Have you ever wondered what the most dangerous or even deadliest animals are in North Carolina?
This article will examine the top 16 animals that could harm you in North Carolina.
You might be surprised to learn that some animals commonly considered deadly are not responsible for many human deaths at all.
In fact, most of these animals are unlikely to hurt you if you leave them alone.
Can you guess which animal in North Carolina is the deadliest? I saved that one for last.
I hope I can educate you about the types of animals you should be on the lookout for in North Carolina and how to stay safe. And also to help you realize that many of the animals you might be afraid of are very unlikely to harm you.
1 – Black Bear
I considered leaving the Black Bear off this list because they are quite shy and rarely attack unless provoked. However, a black bear killed one hiker in the Great Smokey Mountains in 2020. Other than that, there have been no other deaths I can find.
Black Bears are the only kind of bear that lives in North Carolina. I’ve been lucky enough to catch a glimpse of one in the Great Smokey Mountains.
While black bears are not typically aggressive, they can be dangerous if they feel threatened or are trying to protect their cubs.
If you see a black bear, it is essential to back away slowly and avoid making any sudden movements.
Also, do not feed bears or leave any food out for them. This can make them more dependent on interactions with humans for their survival.
2 – Alligators
I’ll never forget the first time my family saw an alligator in NC. We were visiting the USS North Carolina Battleship in Wilmington, and an alligator was swimming in the marsh around the ship.
My husband was so excited to see an alligator that I had difficulty getting him to leave, even though it was in the middle of a hot, sticky North Carolina summer.
Alligators are found in the marshes and shores of North Carolina. They are more prevalent towards the southern part of the state, but they have been seen as far north as Alligator River Wildlife Refuge near Manteo.
Alligators are shy but may attack if they feel threatened. It’s extremely rare for a person to be killed by an alligator. Only about three fatal alligator attacks occur each year in the United States.
Never feed an alligator or get too close. If you are attacked, run away or poke the alligator in the eyes. You can also hit his head or shove an object down his throat.
3 – Pygmy Rattlesnake
The pygmy rattlesnake is one of the most venomous snakes in North Carolina. Measuring an average of only 20 inches in length, it is the smallest of all rattlesnakes in the United States.
Despite its small size, the pygmy rattlesnake packs a potent punch, with venom that is more than twice as toxic as its larger cousin, the eastern diamondback rattlesnake. However, the pygmy rattlesnake’s bite is considered less serious than its larger relatives due to its small fangs.
There have been no reported deaths from the pygmy rattlesnake anywhere, although victims may experience significant swelling, pain, and tissue damage at the bite site.
If you encounter a pygmy rattlesnake in the wild, it is essential to remain calm and avoid provoking it. If you are bitten, seek medical attention immediately. With proper treatment, bites from even the most venomous snakes can be successfully managed.
4 – Timber Rattlesnake
The timber rattlesnake’s bite can be fatal to humans, and as a result, a bite from a timber rattlesnake is considered a medical emergency. However, timber rattlesnake bites are rare. There are no known deaths from timber rattlesnakes in North Carolina, and only 1 or 2 deaths are reported yearly throughout the United States.
The timber rattlesnake is a shy snake that would rather flee than fight. However, it will sometimes strike if it feels threatened. If you see a timber rattlesnake, it is best to give it a wide berth and leave it alone.
If you are bitten by a timber rattlesnake, try to remain calm and seek medical treatment at a facility with antivenom.
The good news is that about half of snake bites are dry, meaning the snake does not release any venom into the victim.
5 – Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
The eastern diamondback rattlesnake is the longest and heaviest venomous snake in the US. They can grow as long as eight feet and over 15 pounds.
They are known for their painful, venomous bite, which can be fatal to humans. The toxin in their venom kills red blood cells and causes tissue damage.
Even though the venom of an eastern diamondback is extremely toxic, deaths are rare because antivenom is available wherever these snakes exist. The last known death from an Eastern Diamondback was in 2005 in Florida.
If you encounter one of these rattlesnakes, keep your distance. If you’re exploring a habitat where snakes could be present, watch where you walk and keep your pets close by.
6 – Copperhead Snake
The copperhead snake is a venomous pit viper found in all parts of North Carolina. Many people are terrified of encountering a copperhead, but they are a docile snake that just wants to be left alone.
When my husband, an avid snake lover, encounters a copperhead on the road, he carefully moves him to a safer location. This should be done with extreme caution using a long stick or pole to avoid getting near the snake.
Although copperhead bites are one of the most common snake bites in North Carolina, there have been no reported fatalities from copperhead bites in NC. There have only been six deaths from copperhead bites in the United States in the last 200 years. This is because copperhead venom is among the least potent pit vipers.
Also, copperheads often give a warning or “dry bite” the first time they strike.
There may be more copperhead bites than other snakes because a copperhead will freeze instead of slithering away when it senses a predator. This makes it more likely for someone to encounter the snake.
Copperheads easily blend in with leaves, so be careful when walking through the forest or doing yard work. If you encounter a copperhead, the best thing to do is slowly back away and give it space.
