40 of the deadliest animals in the United States, ranked
The United States is full of cute animals. But some of these animals, much to our chagrin, are set to kill. While some of these animals are those you might expect, others are much more mysteriously dangerous. Here, we outline the 28 deadliest animals of the U.S., unveiling the hidden danger that lurks in some of our cutest animal friends …
40. Gila monster
While snakes get all of the attention for the damage they inflict on humans, there are lizards (actually there is only one) that can also cause some harm. The one of these that really matters is the Gila monster, a species of lizard endemic to places like Arizona and New Mexico. The colorful lizard comes thoroughly equipped with a venom that you would rather not come into contact with.
While the number of deaths per year is essentially nonexistent, the amount of pain induced by the Gila monster is extraordinary. Because of this, we had to rank it as one of the most deadly. (We also felt the need to include a lizard.) Fortunately for us, the animal is very sluggish. This means that if you see one, you don’t need to worry about it chasing you down. Thank goodness.
39. Wild Boar
While wild boar attacks are one of the most exceptionally rare that will make this list, they have been known to kill. And, much like the famed death that took great King Robert from the Iron Throne, these boar attacks can be grisly. There have been a recorded four fatal attacks from wild boars that have happened over the past several decades.
This fact should provide scarce comfort, given that these beasts can descend on peaceful rural neighborhoods without warning. Who would have thought that these chunky fellas could accelerate to such high speeds? Because of the danger the boars pose, and the potential for such deaths therein, they have to make our list.
If you were given the time to articulate the 30 most deadly animals you expect to live in the United States, it is unlikely that the seal would make your list. This is unfortunate, as this thing is a vicious and opportunistic killer. If you spot one in the wild, it’d be best to turn around and run immediately. Okay, perhaps this assessment is just a bit overblown.
However, despite their ostensibly innocuous demeanor, the seal has been known to kill. This is especially true of mothers protecting their young — a notorious motivator of aggression in the animal kingdom. While the likelihood of being attacked and killed is freakishly low, this doesn’t mean that the freakish attacks cannot happen. And, when they do, you had better hope that it’s not you.
Coyotes, unlike their other canine cohorts, don’t cause that many problems for the locals. But because of their prevalence and size, however, they can still be deadly. Their deadliness comes in a few different ways. For one, people have been known to run into them while driving, sometimes swerving and causing an accident.
But other than the roadside fatalities, sometimes the coyotes will be rabid and attack people. Considering their abundance in populated areas, this can be particularly deadly. You don’t want to contract rabies. Consider this a public service announcement. Anyways, while you don’t have to fear these as much as some of the other animals on this list, you should exercise caution.
Alligators don’t often attack humans. Sometimes, however, the encounters do happen. What makes the alligator so deadly is its maw — it has the ability to clamp down and clamp down hard on its foes. And more than that, its razor-sharp teeth can dig and tear into flesh as if it were butter in the wake of a hot knife.
In the event of an attack, the best way out is to go for its snout and eyes. The jaws are a waste of time, considering their tremendous pressure. The places you’re most likely to encounter an alligator are the swamps and brackish waters of Florida. Even there, however, attacks have only happened occasionally. There is a recorded number of around 24 fatal attacks since 1973.
35. Brown recluse spider
The brown recluse is a spider that can cause an ugly suite of symptoms in those subjected to a bite. While, like the black widow, the thing is not necessarily primed to attack, if provoked it will inflict a nasty bite. The result of such an attack will be things ranging from mild to severe necrosis. To stop the spread of the decaying sting, it’s important to seek medical attention.
The spider can be found in places across the Midwestern and southern United States. Most often it’s found beneath logs and leaves, so it causes a particularly salient danger to those who work outside. The spider can also, however, seek its way inside of buildings and cars. Anyway, the best prevention for this species’ bite is to hold a careful eye in areas the brown recluse is known to hide.
