29+ Dangerous Animals in North America


| LAST UPDATE 04/04/2022

By Stanley Wickens

From razor-sharp teeth to poisonous venom, wildlife in North America pose many dangers to residents of the continent. Here's a look at some of the deadliest animals humans are advised to avoid entirely.

Grizzly Bears

The grizzlies of North America are far from similar to their inanimate cousin, the teddy bear. Rather large in size, they can weigh over 1,000 pounds and have the ability to stand as tall as 10 feet.

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The population of these dangerous animals has been increasing in areas targeted by campers. The most popular reason for their attacks is the protective instincts of grizzly mothers. This wild animal caused the deaths of documentary filmmaker Timothy Treadwell and his girlfriend Amie Huguenard in 2003.

Arizona Bark Scorpion

People who live in the sunny Southwest of America know that the region's deserts are home to more than just prickly cacti and extreme weather. Lurking beneath the rocks of the dry land is one of the deadliest creatures in the area - the Arizona bark scorpion.

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This creature and its venomous stings are no joke. And what's its favorite spot to dwell in the deserts? Inside people's homes. The deadly scorpion causes thousands of painful and fatal stings to residents in the region, sometimes killing up to 100,000 people a year.

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Great White Shark

Those who've seen Steven Spielberg's Jaws probably aren't surprised to see this one on the list. Because although the movie did take a more creative angle to this creature's dangerous characteristics, its physical appearance was pretty accurate. And it can be found lurking in the waters of any beach in the country.

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The females of this species are especially fearsome, reaching over 20 feet in size and weighing almost 5,000 pounds. Although they don't normally attack humans, we still wouldn't recommend getting too close to these sharks - especially considering their endless rows of teeth and sharp jaws.

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Feral Pigs

Don't be fooled by their appearance - these pigs are no Wilbur! According to scientists, the feral hogs that roam North America came here by way of their ancestors - Eurasian domestic pigs who were brought to the continent centuries ago by Europeans.

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Male feral hogs have tusks that can grow to be more than ten inches long, with the potential to cause serious injuries. More than 100 attacks by feral pigs have been reported, five of which have been fatal. Not only that, but these deadly creatures are known to carry many dangerous pathogens.

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These wild canines are every bit as dangerous as their animated depictions portray them to be. Although they're generally shy creatures, they've apparently had no problem moving right into cities across the continent - and at a rate that is shocking scientists.

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Although they rarely cause harm to humans, a fatal attack recorded in 2009 in Canada was the first of its kind. After observing that these dangerous animals tend to go after small animals like dogs and cats, pet owners dress their fur babies in "coyote jackets" covered with spikes to protect them.

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Rattlesnakes have been given many symbolic meanings by cultures around the world, from wisdom to rebirth to deception. But seeing an actual rattlesnake in real life only denotes one thing: danger. Although these animals can be found anywhere across North America, most can be found slithering along the Southwest.

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Rattlesnakes have hemotoxic venom that has the ability to destroy tissues. Every year, the venom these creatures inject into their victims with their long fangs sends nearly 8,000 Americans to the hospital - 5 of whom unfortunately die of the wound. They don't actively seek to harm humans but will attack as a form of defense.

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American Crocodiles

These creatures' toothy grins earned them a spot on the list of dangerous animals. Less common but much larger than alligators, American crocodiles can be found across North and South America. But we'll admit American crocodiles are a bit of a relief compared to their Australian and African Nile counterparts.

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Although they're much less likely to attack humans, the American species was still the subject of many headlines in 2014, when it attacked a couple in Florida. The case became documented as the first attack by a wild crocodile in the state, and since then, the reptile has unfortunately been spotted more often.

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Brown Recluse Spiders

Our next unforgiving animal is an arachnid. But make no mistake - as tiny as this creature is, it's actually one of the most poisonous species that humans could ever come across. Approximately the size of a quarter, it can hide in the smallest corners of people's homes - and one bite is enough to land a person in the hospital.

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One superpower this spider's venom has is the ability to break down skin tissue. Though it's quite useful to the spider when it comes to breaking down its meals, the venom can be fatal to humans if it's not treated. In 2014 alone, 1,300 bites from this deadly creature were recorded.

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Tiger Sharks

Alongside their cousins, the great whites, the daring tiger sharks are another fish that pose quite a threat to humans. Like the deadly predator they're named after, these sharks have a pattern of dark stripes lining their bodies. And the most frightening thing about them? They're not picky eaters at all.

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Nicknamed "garbage can of the sea," these ferocious swimmers will consume anything - including humans. They're considered one of the three sharks with the highest probability of attacking humans, often fatally. Every year, between 3-4 people on average fall victim to these 16-foot-long sharks in Hawaii alone.

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Yellowjacket Wasps

These insects seem rather harmless when we encounter them on some of our picnics. But, as it turns out, just one sting from a yellowjacket wasp to a person allergic to its venom can cause death within just half an hour. A few times - though rarely - humans have also been stung to death by a swarm of thousands of these wasps.