7 – Eastern Coral Snake
The eastern coral snake is a beautiful but reclusive creature that is rare in North Carolina.
These brightly colored snakes are members of the cobra family, and their venom is powerful enough to kill an adult human.
However, they are naturally shy, and bites from eastern coral snakes are extremely rare. There have been only two reported deaths from coral snake bites in the United States, and neither of those occurred in North Carolina.
The eastern coral snake is often confused with the scarlet kingsnake and the scarlet snake, both of which are non-venomous.
One way to distinguish a coral snake from its harmless look-alikes is to remember the saying, “Red and black, friend of Jack; red and yellow, kill a fellow.” While the eastern coral snake is a beautiful animal, it is best admired from a distance.
8 – Water Moccasin/Cottonmouth
The cottonmouth snake, also known as the water moccasin, is a venomous snake that gets its name from its large white mouth, which it shows to potential predators as a warning.
Cottonmouths can be found both in the water and on land, and they usually only bite humans when provoked.
They are often confused with non-venomous water snakes, but some key differences exist. Cottonmouths have elliptical pupils, while water snakes have round pupils. In addition, water snakes have smooth scales, while cottonmouths have keeled scales.
If you encounter a cottonmouth snake, stay away and give it space. Trying to kill a snake greatly increases your risk of being bitten by one.
There have been no reported deaths from cottonmouth bites in North Carolina and only one reported death in the United States in the last 200 years.
As I finish this section on snakes and their deadly venom, I also want to point out that snake venom has been used to develop treatments for cancer, hypertension, and heart failure.
Snakes may have actually cured more people than they have harmed.
9 – Black Widow Spider
The black widow spider is one of the most feared spiders in the world. However, there have been no reported deaths in the United States since 1983.
While black widows are not aggressive, they will bite if they feel threatened.
Black widow bites are usually not fatal but can cause serious health problems. If you get bitten by a black widow, seek medical help immediately.
By keeping storage areas clean and being careful around fallen tree branches and woodpiles, you can avoid getting bitten by black widows.
10 – Brown Recluse
The brown recluse spider is found low to the ground in brush, debris, and wood piles. It is also found in basements and attics.
The brown recluse spider is venomous, and its bite can cause skin lesions that can lead to infection. However, there have only been two recorded cases of death from a brown recluse bite in the United States and none in North Carolina.
The brown recluse spider is naturally shy and prefers to stay away from humans. However, if you come into contact with one, it is essential to be cautious and seek medical treatment immediately if you are bitten.
11 – Sharks
Although shark attacks are often feared, they are rare in North Carolina.
There are an average of 2 to 3 shark attacks yearly, but there has not been a fatality since 2001. The state has only had 10 fatal shark attacks since 1864.
While death by shark attack is rare, there are still some steps you can take to avoid being attacked.
First, avoid swimming near river mouths or areas where there are fishing boats. Second, avoid swimming at dawn or dusk when water visibility is lower. Finally, try to swim with others and stay where there is a lifeguard present.
12 – Bees, Hornet, Wasps
You may be surprised to learn that bees, hornets, and wasps are responsible for more deaths yearly than snakes, sharks, and spiders combined.
In the United States, an average of 62 people die yearly from bee, hornet, and wasp stings.
To stay safe, it’s important to avoid these flying creatures if you see them or their nests. If you need to remove a nest, it’s best to call a pest expert.
Most people will only experience minor irritation from a bee, hornet, or wasp sting. However, some people can have a severe allergic reaction and should carry an Epipen and call 911 immediately if stung.
With some awareness and caution, you can enjoy the outdoors without worrying about these potentially dangerous creatures.
13 – Fire Ants
Fire ants are reddish to dark brown, and their nests can be spotted because they build mounds of dirt in open sunny areas.
They were accidentally imported from South America into the United States in the early 1900s.
They are aggressive and venomous. The sting from a fire ant causes red bumps on the skin that itch intensely. A few people will have a severe allergic reaction to a fire ant sting and require immediate medical attention.
If you have had a bad reaction to a wasp sting, you are more likely to have a severe reaction to a fire ant sting.
To protect yourself, avoid walking near fire ant mounds or activity and regularly exterminate fire ants with appropriate pesticides.
In the United States, 14 million people are stung annually by fire ants, and 80 deaths have occurred. In NC, only one death from a fire ant sting has been reported.
14 – Domestic Dogs
Each year, around 30 to 50 people in the United States die from dog attacks. In North Carolina, the average is one death per year.
If you find yourself confronted by an aggressive dog, there are some steps you can take to try and stay safe.
First, remain calm and avoid making eye contact with the dog. If you have something you can use to look larger – like an umbrella or a bag – hold it out in front of you.
If the dog attacks, try to give them something safe to latch onto, like the sleeve you have taken your arm out of or a bag. By following these steps, you may be able to prevent severe injury or even death.
15 – Mosquitos
West Nile virus is a severe illness transmitted to humans through mosquito bites.
