When it comes to dangerous animals in North America, many on this list may be surprising. Some animals may not be dangerous by nature, but their behavior certainly puts human lives at risk.
Animals account for hundreds of deaths in the US every year. Here are the ten most dangerous animals in North America.
You would be forgiven for thinking that alligators or sharks might be the most dangerous animal in North America, but deer-related deaths are much more common.
Deer cause more deaths in North America each year than any other animal. On average, 150 people are killed each year when their car strikes a deer crossing the road.
As urban areas are constantly expanding and road networks are extended, humans are encroaching further into deer habitat.
West Virginia and Pennsylvania have some of the highest deer-related vehicle collisions in the country. Deer tend to dart out into traffic, making it almost impossible for drivers to take avoiding action.
BEES, HORNETS & WASPS
Next on our list of dangerous critters is bees, hornets, and wasps. Most people are scared of them due to their painful sting, but those who are allergic need to be most wary.
Allergic reactions to bee, hornet, or wasp stings account for as many as 70 deaths each year. People with an allergy to insect toxins experience anaphylaxis. The toxins from an insect sting cause swelling of the tongue and throat, which severely restrict breathing.
Other symptoms include swelling around the eyes, hives (itchy rash), vomiting, a sudden drop in blood pressure, and shock. According to the CDC, approximately 80% of bee, hornet, or wasp-related deaths occur in men.
The Mojave rattlesnake, or Mojave green, is considered the deadliest snake in North America. They are large snakes, growing up to 4.5 feet in length. Due to their camouflaged brown-green patterning, they are excellent ambush predators.
Mojave rattlesnakes are a type of pit viper and have incredibly potent venom. The biggest danger is that symptoms can take hours to set in, causing many victims to believe the bite is not serious.
Symptoms include shortness of breath, vision loss, inability to speak or swallow, muscle spasms or twitching, general muscle weakness, and severe pain. Without antivenom, the toxins in the body will cause cardiac arrest or organ failure.
BLACK WIDOW SPIDER
In the US, there are five species of black widow. They are recognizable by their shiny black coloring and red hourglass abdomen marking.
All four southwestern deserts are home to black widows. Texas and Florida also have black widow populations.
Black widow bites can cause a condition call latrodectism, which includes symptoms such as muscle rigidity, severe pain, vomiting, fever, sweating, and elevated blood pressure. In cases where children or the elderly are bitten, coma or even death can occur if medical treatment is not received quickly.
Symptoms from a black widow bite can last anywhere from 3 to 7 days, but bites are rare. Black widows only bite if they feel threatened.
While bear attacks are rare, there are instances of bears attacking and killing people. This is more common after hibernation since most female bears will have cubs.
Just recently, a woman in Colorado was killed while out walking her dogs. In 2019, an injured grizzly bear in the Yukon killed a mother and her ten-month-old daughter.
Bears are dangerous due to their large size, powerful jaws, and sharp teeth. They can easily crush bones and leave deep puncture wounds from a bite. In most cases, they simply want to chase away the danger, and most bears will back off if you move away.
Since the late 1940s, there have been more than 550 recorded alligator attacks and 24 deaths. Most of these incidents occurred in Florida, where alligators are common.
As we expanded further into rural areas, sightings of alligators in human-populated areas have increased. It is fairly common in Florida for people to find alligators in their pool or basking in the sun on their patio.
American alligators have a bite force of more than 2000 pounds per square inch. Not only that, once they have a grip on their prey, they perform a death roll. This involves using strong tail muscles to turn the body and allows alligators to tear off pieces of meat.
Interesting, while an alligator’s bite force gives them the third most powerful bite in the world, the muscles used to open the mouth are weak. A human can hold an alligator’s mouth closed quite easily with one hand.
Along the east coast and Gulf of Mexico, warm shallow waters are home to bull sharks. According to the Florida Museum of Natural History, there have been 27 confirmed deaths caused by bull sharks since 1850, but experts believe this number is considerably higher.
Bull sharks and great whites have very similar coloring, and people often mistake bull sharks for the feared great white. Overall, bull sharks are far more aggressive and do not tolerate being disturbed or approached.
Great whites are more curious creatures and do not usually attack unless provoked, or they mistake a swimmer or surfer for a prey animal such as a seal.
ARIZONA BARK SCORPION
This fearsome little critter is the most venomous scorpion species in North America, causing symptoms such as severe pain, numbness, vomiting, temporary paralysis of the affected limb, and convulsions.
They are commonly found in and around the Grand Canyon. They hibernate during the winter months in groups of up to 40.
Arizona bark scorpions are nocturnal. During the day, they use shaded rock crevices to rest and avoid the heat. They are most commonly found near sources of water. At night they hunt insects, using their pincers to grab prey and their sting to immobilize them.
Most stings to humans occur to the feet as scorpions are common around the Canyon trails. Stings to the hand are also common as people attempt to handle the scorpions or move them away.
Perhaps the most surprising entry on this list, cows account for more human deaths than alligators and sharks.
Between 2003 and 2007, Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa, and Kansas recorded 108 fatalities caused by cows. Most of these occurred to farmworkers tending to the cows and herding them between grazing pastures, but some were attributed to the public attempting to cross farmland.
Death is typically caused by kicks to the chest and head or by trampling. Each year cows cause as many as 30 human deaths. The most common reason cows behave aggressively is to protect their calves.
The breeding season is also a dangerous time to approach a cow as they are experiencing elevated hormone levels and will be easily agitated.
By far, the most dangerous animal in North America is dogs. 2020 saw 46 deaths due to dog bites, down two from the previous year. While many people believe so-called dangerous breeds cause these incidents, the reality is that most dogs do not bite unless they feel threatened or agitated.
Children playing with dogs often touch a dog’s face, which dogs do not like. In dog-to-dog interactions, the face is avoided at all costs as it can easily provoke an attack.
Lost dogs or those who have suffered abuse from previous owners are also likely to bite out of fear. Burglars are most likely to be bitten as the dog is protecting their home and family.
Bites from dogs are also common when owners try to break up a fight between two dogs. Typically, this is not needed as a negative dog-to-dog interaction will resolve itself within a few seconds.
Trying to pull apart two dogs in a heightened sense of defense is likely to result in you receive a bite yourself. The best way to stop a fight is to lift a dog’s rear end off the ground and turn in a sharp circle as soon as they let go of the other dog.
If people were educated on basic dog behavior and body language, far fewer people would die due to dog bites. Dogs never bite unless they have no other option and cannot avoid the situation or interaction that makes them uncomfortable or fearful.