Top 10 Most Dangerous Animals in Texas
Before I list my most dangerous animals in Texas, I do want to make it clear that virtually all wild animals just want to be left alone and present no threat to humans under normal circumstances.
Most animals will only attack people if they are either surprised and feel directly threatened, or if they are attempting to protect their young. Usually they will run away if they see, or hear you coming.
It is also true that in almost all circumstances, it is man that presents the greater danger to animals, rather than the other way around.
Animals are threatened or killed in a number of ways by people, including humans encroaching or wiping out the animal’s natural habitat, excessive hunting, and animals killed on the road by traffic.
The golden rules are to respect wild life and behave sensibly, then both you and the animal will be safe.
Below is my top 10 list of the most dangerous animals in Texas.
Also known as pumas, mountain lions, panthers, and catamounts, cougars are quite possibly the most dangerous of the Texas animals in terms of ferocity and potential damage.
These big cats can be found throughout the Trans-Pecos, as well as the brushlands of south Texas and portions of the Hill Country. They do not recognize humans as prey, however, so attacks are very rare (since 1890 there have only been 88 attacks and 20 deaths across North America as a whole).
The cougar is most likely to attack when it is starving, or if it is a juvenile looking for new territory. The cougar will attempt to bite the neck of its victim to subdue him or her. If you are unlucky enough to encounter an aggressive cougar, you should not play dead or stand still, rather you should engage in direct eye contact, shout, and use sticks and rocks to frighten it away.
Alligators are generally timid and will usually try to escape when approached. However, their ability to stay still for long periods and camouflage themselves can make them easy to stumble across accidentally. Their willingness to protect their young can also make them dangerous in rare circumstances.
Their powerful bite is the most powerful of any animal, so you should never take any chances with them and keep your distance.
Coyotes and Wolves
Coyote attacks on humans are rare, but a pack of these wild dogs can easily take out an adult man. They also mate with domestic dogs creating “coydogs”, which have all the predatory instincts of a coyote coupled with a lack of fear of humans. Coyotes and coydogs are usually more of a threat to livestock than people, but still dangerous.
Wolves can be aggressive towards humans but they are seldom seen in Texas, plus they naturally avoid and fear humans - so attacks are extremely unlikely.
Hogs (also known as boar and pigs) were brought to the USA by the Spanish explorers. Originally domesticated, some escaped, bred, and created a feral population. Although they generally seek to avoid humans, they can be very aggressive if encountered.
The worst time of year for attacks is during mating season, when the males become more aggressive. Females may also attack if they feel that their young are threatened.
The hog attacks by charging. This is normally done to scare off the person, but sometimes they make violent contact. Damage is mainly done by the tusks, which can wound people’s legs and occasionally kill them.
There are 18 different species of scorpion in Texas, averaging about 2 inches in size. The sting from a Texas scorpion is not usually considered to be life-threatening to humans, but can be very painful.
In rare cases the venom can cause an allergic reaction, however, in which case, medical help should be sought as soon as possible.
There are three main types of spider to watch out for when in Texas: tarantulas, brown recluse spiders, and widow spiders.
Tarantulas are dark and hairy and normally measure about 3 inches long. They are typically seen in the evening when they are hunting. Their bite isn’t life-threatening, but it is very painful and unpleasant.
The brown recluse is small and often called a “fiddleback” because of the dark, violin-style mark on its back. The effects of its bite can vary considerably from no pain, to mild stinging, to intense pain. What makes this spider dangerous, however, is that the scene of the bite can erupt into a necrotizing ulcer, ultimately causing gangrene and permanent tissue damage if not treated.
There are several different species of widow spider that live in Texas. The southern black widow is the most notorious, thanks to the distinctive markings and highly venomous bite of the female, as well as her habit of eating the male after mating. The black widow’s potent bite is rarely fatal in the modern age thanks to the development of antivenom, but this relatively common spider still needs to be treated with respect.
There are lots of stinging insects in Texas, including wasps, bees, and blister beetles, but the worst has to be the fire ants. There are four different species, out of which, the Red Imported Fire Ant is the most aggressive.
Fire ants will bite and sting repeatedly if their colony, or a food source is threatened. The sting causes an intense, localized burning sensation, followed a day or two later by a white pustule. In rare cases, an allergic reaction can occur and hospital treatment is required.
Texas has four types of venomous snake: rattlesnakes, copperheads, water moccasins (also known as cottonmouths), and coral snakes.
Rattlesnakes are the leading cause of snake injury in the USA and there are 10 different species of this type of snake in Texas. Rattlers are pit vipers with a large triangular head and a rattle at the end of their tail which they employ when they feel threatened. Their venom is injected into their victim via their fangs which pierce the skin when they bite. The effects of a rattlesnake bite can vary, but they are rarely fatal if treated quickly.
Copperhead snakes are also pit vipers and there are three main types in Texas. As their name suggests, they are copper in color. They are commonest cause of snakebites in much of Texas and should be avoided.
The cottonmouth is an aggressive, semi-aquatic snake with a dangerous bite. Its body is typically brown, olive, or blackish in color with a lighter underbelly. When it opens its mouth, the inside is white, hence its “cottonmouth” moniker.
The coral snake is small but venomous. Its colored bands make it easy to confuse with other snakes, such as the king and scarlet snake. There are a number of rhymes to help people identify a coral snake by its markings and distinguish it from other types, including: "Red into black, venom lack; red into yellow, kill a fellow."
In the water, there are also some animals to watch out for. There are numerous types of stingray that live in the Gulf of Mexico. Although they don’t go out to attack people, they rest on the sand and rocky bottoms underwater and can easily be stood on. If this happens, the stingray can strike the person with its tail, which has a poisonous stinger, or “barb” at the end.
The sting causes severe pain, followed by physical weakness and an overwhelming sense of fatigue. Some people may experience other very unpleasant symptoms too.
Portuguese Man O’ War
Another marine beast to watch out for is the Portuguese Man O’ War.
This creature is often mistaken for a jellyfish, but it is actually a siphonophore – that means that rather than being one single organism, it is actually made up of multiple minute individuals called zooids.
The Man O’ War cannot move independently, instead it sits on top of the water and travels by water currents and wind.
Its venomous tentacles can deliver a very painful sting, which in rare circumstances, can cause death.
© 2013 Paul Goodman