Last week, a Florida woman was killed by an alligator, a horrifying – though excruciatingly rare – event that raises the question, what actually is the deadliest animal in the U.S.? And the answer may surprise you.
Before proceeding, we need to define our terms here. For this discussion, we’ll only consider animals that directly cause human fatalities through attacks. So while ticks may carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever or Lyme Disease, they don’t count. Similarly, as this writer knows all too well, wrapping your car around a deer is always a risk, but they don’t count either. This article will not consider indirect fatalities.
Shark Fatalities Aren’t Actually All That Common
As The New York Post reports, none other than the President of the United States is terrified of sharks, as he famously tweeted in 2013. And whenever a shark attack occurs, it makes headlines – but there’s a reason for that, and the reason is that shark attacks, while horrifying, are actually quite rare. The news doesn’t tell you about the tens of millions of people who swim in the ocean and don’t get bitten by sharks each year.
In fact, depending on whom you ask, there have been around 100 fatal shark attacks on humans in the United States since records have been kept, although estimates vary wildly. The most recent took place in Hawaii in 2015; and indeed, there have only been six fatal shark attacks on humans since 2010.
Hawaii woman killed in apparent shark attack identified as Margaret C. Cruse, 65, of Kihei. pic.twitter.com/oI552vHaqU— Nerd Zodiac (@NerdZodiac3) April 30, 2015
Neither Are Alligator Attacks
Alligator attacks are also quite rare – an average of one fatality per year since 2000. Gators are easy to avoid (put simply, don’t go into fresh water in places where gators live) and will generally leave you alone if you leave them alone.
Nor Snake Bites, For That Matter
While snake bites aren’t particularly rare – about 7,000-8,000 per year in the U.S. alone – fatal snake bites are, according to the University of Florida. Since snake venom evolved to kill small animals that snakes prey upon, it takes a lot to actually kill a human; indeed, there are only about five or six snakebite-related fatalities per year in the U.S.
Bears And Wolves Don’t Even Make The List
Though the thought of being eaten alive by a bear or a wolf is quite terrifying, according to The Dodo, the number of known fatal wolf attacks on humans in the United States is exactly one. Similarly, according to The Alaska Life, fatal bear attacks on humans amount to about two per year, on average.
The Biggest Killers: Insects
The deadliest animals in the U.S. are actually bees, wasps, and hornets (collectively). They top the list of animal-related deaths in the U.S. every year, with about 58 fatal attacks on average each year. There are several reasons for this – namely, that unlike bears, gators, sharks, and so on, they’re hard to avoid; and generally more than just one attacks.
The second-biggest killer, in case you were wondering, is dogs (domestic dogs, that is, not wolves), with an average of 28 fatalities per year. Cows – yes, cows – come in third, with about 20 fatalities per year.