Top 13 Most Dangerous Animals in North America


Top 13 Most Dangerous Animals in North America

Gray Wolf by Eric Kilby cc2.0

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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1. Bears

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.

Brown Bear by PD-USGOV.

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 bear, Parc Omega, Quebec, Canada. Photographed by Cephas cc3.0

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.

Sow Polar Bear ([[Ursus maritimus]]) near Kaktovik [[:en:Barter Island]], Alaska. cc3.0
Kodiak Bear (Ursus arctos middendorffi) in Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska, United States. Photo by Yathin S Krishnappa cc3.0

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.

Also see:
101 Facts – Bears!
Brown Bears
Polar Bears
American Black Bears
Sloth Bears
Spectacled Bears
Sun Bears
Asian Black Bears
Short Faced Bear

2. Snakes

Three of the most dangerous snakes in North America are known as “pit vipers” — the rattlesnake, the cottonmouth and the copperhead.

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox). Gary Stolz (photographer)/Pharaoh Hound

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.

Original Title: Agkistrodon piscivorus leucostoma
This photograph depicted a dorsal oblique view of a “western cottonmouth” snake Agkistrodon piscivorus leucostoma. Photo Credit: Michael Smith

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.

Agkistrodon contortrix taken at the Cincinnati Zoo. Attribution required: Photo by Greg Hume cc3.0

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!

Also see:
101 Facts… Snakes!
25 Awesome Snakes of the World
The Daily Snake – Snake Facts
Pit Viper
Western Diamondback Rattlesnake
Coral Snake

3. Cougar

Puma concolor stanleyana, Rancho Texas Park. Tías, Lanzarote. Photo taken by Luis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez (Lmbuga) cc3.0

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.

Cougars are featured in the following books:
25 Desert Animals
25 Nocturnal Animals
101 Facts… Desert Animals
101 Facts… BIG CATS!

4. Gray Wolf

Gray Wolf by Eric Kilby cc2.0

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.

Gray wolves are featured in the following books:
25 Top Predators in the World
25 Most Deadly Animals in the World
101 Facts… Wild Dogs, Wolves and Foxes!

5. American Alligator

American Alligator, (Alligator mississippiensis). Photo taken by TimVickers

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.

American alligators are featured in the following books:
25 Top Predators in the World
101 Facts… Crocodiles!

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.

Also see:
101 Facts… Reindeer & Deer!

7. Great White Shark

Great white shark at Isla Guadalupe, Mexico, August 2006. Shot with Nikon D70s in Ikelite housing, in natural light. Animal estimated at 11-12 feet (3.3 to 3.6 m) in length, age unknown. By Terry Goss cc2.5

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.

Great white sharks are featured in the following books:
25 Top Predators in the World
25 Most Deadly Animals in the World
25 Most Awesome Sharks
Sharks for Early Readers

8. Africanized Bees

Africanized Bee by Daniel Plumer cc2.0

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)

Africanized bees are featured in the following books:
25 Beastly Bugs and Insects
25 Most Poisonous Animals in the World!

9. Arizona Bark Scorpion

Taken at noon, at around 104 degrees. This fellow was a temporary occupant of my garage. Photo by Musides (talk) cc3.0

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.

Also see:
Deathstalker Scorpion

10. Brown Recluse Spider

Adult male en:brown recluse spider dorsal view.

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.

Also see:
101 Spider Facts
There’s a Spider – Rhyming Book
Black Widow Spider
Brazilian Wandering Spider
Sydney Funnel Web Spider
Arizona Blond Tarantula

11. Wolverine


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.

Wolverines are featured in the following books:
25 Polar Animals
101 Facts… Polar Animals

12. Coyote

Coyote (Canis latrans) in long grass. Taken in 2003 in Wyoming using an early model Canon 10D. By Alan Vernon cc2.0

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.

Coyotes are featured in the following books:
25 Desert Animals
101 Facts… Desert Animals
101 Facts… Wild Dogs, Wolves and Foxes!

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.

25 Most Deadly Animals in the World! Animal Facts, Photos and Video Links.


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  1. I know in the state of Georgia motorist are killed by white tail deer attacking their car on a regular basis, all seasons and all times of day.

  2. Was camping in Rocky Mt. National Park during the mid 1980’s. We were at our campsite after an all day hike. We were near 14k feet, certainly alpine. I pointed out a Marmot to my brother and his friend that perched on a boulder watching us, about 12 feet away. I wanted to get to the alpine lake and the remaining snow in July, so I set off. Upon returning, my brother and his friend pointed out “another” marmot on a cliff/rabble area. I said you realize that is a quarter of a mile away and the Marmot is the same size. I let them know it was a Wolverine, as did the rangers who came up to our camping site to check on us at six in the morning the following morning. The previous days campers saw it as well and reported it to the rangers to warn them, thus the early check in by the rangers. I often thought what site they thought might await them as they headed our way on horseback. I’m guessing on horseback they must have left at 4am or so. I will never forget as my brother and friend were informed that they were there to check on us as the previous campers reported the Wolverine.
    They nearly ripped their heads off their shoulders to look at me as I was in the rear going downhill. According to the Ranger, up until that point there were no known Wolverines in the park. It was feeding on Marmots, and probably followed the mountain ranges down from Montana! I did not sleep well that previous night, but my brother and friend slept very well, ignorance is bliss as they say.

  3. More people are killed by domestic cattle every year than by the entire combination of all these others combined. The most dangerous part is pen work separating the yearlings from the mama cows. Particular breeds of bulls are safer during times when cows not in season but if you get a few in a pen to trailer or treat in squeeze chute you learn to climb bull proof fences VERY fast. Longhorn mothers are the most dangerous. They know EXACTLY the exact spot to shake their heavy necks so as to impale you even if you are just spreading hay or cattle cake from the back of a pick up. All usually perfectly safe free on a ranch but once penned cattle kill on average 50 Americans a year.

    • Its only fair that cows kill people. We kill enough of them, they have a long time to go to get even. I’m okay with eating meat, just not the torture farmed animals go thru.


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