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The wasps' sharp stingers, which are filled with venom, can drill right through clothing and into the skin of unfortunate victims. And, unlike bees, who lose their lives after using their stingers once, wasps are blessed with the ability to stab their victims repeatedly without consequences.

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American Bison

The national mammal of the United States since 2016, the American bison is the largest mammal in North America. Besides its symbolic importance throughout the continent, and especially in Native American tribes, it's generally a peaceful animal. However, it can be dangerous for those who aren't cautious.

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Weighing at over 2,500 pounds, these animals can easily attack any human who comes their way, with the ability to charge at a speed of nearly 40 mph. Thousands of visitors head over to witness these majestic creatures at Yellowstone National Park - but are warned not to get too close.

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Black Bears

These bears may be smaller than most others, but they can still be quite dangerous for humans to cross paths with. But unfortunately, these bears are becoming more common in suburban areas, as home construction destroys their habitats. Now, these bears - some of which weigh more than 500 pounds, are venturing into cities.

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Since cities promise these creatures an abundance of food, black bear sightings in major cities are now pretty common. They're often spotted miles away from their natural habitats and are becoming less fearful of people. And while attacks by these animals are still uncommon, they have an increasing presence among humans.

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Bull Sharks

The third of the "Big Three" trio that takes the blame for shark attacks on humans is the bull shark. While this type is smaller than tiger sharks and great whites, most of the time, it's the most aggressive - and the most common. Not only that, but its ability to live in both salt and fresh water makes it all the more prevalent.

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These sharks have been spotted swimming along the Mississippi River up to Illinois. Their aggressive nature has brought on over a hundred - perhaps even far more - unprovoked attacks on humans. It's said that a series of shark attacks in New Jersey by bull sharks inspired the 1975 film Jaws.

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Africanized Honeybees

Don't be deceived by the vast amounts of honey Africanized honeybees can produce - these insects are far from sweet. In fact, they can be very aggressive and sometimes attack in fierce swarms. A crossbreed between the East African lowland honeybee and European honeybees, this species was first spotted in the country in 1985.

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Africanized honey bees, unlike their European counterparts, are quite defensive and aggressive. Known as "killer bees," this species has killed more than 1,000 humans and even animals. They were brought to North America from Brazil to increase honey production, but escaped in the late 1950s and have been spreading ever since!

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Snakes are undeniably among the deadliest animals on our planet. And the cherry on top is the copperheads' ability to camouflage. Because of this skill, hikers in the eastern parts of North America sometimes unknowingly tread in the midst of this dangerous animal, which blends effortlessly into the dead leaves on the forest floor.

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When frightened, copperheads usually start by giving "warning bites" with very little venom, if any. However, these bites, although not poisonous, can be very painful to the snake's victims. If left untreated, they can even lead to the death of the affected person.

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Ever since the lionfish was introduced to North American oceans, it has caused quite an ecological imbalance. These fish were originally brought from the Indo-Pacific as pets. However, with no natural enemies in the region, the lionfish has spread quickly since its arrival.

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Despite their attractive appearance, the fins of these creatures hide toxins that their enemies would rather avoid. These fish use the venom in their fin rays to stun their prey. The venom affects the victim's muscles and heart and can lead to severe pain and death.

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Black Widow Spiders

The black widow has long been feared by residents of North America - for reasons that are totally understandable. For as long as we can remember, the tiny black spider has been associated with the most horrifying ideas, especially because of its fatal venom.

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The species gets its eerie name from its unpleasant habit of killing its mate after reproducing. The spider, which is unfortunately often found in homes, injects its victims with a fatal neurotoxin. More than 2,000 bites from this arachnid are reported every year - and the consequences of the bites are far from pleasant.

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Mountain Lions

While residents of North America may be safe from the big cats that roam the African savannah, they still have one wild cat to fear here at home: the mountain lion. Its speed, powerful jaws and claws, and its ability to grow up to 6 feet long make this cat one of the most dangerous animals in the region.

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These predators, also called cougars, pumas, and panthers, have a sneaky tendency of silently creeping up unnoticed behind their prey before pouncing. In recent years, humans have become dangerously close to these lions' habitats, causing an increase in attacks - most of which unfortunately involve children.

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Water Moccasins

The only thing that could make a snake more dangerous would be if it had the ability to swim. And that's exactly what the water moccasin is: a semiaquatic snake that slithers on land - and also goes for a swim in oceans along with humans, totally unnoticed.

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The name "cottonmouth" was inspired by the white lining the snake displays when it opens its mouth in response to threats. Their venom contains toxins that can destroy cells and tissues and would likely require body parts of its victims to be amputated. If untreated, the wounds can even lead to death.

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Although they once neared extinction due to hunting, American alligators have now made a comeback not only in their natural habitats, but in cities as well. Because they now thrive in residential areas, there have been several reported cases of alligators being spotted in roads and among houses.