The stingray has become notorious ever since it was responsible for killing one of the most beloved men on the planet: Steve Irwin, the so-called crocodile hunter. While filming a clip off the shores of the Great Barrier Reed in Queensland, Australia, he was fatally stung in the heart by one of these wicked little beasts. While death from such stings are rare, they can occur in just the right spot that will lead to death.
Fortunately for most of us, the stings from stingrays are relegated to the areas that are most likely to find them — our feet and legs. When these areas are stung, the venom is not enough to stop our heart. For those swimming nearer to their stingers, however, such a gift isn’t there. If the beasts get you in the heart or, as this poor Michigan woman found out, in the face, it might be game over.
33. Black bear
The black bear, while not as notorious as its giant carnivorous compatriots the grizzly and polar bear, has implemented its fair share terror. While it’s not as likely to attack, and when it does attack it’s not as likely to kill you, the black bear is one of the deadliest animals in the United States. Mostly, this is because of its attacks on hikers and joggers.
In New Mexico, for instance, a black bear had attacked a woman who was running a marathon. Terrifying. Fortunately, if you see a black bear you don’t need to weep in fear as you would for a grizzly or polar bear. Still, however, if you see one of these guys around their cubs, you had better watch out. Maternal aggression in these guys is infamously dangerous.
Crocodiles are another 150-million-year-old species that can cause quite the damage if you run into one in the wild. While far more common in other parts of the world (especially in the neotropics of Central America and Asia), you can find the reptiles in the swamps of southern Florida. Here, an encounter would be insalubrious at best.
In the Coral Gables canal, for instance, the exceptionally rare crocodile attack has happened. Here, a young man was swimming when bitten by the ancient swimming lizard. The croc’s bite was so formidable that it swiftly put an end to the swimming man’s life. Let this be a warning to any person wanting to swim in croc-infested waters. Best leave that to the crocodile hunters.
31. Portuguese man o’ war
While these things might look and often be mistaken for jellyfish, they are actually something far worse. The Portuguese man o’ war is a siphonophore. Unfortunately, it is extremely deadly. While it can’t be found in places all over the US, it is found during certain seasons off the eastern coast of Florida. And, if you live in Florida, it’s possible you’ve seen lifeguard signs advertising their awareness.
What makes the man o’ war so deadly is the combination of its sting with activities in the water. If you’re swimming, for instance, then stung by something horribly venomous, the result is not a fun time in the water. Instead, it is sometimes drowning. And that’s why this thing has made the list: it’s sometimes found washed ashore en masse. If you’re in Florida, watch your step.
30. Mountain lion
Mountain lions and cougars are notorious in the hiking and outdoors communities alike. While the majestic cats are relatively rare to sight, the occasional encounter does occur. And, when it does, the results can be deadly. Fortunately, these encounters are relatively few and far between.
You’re most likely to see one of these animals in the wilderness of U.S. and Canadian mountain ranges. There have been reported attacks in the Sequoia National Park of California, for instance. However, the total number of attacks over the past 100 years has been something around 125. While 27 of these have been deadly, the animal is not the most dangerous the U.S. has to offer.
29. Cone snail
The cone snail, despite its diminutive appearance as an invertebrate, is one of the deadliest creatures around. In fact, it is a local terror both far and wide. When you see this thing in the water, you should begin shrieking immediately to alert others of the deadly plight that awaits them. If you see this beautiful snail, stay far, far away.
The snail is made deadly by a few factors. One is that the thing is submerged in water. The second is that its sting can be horribly crippling. If stung, then, you might suffer a paralysis in the water that can lead to your drowning. This isn’t good. If a collector of shells, then, you’ll want to avoid the allure of this deadly beauty.
28. Arizona bark scorpion
Unlike what you’ll see in the movies, scorpions are not actually the most dangerous arthropods on the scene. While their stings can be excruciatingly painful, it is rare for one to turn deadly. Regardless, however, we had to mention one of the most notorious and frequently encountered of the species — if anything, to clear up your perceptions of the thing.
Of the many scorpion species that exist, the Arizona bark scorpion is one of the most pungently venomous. The thing measures about 7 to 8 centimeters in length. Moreover, its sting is one of the most painful you can experience. Common to places like Arizona and northern Mexico, the scorpion is definitely something you’d rather avoid.
