Every part of the United States has at least one deadly arachnid, mammal or reptile. Get the facts about these lethal animals so you know what to do if you come face-to-face with a dangerous creature in the wilds of any region.
When you travel to New England, you don’t have to worry too much about wildlife hazards. Although you may run into black bears if you hike or camp in the Maine woods, these bears are smaller and calmer than their grizzly counterparts and rarely attack humans.
As for reptiles, New England has just two poisonous snakes. However, you won’t encounter the copperhead or timber rattlesnake unless you’re in an isolated part of the mountains. If you travel to New Hampshire or Massachusetts, be wary of the northern black widow spider. A bite from the female of this venomous arachnid species has dire effects on the nervous system.
Poisonous black widow and brown recluse spiders are found throughout the mid-Atlantic region. The black widow is known for its distinctive red hourglass marking. While bites can cause nausea, muscle aches and breathing difficulties, most healthy adults recover easily from this type of bite.
A brown recluse spider is about the size of a quarter and has a violin-shaped mark on its thorax. Bites can cause tissue damage to the affected area as well as vomiting, rash, fever, dizziness and chills. Most healthy individuals respond quickly to medical treatment for this type of bite.
The American alligator ranks as one of the deadliest animals in the nation. Found throughout the Southeastern part of the U.S., alligators rarely attack humans out of aggression. However, they may strike when they see a person as prey. To avoid alligator attacks, do not provoke these animals and avoid swimming after dusk and before dawn in states like Florida.
While gray wolves have long been endangered, conservation efforts have given this species an impressive rebound in the Midwest. Like other wild animals on our list, these wolves have lethal power but rarely attack humans unless they are hungry. If you do run into a gray wolf, try to appear threatening. Never run from the wolf, as it may cause the predator to read you as prey.
Scorpions rank as the most dangerous animal in this part of the country, with more than 90 different species making their homes in the Southwest. The bark scorpion, found in Arizona, has the most powerful venom. This arachnid’s sting causes intense pain, immobility in the affected area, convulsions, trouble breathing, vomiting, nausea and numbness. While fatalities are rare, a person bitten by a scorpion should seek immediate medical attention.
Cougars rarely attack humans but will do so if they are starving and have no other food source. This risk is greatest throughout the Western states. Attacks may also occur when a young cougar acts aggressively to mark or defend territory. If you encounter a cougar, do not play dead. Make direct eye contact and try to scare it away by throwing rocks or making loud noises. These big cats usually avoid humans, but solo travelers have the greatest risk of an attack.
Grizzly bears, which are significantly more dangerous than black bears, also live in the Western U.S. If you come across a grizzly, walk away slowly without turning your back on the bear or making direct eye contact. Do not attempt to outrun a grizzly bear.
If you frequently take the road less traveled during your U.S. explorations, you’re bound to meet a few wild animals along the way. By behaving cautiously and making appropriate safety preparations, you can avoid a life-threatening animal attack.