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Horrifying stories surrounding this reptile have been recorded. One such case happened in 2018, when a woman was killed by a large alligator in South Florida while walking her dogs. Another example was in 2020, when a woman was dragged underwater by a gator and subsequently drowned.

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Fire Ants

As their name suggests, fire ants are anything but chill. In fact, the name comes from their reddish-brown color, as well as the burning feeling caused by their bites. And that's not all - the bites inject venom into their victims, which causes swelling and, in severe cases, cardio-respiratory failure.

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But fatal bites aren't these insects' only superpower. Fire ants are also capable of surviving extreme weather conditions. A colony of over 100,000 of these ants managed to stay afloat in the waters that flooded Texas during Hurricane Harvey in 2007.

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Coral Snakes

As the old saying goes, "red and yellow kill a fellow." This rhyme was used to help people tell coral snakes apart from other snakes - for their own good. The deadliest snake in North America, the coral snake measures about three feet long and loves to slither in the rural habitats of the southern U.S.

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Although there it's estimated that there are fewer than 30 bites by coral snakes a year, humans should by no means let their guards down in areas populated by these reptiles. Their venom contains neurotoxins that can hinder the muscles used to breathe. If left untreated, it only takes hours for the venom to kill the snake's victim.

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The story of Little Red Riding Hood planted a fear of wolves in many children's minds. And while wolves usually avoid humans, instances of attacks made by these canines on humans aren't unheard of. Since the wolves hunt in packs and weigh nearly 100 pounds, these attacks are a reason for concern.

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One such instance occurred when a woman was killed by a pack of wolves in Alaska in 2010. According to experts, the main reason behind wolf attacks is usually because of the wolves' loss of fear and increase in their familiarity with humans. Another possible reason for human deaths caused by wolves is rabies.

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These small bugs are quite feisty for their size. One of the most dangerous animals and found across the world, ticks are parasites that feed off the blood of several different animals - even cold-blooded reptiles. The usually lurk on plants, waiting for a casual passerby to become their next victim.

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Ticks attach themselves to their prey by clamping their powerful mouths onto its skin and drinking its blood. In addition to sucking all the nutrients out of a victim's body, the tick is also infamous for spreading dangerous diseases, such as Lyme disease. It's a wonder how such a small organism can do so much damage!

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We bet our readers weren't expecting this one. Honestly, neither were we. But there's a much darker side to these woodland creatures than their beautiful black eyes. Deer are famous for their frequent presence near roads and being common perpetrators of car crashes.

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These accidents are especially common in states like Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The Insurance Institute For Highway Safety estimates the number of fatalities caused by these accidents to be around 200 per year. In addition to causing road problems, deer are also responsible for carrying disease-spreading ticks around humans.

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Polar Bears

Their fur might look soft and fluffy, but their carnivorous nature makes these bears among the deadliest animals in North America. Weighing up to 1 ton and standing as stall as 10 feet, the polar bear is, unfortunately, a predator that has the ability to take down any human in its path.

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Although not too many cases of polar bear attacks have been reported, those that have were fatal. Luckily for humans, encounters with these giant animals aren't too common. Another reason - albeit an unfortunate one - is that the population of the species has been decreasing over the years.

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Cone Snail

Despite its beautiful outer shell, this snail is by far one of the most terrifyingly deadly animals in North America. If spotted lurking in oceans, it's advisable to stay as far away as possible and warn others as well! An encounter with the cone snail is something we wouldn't wish on our worst enemies.

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A single sting by the cone snail can paralyze any victim, crippling them in the water and possibly causing them to eventually drown. Unfortunately, over 900 species of this snail exist, and in North America, they are mainly found along the California coastline.

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The jellyfish has long been feared in beaches in North America and across the world for its unbearable - and sometimes fatal - stings. There doesn't seem to be an official count of how many of these creatures have stung humans in the country. However, Florida lifeguards report treating nearly 800 of these wounds every year.

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Every year, an estimated 150 million stings around the world are caused by jellyfish, resulting in around 50 deaths. Although it seems like a relatively small percentage, we still don't recommend getting too comfortable in waters that are home to these sea creatures.

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Ever since it killed one of the world's bravest and most beloved animal experts, the stingray has become notorious for being a dangerous animal to swim near. Steve Irwin, or "the crocodile hunter" as he was known, was fatally stung in the heart by a stingray in 2006.

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Fortunately, a sting to the legs or hands won't cause instant death and can be treated. But for those who swim in waters where stingrays thrive, the heart and face become easier targets for the animal's venom. That's why it's best to be on the lookout for these critters and other dangers lurking in the oceans.

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Portuguese Man o' War

Forget jellyfish - this creature's poisonous sting holds a far worse fate for any person who's unfortunate enough to be its victim. Like most other strange creatures lurking in North America, the Portuguese man o' war can mostly be found in Florida, along the shores of the eastern coast.

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Being so small, these animals are often hard to miss, and can easily cause a fatal sting to nearby swimmers. Their venom is so deadly that these jellyfish can cause their victims to drown, making them one of the most dangerous animals on the continent. Floridians, beware!

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