Meet the 7 unsurprisingly most dangerous animals in North America, learn as much about them, and avoid or survive an actual encounter!
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How to Survive These 7 Most Dangerous Animals
1. American Alligator
By now, we’ve all heard the sad story of the little boy who was killed by an alligator at Disney World in Florida in 2016.
In the past year alone, alligators have killed more than 5 people in the US — three of them in Florida, only months apart. Thus, making them one of America’s most dangerous animals.
Their strong jaws, sharp teeth and ability to move about stealthily make them fierce killing machines.
Where They’re Found: In the southern U.S., from North Carolina all the way to the Rio Grande in Texas. Typically found in slow-moving rivers, swamps, marshes, and lakes.
What They Eat: Alligators are carnivores and feed mainly on fish, snails and other invertebrates, birds, frogs and mammals near the water’s edge.
What To Do If You Encounter One: To avoid an alligator attack, stay away from the water at dusk and nightfall when they are most aggressive. Keep children and pets away from the water’s edge, as the sound of the movement of small animals attracts alligators.
If you see an alligator, remain calm and leave the area slowly. Sudden, panicked movements put the animal in attack mode. However, if an alligator does begin to chase you, RUN AWAY in a straight line.
2. Arizona Bark Scorpion
The Arizona bark scorpion is one of the most deadly arachnids on planet Earth, making it one of North America’s most dangerous animals. The venom is similar to that of a venomous snake.
A bite from this scorpion will cause numbness, tingling, extreme pain and possibly convulsions and immobility in certain body parts. In extreme cases, a sting can lead to paralysis, frothing at the mouth, trouble breathing and confusion.
The good news is, most healthy adults have a good chance of surviving a bark scorpion sting. Children, pets, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems are most at risk of paralysis or death from a sting.
Where They’re Found: The southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico, particularly the Sonoran desert.
What They Eat: Roaches, beetles and crickets.
What To Do If You Encounter One: Due to their hard exoskeleton, bark scorpions are difficult to kill. They are also very aggressive, and likely to attack when threatened.
If you encounter one in the wild, don’t try to kill it — simply vacate the area as quickly as possible. If you find a scorpion in your house, you can try to trap it and release it outside.
You can also try to seal off the room until you are able to have pest control spray your house. Most normal bug sprays will not affect scorpions.
3. Cougar/Mountain Lion
Mountain lions are fierce predators and move almost silently, making an attack hard to anticipate. Exercise extreme caution when hiking or biking through mountainous areas to avoid this dangerous animal.
Where They’re Found: Mountain lions are mainly found in the western United States and Canada, but in recent years there have been sightings in the midwest and the eastern US as well.
What They Eat: Cougars are carnivores, eating mostly large prey such as deer and elk.
What To Do If You Encounter One: If you encounter a mountain lion which does not run away, make noise. Speak loudly and firmly, and raise your arms to make yourself look larger.
If you are holding something you don’t mind letting go of (like a water bottle), throw it at the animal. DO NOT bend down to pick up a rock or stick to throw – this may trigger a pounce response.
Keep your eyes on the animal at all times and retreat slowly. Do not run or turn your back on the animal, as this will trigger a predatory response.
Keep children and pets close to your side, not in front of or behind you. If attacked, fight back; humans effectively fight off cougars using sticks, stones and even just their hands.
Bear attacks kill three people in the US every year and leave many more maimed or injured making them one of the most dangerous animals. Black bears cause the most fatalities, followed closely by grizzlies.
Where They’re Found: Black and grizzly bears live all over North America, particularly the northwest, while polar bears live in Alaska and Canada.
What They Eat: Black bears are omnivores, feasting mainly on fruits and vegetation, but occasionally fish and other meat as well. Grizzly bears eat fish, deer, elk, moose, and bison, along with fruits and vegetation like their cousins.
What To Do If You Encounter One: I recommend carrying a bear repellant as a back up with you if you know bears are in the area. But, should you encounter a bear, speak in a calm, appeasing but steady tone.
Walk — DON’T RUN — and keep your eye on the bear so you can see how it reacts. Remove yourself from the area as quickly as you can without running or making a commotion.
DO NOT climb a tree. Need more advice on what to do if you an encounter a bear? Check out these 12 tips on how to survive.
5. American Bison
The “bison selfie” has become popular in Yellowstone Park, much to the dismay of park rangers. Getting up-close and personal with one of America’s most dangerous animals is not a good idea.
These animals like their space and show aggression when they perceive a threat. Females with young are especially dangerous.
Where They’re Found: According to Wikipedia, American bison live in river valleys, and on prairies and plains. Some lightly wooded areas are also known historically to have supported bison.
Bison also graze in hilly or mountainous areas where the slopes are not steep. Though not particularly known as high-altitude animals, bison in the Yellowstone Park herd frequently live at elevations above 8,000 feet.
The Henry Mountains bison herd lives on the plains around the Henry Mountains, Utah, as well as in mountain valleys of the Henry Mountains up to an altitude of 10,000 feet.
What They Eat: Bison are herbivores, feeding mainly on grass and occasionally shrubbery. In the winter, they will forage for grass under snow, or if none is available, eat the twigs of shrubs.
What To Do If You Encounter One: It’s best to keep a distance of at least 100 meters (about the size of a football field) between yourself and the bison at all times. As with other large animals we’ve discussed, don’t move too quickly; instead, retreat at a slow, steady pace.
Keep dogs on a leash at all times in a bison habitat. If you encounter bison while driving, drive slowly, and they will eventually move.
Don’t honk, become impatient or drive too quickly; bison attacks on vehicles are rare, but they do happen.
6. Great White Shark
The movie “Jaws” made an entire generation afraid to get in the water explaining why sharks are one of nature’s most dangerous animals. Sharks attack around 20 people in the US every year, with an average of one of those attacks being fatal.
Might seem like good odds… until it happens to you.
Where They’re Found: Sharks are found in warm coastal waters all over the world. In the U.S., they’re most common in the northeast and off the coast of California.
What They Eat: Great white sharks are carnivores and do not chew their food, but swallow it whole. They eat fish, rays, other sharks, small toothed whales (such as belugas), otters, sea turtles, sea lions, and seals.
What To Do If You Encounter One: Like alligators, sharks are attracted to movement and sound. If you see one, stay calm and avoid splashing in the water.
Slowly and carefully swim to shore, making as little noise as possible.
Venomous snakes bite around 8,000 people in the US every year, with 5 or 6 of those bites ending in fatalities. Click here for our list of the most venomous snakes in North America.
Where They’re Found: Venomous snakes live in every state in the U.S., with the exception of Alaska. They are most common in the southwestern and southern U.S.
What They Eat: Snakes generally feast on smaller mammals like rats and mice, but they also eat larger animals such as goats, chickens, and other birds, rabbits, toads and frogs, lizards and even other snakes.
What To Do If You Encounter One: Most snakes do not attack unless provoked, so if you come across one in the wild or in your yard, do your best to just let it be. They generally escape to the nearest cover, so try not to be between the snake and any cover such as a shrub or bush.
If you want to shoo the snake from your yard, gently spray it with a water hose.
Watch his video from Survival Life for the 7 Most Dangerous Animals in North America:
Man vs. nature. It’s a story as old as time itself. Despite all of our advanced technology and highly evolved survival skills, we’re no match for some of nature’s most dangerous animals.
Now you know where these animals live, what they eat and what to do if you encounter one of them. As always, stay prepared, and be safe out there!
Have you had an encounter with one of these deadly animals? What did you do? Tell us about it in the comments!
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on January 17, 2017, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.