Wolves are one of the scariest mammals to encounter in the wild. They are pack hunters, come equipped with flesh-tearing claws, and are capable of taking down beasts as large as bison. Fortunately, however, they don’t often like to display this predatory prowess to humans. And for this we should be thankful.
Occasionally, however, these animals do attack the unfortunate human. And because of this, they have made our list. While the number of attacks per year is something hovering around one to two, the attacks have most often appeared in the wilderness of Canada and Alaska. While uncertain what provokes the attacks, hunger and desperation (perhaps even confusion) are the likeliest culprits.
26. Tiger shark
While shark attacks are stupendously rare, this doesn’t mean that they don’t happen. And while not as gigantic and terrifying as its great white competitor, the tiger shark is one of the most notoriously aggressive and vicious. While you’re likely safe from getting gripped in the jaws of one of these guys, the potential is still there.
Among all the shark species found in local US waters, the tiger shark is one of the most dangerous. This is, of course, because of its proclivity to attack. Fortunately for us, however, most shark attacks from these guys do not result in death. This is because they don’t really have a taste for humans, and only bite out of curiosity. Still, you’ll want to try and avoid these guys if you can.
25. Polar Bear
The polar bear is one of the most notoriously dangerous bears on Earth. It can weigh up to a ton, which helps it to overpower and subdue its marine mammal prey — the seal. But because of its girth and carnivorous predisposition, polar bears can be deadly. It doesn’t take much more than to hear a few horror stories about the thing hunting down hikers to know this with certainty.
While few attacks have actually happened, those that have have been deadly. The only fortuitous factor here is that the encounters between humans are far from being likely. This is in part due to the climatic estrangement of the polar bear species (humans don’t like to live in the frigid arctic), but also because they’re populations tend to be dwindling. We think we’d rather have the polar bear, though.
24. Grizzly bear
Of the few species of bear that exist in the United States (including the black, brown, and polar bear), the grizzly is one of the most notorious. Given its massive size and aggressive nature, the beast is definitely not one to be messed with. In fact, it has a reputation around the world and is an animal you do not want to see in the wild whatsoever.
Because of this, the furry (and not-so-cuddly) mammal has made our list. The areas you’re most likely to encounter the grizzly are in isolated Montana and the Alaskan wilderness. Here, the undisturbed and expansive wilderness creates environments thoroughly hospitable to the bear. And it’s in areas like these that two to three attacks occur per year.
Bison are one of those creatures that you should not get close to at all. While you often run into them on the side of the road (or perhaps even on the road itself) when you’re driving through places like Yellowstone National Park, you certainly shouldn’t try and walk near them if on a trail or other wild habitat.
In many instances, people did not heed the relentless warning and ended up getting trampled by some of these gigantic and powerful beasts. What’s worse is that they have horns to gore you with. So, if you’re like the rest of the population and would rather live your life non-gored, then we recommend you stay far away from these extremely dangerous creatures.
Moose, which you likely know from your generous time spent watching Rocky and Bullwinkle, are calm and comedic friends. Well, as you also might have expect, this show is full of vile and twisted animal propaganda. Okay, definitely kidding. But, as you probably know if you’ve ever visited the city of Anchorage, Alaska, these formidable mammalian foes can pose quite the threat.
Given the great size of these hoofed and horned beasts, it doesn’t take much for one to stomp and charge you to death. This is especially true during their rutting season, which lasts from the months of September to October. during this season, when the animal is most focused on mating, aggression is turned up to 11. You wouldn’t want to be a human that gets in the way during these trying times.
Centipedes are one of the more disturbing animals on this list. Moreover, they are exceptionally venomous. Together, these two factors yield one of the most uncomfortable encounters you can have in the animal kingdom. We’d recommend you try to prevent yourself from getting into a tussle with this bad (and most definitely ugly) boy.
