Sure, exploring the African savannah can be deadly, but have you heard that growling sound coming from across the street? Could your furry friend curled up on the couch turn on you? Or perhaps there’s an eight-legged killer lurking in your garden? Maybe the danger isn’t as far away as you thought. We’ve shown you a lot of deadly creatures here at How to Survive, but we can’t forget those in our own backyard…
Number 9: Dogs
They can be your best friend but also a worse nightmare. From 2005 to 2017, dogs killed 433 people in the U.S. Most of these deaths were caused by pitbulls. Dogs aren’t inherently violent, but if they feel threatened or scared they won’t hesitate to bite you. Pay attention to warning signs such as barking, growling or snapping at the air. If an attack is imminent, the dog will go for your neck, head or chest, so you need to protect these areas. If possible, try to get the dog to bite an area that is well protected, like your bulky coat or shoe.
Number 8: Killer Bees
The mix between African queen bees and European worker bees has formed a deadly hybrid, Africanized bees, aka killer bees. The name fits, since they seem to attack more aggressively than local honeybees. These swarming renegades are found across the U.S. and Mexico, along with South and Central America. They’re incredibly persistent. If they perceive you as a danger, they will chase you for up to 400 m (1,300 ft). Your best bet is not to move around if you spot a hive. Bees interpret quick or jerky motions as threats. And if you get stung by one of these cruel buzzers, you’re in deep trouble. Their stingers release pheromones which signal to other bees to mount a defensive attack. Then you’d have the whole hive after you.
Number 7: Pumas
Often called mountain lions or cougars, these muscular and notorious hunters can bring down animals twice their size. Pumas feed on deer, elk and sheep, but if you’re on their territory, you’re fair game and easy prey. If you come across this cat, don’t run. That’ll be interpreted as prey behavior and it’ll chase after you. Instead, try to maintain eye contact and make yourself look bigger by raising and spreading your limbs. Don’t make any loud noises, and slowly back away.
Number 6: American Crocodile
While visiting the breathtaking coastal areas of south Florida, you might run into something that can literally take your breath away.
This 4 m (13 ft) long alligator will eat fish, turtles, snakes or practically anything else that moves. It can camouflage itself in cypress or freshwater swamps, so chances are you won’t even spot it until it’s too late. If you come face to face with a crocodile, stay still. Avoid sudden movements or splashing. If it begins to chase you, run away in a straight line. The myth about running in a zig-zag is just that, and could be a fatal mistake. If it clamps down on you with its jaws, quickly jab its eyes with your fingers. That’s the croc’s most vulnerable area and will improve the odds of it releasing you.
Number 5: Black Widow Spiders
These iconic hourglass-shaped shiny spiders are found throughout the U.S and areas of Canada. Their bite is often just a minor pinprick so you might not feel it at first. Give it a few minutes and you’ll start to experience pain in your chest and abdomen. Muscle spasms will follow, and breathing could become almost impossible due to paralysis of your diaphragm. Always check inside your shoes before putting them on. If you’re bitten, wash the site with soap and get medical help right away.
Number 4: Grizzly Bears
This is no teddy bear. Weighing up to 363 kg (800 lb) and packing bite force that rivals that of a lion’s, grizzlies can rip apart flesh, bones and almost everything that’s in their path. They typically attack humans by tossing or pushing them around, then wait to see if they get up.
Because of their size, grizzly bears are hard to miss. You’ll hear them if they’re near, and if they start charging you, play dead. Lay down flat on your stomach and spread your legs apart. Make sure to cover your head and neck with your hands and arms. If you see a tree nearby, climb it. Unless it’s desperate for food, an adult grizzly won’t put in the effort to follow you up.
Number 3: Great White Sharks
The beautiful blue waters of Volusia County, Florida, hide a dark secret. The region has had 337 shark attacks since 1882. If you’ve been to the beaches there before, chances are you’ve been within 3 m (10 ft) of a great white. If this 2,268 kg (5,000 lb) predator mistakes you for a snack, be prepared to punch its eyes and gills with all you got. These are its most sensitive spots.
Number 2: Prairie Rattlesnakes
This slithering creature only has enough venom to kill reptiles, birds and small mammals, but you’ll still get an excruciating bite if you step into its territory. If this happens to you, remove any tight clothing or jewelry to prevent the wound from swelling and get medical help as soon as possible. In the meantime, allow the wound to bleed in order to flush out some of the venom. Whatever you do, don’t wash it. Doctors will need some of the venom to confirm you were bitten by a prairie rattlesnake and get you the antivenom you need.
Number 1: Moose
It might look like a laidback animal, but the biggest of the deer family is anything but. Moose are extremely territorial and can become aggressive if you try to feed them or come too close to their offspring. Males can weigh up to 700 kg (1,543 lb), making a collision with them deadly whether you’re on foot or behind the wheel of a car. If you encounter this beast, you best keep your distance. If that doesn’t work and it starts charging at you, run. Head for big trees or rocks, anything to duck behind.
- If a Dog Bites You, Do These 7 Things Now. Cleveland Clinic (2020)
- 40,000 ‘Killer Bees’ Sting Texas Man to Death. Nelson, S. (2013). U.S. News.
- Poisoning Due to Black Widow Spider Venom (Black Widow Spider Bites). Holm, G. (2019). Healthline.
- Bear Attacks. National Parks Service (2023).
- 15 Tips for Surviving a Shark Attack. Editors of Publications International (2023). How Stuff Works.