What are the Most Dangerous Animals in Florida?
Florida is known for its spectacular beaches, Bermuda shorts, and entire cities of venerated golf cart drivers. On a darker note, the inane exploits of the “Florida man” have been well documented by the recent onslaught of memes. Yet another more insidious danger could be lurking right behind you in the Sunshine State: dangerous animals.
Between 2006 and 2008 over one million Americans received treatment in emergency rooms due to animal related injuries. With nearly 50,000 of these injuries requiring hospitalization. Florida ranks behind only Texas and California in the sheer number of fatalities from animal attacks. Here is The Advocate’s list of the top 10 most dangerous animals of Florida:
Most Dangerous Florida Animal #10: Fire Ants
These tiny reds ants are both feared and loathed by locals Floridians. With each ant able to deliver multiple poisonous bites, a single one of these pernicious little guys can deliver an amazingly painful series of stings. The real problem comes when a swarm of them go on a rampage and pose a serious threat to pets or young children.
Allergic reactions can quickly turn an unpleasant situation into a life threatening emergency. A colony of fire ants are extremely difficult to eradicate, making them Florida homeowners’ biggest nightmares.
Most Dangerous Florida Animal #9: Spiders
If arachnophobia is the irrational fear of spiders, just slightly below that is the general consensus that these hairy little monsters clearly have it in for us. While a lot of people fear spiders, the threat from the vast majority of them is mostly psychological. Although I would argue such fear is no less disconcerting. In Florida there are legitimately a few dangerous species to keep an eye out for.
The black widow’s dangerous bite and spooky appearance are well-known. Its reputation having spawned a comic book hero, as well as a trendy nickname for certain cinematic femme fatales. The larger female southern black widow sports the distinctive red hourglass on its abdomen. The smaller males commonly show only a red spotting. While a bite from a black widow is painful, it is usually not overly serious for healthy adults. Severe reactions are possible and are life-threatening when they do rarely occur. This is especially true in young children. Florida sees reports of nearly 60 black widow bites a year.
Although lacking the celebrity-like status of the black widow, the brown recluse has garnered a certain notoriety. Although not indigenous to Florida, several species have established populations in the state. The brown recluse has fangs too short to bite through clothing. However, the powerful necrotic venom of the recluse is virulent enough to result in a deep ulcer of rotting flesh! As the name suggests, they tend to shy away from light and prefer dark areas free from traffic. Crawl spaces, backs of closets, wood piles, or perhaps even clothing not worn in a long time. If you suspect a brown recluse has bitten you, seek medical attention immediately.
Most Dangerous Florida Animal #8: Snakes
For most people the mere thought of snakes slithering around in the grass is unsettling. Add in razor-sharp fangs and powerful poison and you have all the ingredients for a nice panic attack cocktail. Florida boasts 50 indigenous species of snake, however, only 6 are venomous to humans.
Local venomous snakes include copperheads, coral snakes, water moccasins, and three varieties of rattlesnake: eastern diamondback, timber, and the dusky pigmy, with the diminutive pigmy being the most common venomous snake in the state. Their sizes can range from 6’ or more with the large timber and diamondback rattlesnake down to the dusky pigmy which can be as small as one foot in length.
Most of these snakes prefer areas near wet lowlands, like swamps or marshes. The far rarer Coral Snake prefers underground hideouts and is often found hiding in homes. The large eastern diamondback prefers to hang out among lightly forested scrub areas. The ability to deliver a large dose of potent poison with a single bite makes this snake especially dangerous.
None of these snakes are prone for aggression toward humans and conflicts between the two species usually occurs as the result of surprise by being stepped upon. Use caution if bushwhacking in areas where snakes are common. Typically snakes rest during the day or are out soaking up some sun. During mid-day, be sure to watch for them on the edge of sunny patches as the direct sun at noon is often a little too warm for them.
Although painful, deaths from snake bites are rare in healthy adults with timely medical treatment. In one year, the Miami-Dade County Venom Response Team responded to about 1,500 calls across Florida, with about 400 of these calls being snake bites. They estimated 98% of snake bites were from people who were handling a snake found in the wild. With upwards of 40% of those bitten reported being drunk at the time. A good rule of thumb might be to leave the wild things alone if your party is liquored up.
Most Dangerous Florida Animal #7: Sharks
The waters around Florida are home to a variety of shark species. Yes, even that one from the movies (queue ominous Jaws theme). In fact, Florida has for some time led the world in shark attacks. Over one-third of all attacks globally occur in the waters off of Florida’s coast.
The popular Smyrna beach is known as the shark capital of the world. They estimate that if you have ever swam in these water you likely have been within 10 feet of a shark. If there is a ray of hope here, it’s that statistically shark attacks are rare and very seldom fatal.
Most Dangerous Florida Animal #6: Jellyfish
These gentle and often beautiful denizens from the deep are a common sight as they undulate throughout the waters in Florida. Watch where you step on the beach, though, as they wash up on shore often. Do not let their rainbow-esque appearance disarm you. These gelatinous invertebrates pack quite a punch. Living or dead, the tentacles of a jellyfish can deliver a painful and potentially life threatening sting.