In the United States, the most deadly of these centipede species is the centipede Scolopendra heros, which can be found in places like Texas and northern Mexico. Deaths from the venom in these things is often caused (albeit rarely) from things like kidney failure and heart attack. If you see one of these guys crawling around, we recommend you run away immediately.
20. Great white shark
Sharks, since the era of films like Jaws, have been inappropriately lambasted as one of the deadliest sea creatures around. While it’s true the aquatic predator has a tremendous and virtually unparalleled ability to kill in the sea, it doesn’t deserve the reputation it currently holds. Still, however, it is extraordinarily dangerous — so warnings should be issued.
In the U.S., there are something like 32 shark attacks per year. Normally, these hit people that like to surf or dive — i.e., people who like to look conspicuously similar to the sharks’ most common prey animal: the seal. The most typical warning shark experts will give to those who swim in shark-infested waters, then, is to avoid looking like a seal. Good luck.
19. Black widow spider
The black widow spider in many ways is like the great white shark. While it does hold the capability to kill with its venom, it often doesn’t inject enough to actually kill anyone. Because of this, death induced by the thing is extraordinarily rare. Even in children, where the venom will have a far greater effect, death is still unlikely.
Still, however, the venom is considered extraordinarily toxic. If bitten, then, you’ll want to make your way to a hospital fairly quickly. Because the venom is so toxic, the spider often doesn’t feel the need to inject its foe with all that much. With that said, it would take a large number of bites to actually induce a death. If bitten, seek medical attention and stay calm.
18. Bull shark
The bull shark is the most aggressive shark species (hence its name). Because of this, it is considered more dangerous than either the great white or the tiger shark. If you see a bull shark in the water, get out and run away as fast as possible. Okay, maybe don’t react that strongly. Still, though, if you see one of these guys in the water you might want to worry.
Bull sharks can be found near to the coast in places like Florida. What’s worse is that they do most of their feeding as inland as possible. This makes encounters with the sharks regrettably frequent. They have, for instance, the grossest rate of unprovoked attacks of any shark. So, while swimming near the coast in places where they roam, you might want to watch out.
17. Diamondback rattlesnake
While the United States is home to several venomous snakes, the most common to attack — and do lots of damage — are the eastern and western diamondback. These snakes, while each carrying enough venom to kill a handful of full-grown adults and an attitude that says, “You should really avoid me,” make our list in easy and unsettling terms.
The snakes will do damage by envenomating you with a hemotoxin, which works by destroying and corrupting your red blood cells. The eastern diamondback is most often found in places like Southern Carolina and Florida. The western diamondback, on the other hand, is found in places stretching from southern Texas to California. If you encounter one of these guys rattling, we suggest you walk the other way.
Mosquitoes are notorious around the world as the deadliest killers. In places across Africa, for instance, they are responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths per year. The number is so great, in fact, that it totals more than what we see from car accidents and the like. The main culprits behind these deaths are transmittable diseases like malaria and dengue fever.
Fortunately, these deadly diseases are not as common in the United States. Still, however, the mosquitoes can cause quite a number of problems. In the United States, for instance, we have seen the spread of things as toxic and harmful as the Zika virus. A new disease, called Eastern equine encephalitis, is also being spread by the insect, which can cause a deadly swelling of the brain. Conclusion: Carry mosquito repellent.
When you think of deadly and dangerous animals you might encounter in the United States, you don’t often think of rats. However, if you think with a historical frame of mind, you can easily see how the things can become so dangerous. In the 14th century, for instance, the rats transferred the bubonic plague to humans via the vehicle of fleas. The result was one of the greatest catastrophes to ever strike the world.
But today, rats still carry deadly diseases that can transmit to humans. Of these are things like Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome and typhus — two diseases that can be extremely deadly. Annually, however, the number of deaths from rats in the United States has drastically diminished. Still, however, they can infect you with numerous diseases you would rather not have — many of which are dangerous.
The cottonmouth is one of the most dangerous snakes in the United States. It is, for instance, much more dangerous than the rattlesnake. The primary reason for this is their venomosity. Notorious as one of the deadliest snakes, these things terrify those local to Florida and other habitats in which these thrive.