The virus is most commonly found in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, but it has also been reported in the United States.
In 2020, there were 33 deaths from West Nile virus in the US, and the first death in North Carolina was reported in 2022.
Wear long sleeves and pants outdoors to protect yourself from mosquito bites, and use mosquito repellent. You can also take steps to avoid areas where mosquitoes are present, such as standing water or heavily wooded areas.
16 – Humans
It’s a well-known fact that humans are the most dangerous and deadly animals on the planet. But did you know that humans are the most deadly animal in North Carolina?
In 2020, there were 852 murders in NC alone. And in 2021, there were 1755 deaths in NC from automobile accidents.
So if you’re looking for the most dangerous animal to worry about in NC, look no further than your fellow human beings.
I hope you enjoyed learning about deadly and dangerous animals in North Carolina.
And remember, while most people think of bears, alligators, and snakes as the most dangerous wildlife in this state, there are other creatures that you should be more concerned about, especially humans.
So get outside and enjoy our beautiful state by hiking, kayaking, or enjoying any number of outdoor activities that North Carolina has to offer.
What Are The Strangest Animals That Live In North Carolina?
North Carolina is home to some pretty strange animals. While it’s subjective which ones are the most bizarre, some contenders for the top spot include stinkpot turtles, hellbender salamanders, snapping turtles, house centipedes, and luna moths.
Stinkpot turtles get their name from their ability to release a stinky, musky odor to deter predators.
Hellbender salamanders are interesting because they are large, around 2 feet long, and breathe through their skin. They also have light-sensitive cells all over their bodies that help them detect if they are hidden from prey.
Snapping turtles look a bit like dinosaurs, so it may be no surprise that they have been around since dinosaur times. A snapping turtle can bite at a force of about 210 Newtons which is strong enough to bite a finger off.
House centipedes may look scary, but they are harmless to humans. They are voracious predators, though, and eat a lot of household pests, including cockroaches. They are speedy runners for their size and can run 16 inches per second. They also can regrow a leg if they lose one.
What Is The Deadliest Animal In The World?
Mosquitos are considered the deadliest animal in the world. They cause close to a million deaths annually by transmitting diseases like malaria, dengue fever, West Nile, and Zika viruses.
Do Black Panthers Live In NC?
Nope! The bobcat is the only wild cat found in NC.
Are There Wolves In NC?
Yes, the only known wild red wolves live on North Carolina’s Albemarle Peninsula.
Are There Mountain Lions In NC?
Although mountain lions (or cougars) were once common in North Carolina, they are now extinct in the state.
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Such a great read. We had no clue that an alligator would be part of the 12 deadliest animals in North Carolina. We have a lot of these same animals in Kentucky.
We have most of these animals in Missouri too! Snakes I know how to avoid. I’ve been bit multiple times by brown recluses. Alligators and sharks though…terrifying!
That’s too bad you’ve been bit by brown recluses. Hope it didn’t cause too much damage!
I absolutely hate black widow spiders. I actually just learned a week ago that brown widow spiders exist too. Eww!!
Oh wow! Didn’t know about Brown Widow Spiders! Yikes!
There are a lot more deadly snakes in North Carolina than I realized! I went to college in South Carolina and never saw one. But I didn’t spend too much time in the country!
It’s somewhat rare to run into snakes unless you’re out in the woods a lot.
I wouldn’t want to encounter most of these animals, but I love spotting black bears, especially from the safety of my car! We’ve seen some away from the car, and I agree; if you don’t provoke them, your encounter probably won’t end tragically.
That’s true about black bears. I almost didn’t add them to the list because they are shy and will not harm you if you respect them.
It is likely that the most aggressive black bears have been killed in North Carolina over the centuries and the survivors are not aggressive. However, I just moved from the West and it seems like black bears kill someone every few years. In one terrible case quite a few years back, a black bear in Utah pulled a small child from an open window of a hard shell camper and killed it. The attacks are not always associated with cubs but more often with food. If you camp in wilderness areas in Yellowstone, you are advised not to have anything with fragrance in your tent or anywhere near your camp; so no deodorant! We never had any sort of food in our tent EVER, not even cookie crumbs. A bear is said to be able to smell a single raspberry seed from five miles away.
This was a fascinating read. I had no idea that 16 of the deadliest animals are in North Carolina. Makes me a little nervous to go hiking there.
Attacks from any of the animals listed are rare. The main animal you need to worry about is the human. 🙂
North Carolina has some scary snakes!the doggie looks to cute to hurt anyone 🙂
Yep, my dog is super cute. Thanks for noticing. 🙂
Ummm, no thanks. Staying clear of these 12 deadliest in NC!
Haha. I don’t blame you. Although you have little to worry about with most of these animals.
I never realized there were deadly animals in North Carolina. I guess I just never thought about it, let alone realized there are alligators that far north. I thought they didn’t go above Florida. Of course, I knew there were mosquitos and sharks, but your article enlightened me about all I did not know.
We don’t have them in every part of the state, mostly the southern part. But you can find alligators in South Carolina and Georgia as well.