Most Dangerous Animals in Florida: Top 10
There are numerous animals that are capable of causing you harm in Florida, usually by biting you. Some animals use venom, while other dangerous animals just have big teeth and strong jaws.
I must emphasize, however, that most of these dangerous animals want nothing more than to be left alone and will not attack humans unless they are startled, feel threatened, or are trying to protect their young. If you respect them, they are very unlikely to attack you.
Some animals, such as the Florida black bear and the Florida panther, have suffered from shrinking habitats due to human encroachment over the years and are now endangered species, meaning that in a very real sense, they are more threatened by us than the other way around!
Here are my top 10 most dangerous animals in Florida.
Spiders. There are two spiders in particular, found in Florida, that can potentially be dangerous.
The brown recluse spider (also nicknamed the fiddleback spider, brown fiddler, or violin spider, because of its markings) is one of the most dangerous animals in Florida. It is only small but has a venomous bite that can put you in hospital or worse.
The spider's name comes from its tendency to seclude itself in dark recesses. Your chance of encountering one is Florida is relatively small, but you should always be aware of the risk, as the consequences of a bite can be very serious.
Southern Black Widow spiders are more common and should also be avoided. Widow spiders can be identified by the distinctive red hourglass marking on their back. The female is bigger and far more venomous than the male. Their webs are often three-dimensional and chaotic looking, unlike the classic flat, circular web pattern of many spiders.
You can avoid both spiders by wearing gloves when working in places where they might be living, such as sheds. You should also be careful when putting on old clothing, or footwear, and shake them out before wearing.
Florida Black bears. The Florida black bear is the largest animal that you will find on land in Florida. They live in wooded areas.
An endangered species, they are rare to see, although they were much more common before the arrival of Europeans in Florida.
Sadly, many of these fine animals are killed by cars in automobile accidents.
Sharks. There are many different sorts of shark in the waters around Florida, including Bull Sharks, Lemon Sharks, Nurse Sharks, and Hammerhead Sharks. Thankfully, the Great White Shark is rarely seen.
Florida had the most unprovoked shark attacks in the world in 2013, when there were 23. None of the 10 fatal attacks around the world that year occurred in Florida.
American Alligators. These large water-dwelling reptiles pack a powerful bite and should be treated with extreme caution. They will generally seek to swim away, if approached but I wouldn’t take any risks. If they think their young are at risk, or they feel threatened in some other way, they are capable of striking out.
These reptiles should not be confused with crocodiles, although they can appear similar to the untrained eye. The easiest way to tell them apart is the snout, which is wider and rounded for an alligator, and more pointed for a crocodile.
Crocodiles only live in the southernmost tip of Florida too, whereas alligators can be found across Florida and the southeastern United States. Crocodiles are potentially dangerous too, although the American type tends to be much less aggressive than the African and Australian versions.
Snakes. There are 6 types of snake in Florida which are venomous and a danger to humans: copperheads, cottonmouths (water moccasins), coral snakes, plus Eastern diamondback, timber and dusky pigmy rattlesnakes. (See also the 6 Most Dangerous Snakes in Florida).
As well as the snakes that are native to Florida, there are also Burmese pythons. These live in southern Florida and have bred from irresponsible pet owners releasing them into the wild, when they’ve became too large to cope with. Some are also thought to have escaped from zoos and houses during Hurricane Andrew. They have bred prolifically in recent years and there are estimated to be somewhere between 5,000 and 180,000 pythons in the Everglades by officials.
Wild Boars are the descendents of escaped domestic pigs that were brought over by the Spanish, possibly as early as 1539. These intelligent feral hogs can weigh more than 300 pounds and be very aggressive.
Florida Panthers. This beautiful big cat is a subspecies of cougar and was chosen in 1982 as the Florida state animal. It is protected and an endangered species, as there are only 80-100 of them left. Its only natural predators are alligators and humans.
Fire ants. These insects have a painful and irritating venomous bite. Their sting causes a red bump which can turn into a white pustule and cause an infection if scratched (the bites often turn very itchy the following day).
Some people are allergic to fire ant bites, which can be life-threatening in some severe cases.
Jellyfish. There are many species of jellyfish, only some of them have stings that cause a bad reaction in humans. Jellyfish stings can cause no pain, intense pain, or even death in some cases and therefore they should be avoided whenever possible.
Big Fish. Barracuda and marlin can both cause potential harm to swimmers. Although attacks on humans by barracudas are extremely rare, they can be confused by shiny things such as diamond rings into thinking that people are prey. Marlins are also reputed to be capable of causing harm.
© 2011 Paul Goodman