Another thing that makes the copperhead so notorious is that it is more likely to attack than either species of rattlesnake — the eastern or western diamondback. In fact, it is responsible for more attacks per year than either of these guys. Fortunately for west coasters, this thing is mostly found on the East Coast and the gulf. Either way, watch out for this guy.
13. Brain-eating amoeba
The brain-eating amoeba is one of the most formidable creatures on this list. Essentially, if you end up contracting it, you will die a certain death. But not only that — the death will be horrible in pretty much every regard. The amoeba enters the brain through the nose. The host-to-be contracts the amoeba by swimming or jumping in infected waters.
Once in the nose, the amoeba swims up the nostrils to the nerves that connect the olfactory bulb (what enables us to smell) to the brain. From here, it swims around our skull, eating and multiplying as it goes. While it is exceptionally rare to contract the amoeba (there is less than one death per year), it is a bad one. Avoid very warm summer waters if you want to prevent this amoeba from making you its next meal.
Raccoons, the cute and wily creatures we know to steal our garbage and bird feed, are actually quite the killers. And why, exactly, is this? Well, because they transmit horrible and gross diseases, of course. The most common of these diseases to turn fatal for humans is rabies. While we have ways to treat rabies nowadays, the disease can still kill.
And because of this, raccoons are responsible for a handful of deaths each year. The best way to prevent such deaths is to try and adequately prepare for rabies — oh, and to avoid getting attacked and bitten by raccoons. The best defense could also be a solid offense. But we’ll let you decide whether you want to try and conquer a rabid raccoon with fists or avoidance. In the moment, the decision will likely be an easy one.
11. Coral snake
Another of the deadliest animals in the United States is the coral snake. This snake, for instance, is that root of that rhyme about red touching yellow and you being a dead fellow. Considering that you don’t want to be a dead fellow, this is probably a snake (and color configuration) that you would like to avoid.
These snakes are extremely venomous, which is why they make this list. You’ll find these bad boys of the snake world in places on the southern united states, ranging from Texas in the west to Florida in the east. Either way, if you encounter the snake you’ll want to stay away. It doesn’t take more than a small bite to put you into immediate peril.
10. Fire ant
Fire ants can be a horrible nuisance. But they can also be (gasp) deadly. Like with certain sorts of bee species, people can harbor allergies toward the things. And with these, people can often perish. This unfortunate fact has been the reason a handful of people have died from the crawling little pests.
If you see the fire ant, then, we recommend that you turn around and run immediately. If you don’t, it’s possible that the species can swarm and inundate you. If that’s the case, then you will likely succumb to their poison and — if allergic — you could die. Fortunately, you likely aren’t allergic and will escape a lethal dose of the ant’s fiery poison.
9. Harvester ant
Harvester ants are a notoriously irksome creature. While death from the things isn’t all too common, they can be considered deadly. This is because of two things: (1) the potency of their sting, and (2) the abundance with which they will sting you. When these two factors combine, you are in for a thoroughly unpleasant experience.
Unlike bees and wasps, ants can induce a lot more damage when they sting you, for their stings are more potent. Because of this, it will take fewer stings from each. This makes it somewhat easy for them to overwhelm and kill. This is made all the worse by the fact that one sting will attract others via the pheromones it releases. Simply no good.
Horses are some of the most noble beasts around. They are, however, also deadly. This is true on a few counts. One, if they are allowed to roam freely, you can drive into them with your car. Given their height, this can cause a problem. In small cars, you will drive through their legs, leaving their top-heavy body to crash through the windshield.
In this case, the driver of said car will not have a good time. In fact, they will likely have a bad time. But other than this potential tragedy, horses can kill with their temperament. A few stomps and kicks is all it will take for the powerful beasts to kill. And this is why horses take an unexpected number of lives each year — something around 20 people per year. Let’s take care not to be one of them.
While the creatures have made it into the popular lore of the mobster life as a clan that’s willing to eat anything thrown into their path, pigs are actually dangerous for a much different reason. This reason is that the pigs can be extraordinarily heavy, and in the road. And, naturally, when something that heavy is in the road, it can pose a great risk to drivers.
