Top 13 Most Dangerous Animals in North America
North America is the third-largest continent on Earth. It is a diverse continent, home to people from other continents and all walks of life, filled with cities towering with skyscrapers, quiet rural areas, fields, mountains, deserts, forests, rainforests, meadows, swamps and icy tundras. No wonder it is home to hundreds of species of mammals, reptiles, birds, fish, amphibians and insects. Many of these are harmless and even beneficial to humans. Some, however, are not to be messed with.
Want to know the most dangerous animals in North America? Here’s a list of the top thirteen. If you see any of them in your back or front yard or — hopefully not — inside your car or house, better pick up the phone and call animal control as fast as you can.
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We’re not talking about honey-eating cartoon characters or cuddly stuffed animals. We’re talking about the grizzly bear, the American black bear and the polar bear — bears that tower over you and can easily crush you to death.
Grizzly bears can be found from Alaska to Mexico. They can grow over 6 feet (2 meters) long and weigh nearly 800 pounds (363 kilograms). One subspecies found in Alaska, the Kodiak bear, is one of the largest bears in the world. Grizzly bears can be quite aggressive, especially when protecting their young, or when surprised or threatened, and can deliver powerful swipes and bites. It is estimated that the bite of a grizzly bear is strong enough to shatter a bowling ball. Can your skull withstand it? That’s something you’re better off not finding out!
American black bears are smaller. When threatened, their tendency is to run up a tree, not fight back. Sometimes, they may hit the ground with their paws in an effort to scare you, but usually, that is all they do. Still, black bear attacks do occur, the worst attack occurring in Algonquin, Canada, where three teenagers were killed.
The polar bear, together with the Kodiak bear, are the largest land carnivores. The polar bear is the most carnivorous bear, in fact, feeding on seals, whales, foxes, birds, rodents and sometimes, even walruses and reindeer. They could easily overpower humans, but are rarely known to attack.
Three of the most dangerous snakes in North America are known as “pit vipers” — the rattlesnake, the cottonmouth and the copperhead.
Of all the rattlesnakes, the western diamondback rattlesnake is the most deadly, responsible for a large number of snakebites in Mexico and the US. It is an aggressive snake that will strike shortly after sounding its rattle. Ignore its warning and you’ll be sorry.
The cottonmouth is usually found near water. Although reputed to be bad-tempered, it actually prefers to run away when threatened, or to resort to threat displays such as hissing, vibrating its tail and moving its head back and forth. It can also release a foul-smelling odor.
The copperhead, found in forests, has its own reaction. It “freezes” when encountered, instead of slipping away. Unfortunately, some people don’t notice it when it does this, and they step on it, which results in their getting bitten.
Apart from these pit vipers, there are also coral snakes, especially the red-and-yellow banded ones, which are venomous. There are also snakes which mimic the color pattern of the coral snake, though the colors are not banded in the same order, giving rise to the adage: “Red on yellow will kill a fellow, red on black venom lack.” However, an adage more along the idea of “When in doubt… get the heck away!” might be better advice!
The cougar, also called the puma or mountain lion, is the largest cat in North America. It is a powerful predator that can run fast over a short distance, though it usually catches its prey by ambush, pouncing on deer, sheep and wild horses. Several attacks on humans have been recorded, though cougars will not usually attack unless starving or threatened. Fleeing humans also trigger their instinct to chase, while those who “play dead” are mistaken for easy prey.
4. Gray Wolf
The gray wolf can be found in many parts of the world. In North America, it is found around the Great Lakes, the northern Rockies and in the southwestern United States. It is the largest wild canine, with a heavy build, large teeth and a bite force twice that of domestic dogs, strong enough to break bones open. It is also fast and agile, able to jump over a distance of 16 feet (5 meters) in one bound. Gray wolves live in packs, which make them even more fearsome. However, they do not usually attack unless provoked, badly starved or rabid. From 2005 to 2010, only two people were killed by gray wolves in North America.