Shark attacks make great headlines and remain popular fodder for theater fare, but the fact is that jellyfish kill 8 times the amount of people sharks do and cause countless more injuries. Reports estimate that 150 million people receive jelly fish stings every year worldwide. Recently over 600 beachgoers received treatment for jelly fish related injuries over a single weekend on just one Florida beach.
Most Dangerous Florida Animal #5: Bears
Florida Black Bears are the largest land animals in the state and have powerful claws and large sharp teeth. They average between 200-300 lbs, but a large male was recently trapped weighing in at a whopping 740 pounds. Fortunately these furry forest-mongers are primarily vegetarian and prefer wooded areas in order to avoid contact with humans. The biggest danger to bears, and to a lesser degree humans, is when they lose their fear of people and become habituated and food-conditioned. Once a bear makes a habit of foraging in residential areas, sadly its days are usually numbered.
When encountered in the wild, black bears are usually quite skittish. Should you stumble upon one on the trail simply back away slowly, avoid eye contact, make yourself look big, and speak in a calm assertive voice. Never run or approach the bear, and try to position yourself so the bear has a clear path to escape. Take note that black bears are excellent tree climbers and can run up to an astounding 35 miles an hour.
Prevention is the key when traveling through bear country. Smart hikers stay together in one large group and make as much noise as possible. Always report bears that are threatening humans, pets, livestock, or causing property damage to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Most Dangerous Florida Animal #4: Florida Panthers
Even if you are a ‘cat person,’ you may want to give our next animal a wide berth, if you are lucky enough to see one that is. The Florida panther is a subspecies of cougars and is one of the most endangered animals on earth. Designated the official state animal in 1982, only an estimated 120-230 are left in the wild. These felids are actually closely related to the common house cat. In fact, they are known to even meow, purr, and even caterwaul like domestic cats. Make no mistake, though, these apex predators are vicious and skilled, making them elite hunters.
The panther’s abnormally powerful hind legs allow it to jump 15 feet straight up or 45 feet horizontally. Talk about pouncing on your prey. Often able to sever its quarry’s spinal cord with a single precise bite to the base of the skull. It prefers to choke-out larger animals by latching onto their throats. Although attacks on pets or livestock are not uncommon, there has never been a single reported attack on a person in state history. The panther did not evolve near hominids in this area and as a result we do not look much like their usual food selections. Keep an eye on your family pet, though.
Most Dangerous Florida Animal #3: Dogs
The storied relationship between man and canines goes back 10,000 years. Over time leaving them embedded into our society in a unique way. More than one-third of all households in America have a pet dog. They act as companions, provide protection and can serve as members of our civil and military service. Dogs play an important and at times intimate role in the daily lives of many. However, this level of saturation is not without its down sides. One out of every seventeen dogs bites or attacks a person at some point.
Florida ranks only behind California in the number of dog bite related lawsuits filed per year. Even a relatively minor attack by a dog is traumatic and painful. Unfortunately, the potential for serious injury is not unheard-of. State wide over 600 people a year will require hospitalization due to an attack by a dog. On average two of those attacks will result in a fatality. Familiarity aside, remember that dogs are wild animals who although domesticated still possess the latent potential to cause dangerous injuries.
Most Dangerous Florida Animal #2: Alligators
No list of dangerous animals for Florida could be complete with including their famous gators. Arguably the most well-known wildlife menace in the state. An alligator’s bite is the most powerful in the animal kingdom and packs enough force to lift a small truck!
Florida is home to over a million alligators with populations in every county state-wide. Despite the prolific numbers, attacks on humans tend to average in the single digits annually. However, even long-time residents of the state exercise caution around these water-borne reptilians. Using common sense when operating in or near their natural habitats can help you avoid an incident for both you and your pets.
Most Dangerous Florida Animal #1: Wild Boars
The Florida wild boar is believed to be a direct descendant of domestic pigs brought over by the Spanish in the 1500’s. Intelligent, aggressive, and averaging over 300 pounds, these feral swine are widely considered the most dangerous animal one can encounter in the wilds of Florida. Unpredictable and vicious, they have even been known to turn the tables on hunters unleashing a savage attack on their would-be-slayers. Take heed of any warning signs about the danger of boars in the area and stay alert for signs of animal activity while out on the trail.
We hope you have enjoyed The Advocates tour through some of Florida’s most dangerous animals. It’s a wild world we live in, but with some common sense and a few timely precautions we can stay safe and still whet our appetite for exploration.
For years, our attorneys have helped victims of animal bites from all throughout Idaho. The Advocates specialize in personal injury cases and provide free consultations with experienced attorneys to discuss your case. You can either call us today at 208-995-2444, fill out the form below, or chat with a live attorney confidentially here. You deserve an Advocate!
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