And so, the number of people in the United States killed by pigs is something around 40 per year. This is a huge number, considering that the animals are used to make our bacon and pork chops. Perhaps their existence on the road is some form of suicidal revenge. It’s difficult to say. What isn’t, though, is that pigs are more dangerous than sharks.
Many of us love to see deer. We’re adventuring through the countryside and see some grazing. The beautiful creatures feeding on the local grasses are definitely something to enjoy. However, when you’re driving 80 mph down the freeway, such deer are not exactly something that you want to see. And it’s these horrible situations that make deer one of the most deadly creatures in the United States.
Annually, the number of people who crash into deer while driving is staggering. Some estimates put the value at around 52 people per year. This is a lot, considering that the things are virtually nonaggressive and unwilling to try and fight you. Ultimately, the moral of the story when it comes to deer is to keep your eyes assiduously focused on the road.
5. Honey bee
The honey bee may appear like a harmless little arthropod not hellbent on destroying all we have come to love. These perceptions would be misguided. Because the honey bee harbors surreptitious aims of global domination, it often kills as soon as it gets the chance. If these things lurk nearby, we suggest you keep an eye on your loved ones.
In all reality, the honey bee is not all that aggressive species, which is shocking considering its ultimate goals. However, even though the species is not aggressive, it ends up killing a large number of people because they are allergic to the sting. This is bad. Once stung, then, likely against the bees better judgment, the person will quickly succumb to anaphylaxis and, if not treated soon enough, suffer.
4. Paper wasp
Paper wasps, like the Africanized bee, are a little bit aggressive. However, most of the people who end up dying from paper wasps die not necessarily from a deluge of stings, but rather an allergic reaction to the stings. Bee allergies are quite common in the U.S., so succumbing to the allergy in response to a common insect isn’t all that odd.
One thing that makes the paper wasp particularly deadly is that it can sting multiple times in a row. So whereas other Hymenoptera (bee species) might lose their stinger, the paper wasp will not. This means that it’ll be much easier for them to actually give you a fatal amount of venom. While such occurrences are still relatively rare, they do happen. So be careful when roaming through their territory.
3. Africanized bee
Africanized bees (colloquially known as “killer” bees) are one of those species that were bred into existence. And here, in existence, they torment many with their aggressive disposition. If you at all perturb a nest, the bees will swarm and follow you until, well, you suffer a great deal of stings. The number can become so great that you swell from the reaction and suffocate.
If you have allergies, you’ll know the experience as anaphylaxis. The number of stings thought to be needed to kill someone is about 10 stings per pound of body weight. And, given that when you disturb a nest of killers bees they all branch out to attack you, achieving such numbers isn’t exactly difficult. This is regrettable for those who accidentally disturb a nest.
Dogs are often cited as one of the most loyal and friendly of all domesticated pets. However, some of these dogs have a dark history. And while they share a spot with cats as one of the most frequently adopted animals on Earth, they are also one of the most common causes of animal-related deaths in the United States. Most of these deaths come from a few specific breeds of dog.
The breed most often responsible for these deaths is the pit bull. In 2018, it was responsible for over 70% of the dog-related deaths in the United States. The other deaths were split in a roughly equal percentage by mixed-breeds and the like. Ultimately, while other dogs are sometimes involved in attacks, the most fatal of these attacks come from the pit bulls.
Yes, cows. Cows are some of the most unexpectedly deadly creatures on the planet. First off, without even mentioning the massive amount of methane they produce on factory farms — thereby amplifying the effects of climate change — they often find themselves on roads. And on these roads people will often drive into them. This isn’t good.
But another unexpected danger of cows is that they can actually be aggressive. This is especially true of cow mothers protecting their young. Here, they’re like a grizzly bear and will charge and maim you. The highest risk, of course, is to farmers and herders. In total, cows kill about 20 people per year. This is many more than are killed by sharks or poisonous spiders annually.