5. American Alligator
Once close to extinction, the American alligator thrives in the lakes and swamps of the southeastern United States. It is a powerful swimmer, but will often go on land to bask in the sun. Sometimes it can even be seen up in trees! It is an opportunistic predator, which means it will eat just about anything — fish, birds, frogs, snakes, deer, dogs, calves and even humans. From 2001 to 2007, twelve people were reported to have been killed by American alligators, three of them in Florida, just hours apart.
6. White-Tailed Deer
Now you might be wondering “How can white-tailed deer be dangerous? They look so docile.” Yes, they do. Yet, Bambi’s kind is responsible for about 29,000 human injuries every year, and for the deaths of 130 to 200 people! How? Simply because of their involvement in vehicle collisions. Indeed, there are about 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions yearly, and most of these involve white-tailed deer. White-tailed deer also carry the ticks that transmit Lyme disease.
7. Great White Shark
Of all the sharks in the ocean, the great white shark is the most feared. After all, one third of all shark attacks are made by this shark, which is the largest of all predatory fish, able to grow over 20 feet (6 meters) long.
In North America, great white sharks are usually found off the coast of California and the Atlantic northeast. They are especially common off New Smyrna Beach in Florida, which has been dubbed “The Shark Capital of the World”.
The great white shark can bite without provocation, usually because it has mistaken a person for prey. Unfortunately, one bite can sometimes be enough to cause serious harm or, worse, to kill. Still, the odds say you’re more likely to die from falling or from the flu than by getting bitten by a shark.
8. Africanized Bees
Africanized bees are also called “killer bees”. Why? Because they are very defensive to the point of being aggressive. If they perceive even the slightest threat to their hive, like the noise from a vehicle, they attack in swarms, chasing the threat for over a quarter of a mile (half a kilometer) and remaining agitated for up to 24 hours. Talk about holding grudges. Their venom is not especially potent but since the whole swarm stings you, you can expect a lot of pain, swelling and numbness. If you are allergic to bee venom, you could die. Every year, forty to fifty people die from allergic reactions to the stings of Africanized bees, which are growing in population in the United States.
For more on Africanized Bees:
Killer Bees! (Africanized Bee)
9. Arizona Bark Scorpion
The Arizona bark scorpion lives in the Sonora desert of Arizona. Although only about 3 inches (8 centimeters) long, it is well-feared and for good reason. It is the most venomous scorpion in North America, after all, with its venom causing severe pain, partial paralysis and breathing problems. Every year, thousands of people in Arizona are believed to be stung by this scorpion, which is commonly found in homes since it does not burrow. Fortunately, the victims rarely die. Those who do are usually children, the elderly and people who are ill.
10. Brown Recluse Spider
Commonly found in the southern United States, the brown recluse spider is a venomous spider that spins irregularly shaped webs, but can also be found inside cool, tight spaces like the insides of shoes, cardboard boxes, drawers and gloves, and under piles of clothes. This is where humans frequently encounter them and get bitten. While the bite of a brown recluse spider isn’t painful at first, it can become painful and itchy after 2 to 8 hours. It can also cause damage to the skin around the bite and in worst cases, to a person’s muscles and blood vessels.
Nope, the wolverine doesn’t have retractable claws that are several inches long and indestructible, nor does it possess an ability to regenerate its health. It is an animal, however, that knows no fear, attacking animals larger than itself or even humans, which what makes it dangerous. There is even a report of a wolverine killing a polar bear by biting its throat. It has a reputation for being gluttonous, feeding voraciously until it is satisfied.
The coyote is often depicted as a clever fellow, a trickster, in Native American folklore. In reality, it is a creature that is both gregarious and solitary, adaptable and very vocal. In fact, some consider it to be the most vocal of the wild mammals in North America; its howls and barks often heard in the wild. Is it dangerous? Well, coyotes do not really attack humans unless they are very hungry, but they do carry a lot of diseases and parasites, which can infect both other animals and humans.
13. American Bison
Believe it or not, in a national park you are more likely to be injured by an American bison than by a bear. This is because American bison can be aggressive during their breeding season and will not hesitate to attack if provoked. Their horns can grow nearly 2 feet (0.6 meters) long, which can cause serious puncture wounds. They can gallop, as well, which means you probably won’t be able to outrun them.