist places (including the inside of shoes). However, it is timid and will likely run away from you rather than attack if it has the chance.
The threat of a scorpion’s venom is not that it’s crazy toxic. Many people have no idea they have an allergy to the venom (similar to bees) and can have serious allergic reactions to the toxin. On average only one person a year dies as a result of a scorpion sting. However, there’s a growing trend of scorpions adapting to urban life and becoming a bigger issue than ever before. We’re going to pretend that’s not real.
The wild wolf population in the US has decreased dramatically over the years with an estimated 5,000 still living in the wild. Wolves are more than capable of killing a human, but instead, they’d prefer to leave us alone than attack. In fact, there have been no recorded lethal wolf attacks in the US since the 1930s.
That doesn’t mean they can’t hurt you! If you encounter a grey wolf, do not turn away from it and try to run. They might mistake you for prey. Instead, try and look as menacing as possible to frighten it away.
Grizzly & Black Bears
Black bears are the most common bear in the US. There are far fewer grizzly bears but they are faster and more deadly. Your chances of being injured by a bear are approximately 1 in 2.1 million, according to the National Park Service. Between 1900 and 2009, around 63 people were killed in 59 incidents involving black bears, according to a report in Wildlife Management, which is a relatively low number.
Grizzlies are more threatening, with the average encounter being 21 times more dangerous than a black bear encounter. Confrontations with mothers and their cubs create the most dangerous situations.
Bears are extremely dangerous. Be sure to carry bear spray if you’re hiking or camping in bear country.
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Of all the creatures on this list, bees, wasps, and hornets are the most dangerous. According to the CDC, there were 509 deaths between 1999 and 2007 attributed to these insects. The most aggressive of these insects are yellow jackets and Africanized “killer” bees. After an organized attack, killer bees can remain agitated and ready to attack the next thing that crosses their path for 24 hours.
On average, 100 people are fatally attacked by hornets and bees each year. If a person is allergic, they can die in less than 10 minutes. Bees are one of the deadliest non-human animals on the planet.
While rabies is not a killer creature, it is one of the deadliest neurotropic viruses on the planet that’s carried by infected wildlife and of course domestic animals as well. Around the world, more than 59,000 people die of rabies each year because they cannot get the care they need. That’s about 1 person dying of rabies every 9 minutes.
Although death is rare for an infected person to get to that point in the US, victims under the age of 15 are most susceptible to death. If you think you’ve been bitten by an animal infected with rabies (or just bitten by anything), immediately seek medical attention.
You wouldn’t think it to look at them, but the common mosquito is the deadliest animal on the planet. Mosquitos carry diseases like malaria, encephalitis, and the West Nile Virus, which the females of the species like to transmit to humans whenever they can.
In developed nations like the United States, deaths from mosquito bites and transmitted diseases are rare, but throughout the world, they account for around one million deaths each year. However, diseases from mosquitos have been transmitted in the US.
In the United States, West Nile virus is the most common mosquito-borne disease, followed by malaria, dengue, and chikungunya. In 2018, there were around 2,647 cases of West Nile, with 217 cases occurring in the state of California. In that same year, West Nile was responsible for 167 deaths.
Wear that bug spray! Carry that EpiPen! Learn how to use the bear spray! Stay out of the woods! Stay out of the lakes! Don’t pet the animals!
Andrew is a Chicago-based writer who enjoys finding the best of the internet, obsessively making lists, and cooking for friends. After studying Film and Art History, he developed a deep love for both topics. Celebrity news, pop culture, and stories that bring people together are his passions.
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