OK, we’re just going to put this out there: man is by far the most dangerous animal in Ohio, or anywhere else on the planet for that matter. We could spend the next few paragraphs debating that statement, but this isn’t an article about morality or ethics — it’s about dangerous animals in Ohio!
So let’s start with a statistic: according to data collected by lcb.org, every American has a 1-in-1,384,594 chance of being killed by some kind of animal. Those are pretty good odds, especially when compared to Africa where the ratio is 1-in-2,221.
So, over the next few pages, we’re going to look at seven of the most dangerous and deadly animals in Ohio, and how to avoid them. And to those of you who love looking at pictures of snakes and spiders: don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!
Northern Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix)
The Northern Copperhead is probably the most feared snake throughout the Midwest, although this pit viper’s bite is one of the least toxic of all snakes in all the US.
Varying from 2 to 3 feet in length, copperheads are common throughout most of the Southern United States, although in Ohio they’re limited to a few counties in the southeast. They’re nocturnal during the hot summer, but quite active during the day in the spring and fall.
Copperheads feed on quite a wide variety of small mammals, rodents and insects, such as cicadas and caterpillars. Rather than actively hunt their prey, they tend to be ambush predators: they choose a promising position and wait for their prey to arrive.
Unlike other pit vipers, when disturbed the Northern Copperhead will freeze rather than slither away, relying on its superb camouflage to escape danger. As a result, most bites occur due to people unknowingly stepping on one, as they can be very hard to see.
Although it’s responsible for the highest number of venomous snake bites reported to the CDC, the death rate from copperheads is negligible and seldom even requires antivenin for recovery. But you should never take chances if someone gets bitten, and your first step is always to call the emergency services.
And despite what you may have been told, applying a tourniquet is no longer regarded as best advice, and nor is sucking out the venom. Just wash the area of the bite, keep it clean and covered, and make sure affected limb is held lower than the heart to prevent the toxin spreading.
Black Widow Spiders (Latrodectus mactans and L. variolus)
Ohio is home to two types of Black Widow, the Southern and the Northern, which are both found throughout the state. Despite their famous reputation, black widows are not aggressive; in fact a better description would be ‘shy’. It’s important to remember that they have no reason to bite humans unless they feel threatened.
Recognisable by the red hour-glass mark on the underbelly, black widow females often notoriously eat the male after mating. The females are also the only ones whose bite is dangerous — the males are a lot smaller and completely harmless (and they don’t get to live too long anyway!)
In Ohio, the black widow can usually be found in old abandoned buildings, wooden outhouses and barns. Additionally, the female Northern Widow often spins her tangled web under rocks and logs, in cavities under cliffs, and in shaded woodland.
A black widow bite, which initially feels like a small pinprick, can often cause severe muscle pain and cramping, nausea and mild diaphragm paralysis. This last symptom can make breathing difficult, which is the greatest potential danger.
In the US there about 2,200 reported black widow bites each year, but most do not need medical treatment. According to the latest 2018 report from the American Association of Poison Control Centers, the last time a black widow bite proved fatal was in 1983. Antivenin is the recommended treatment, although most times it’s only needed for pain relief.
Recluse Spiders ( Loxosceles reclusa and L. rufescens)
The Brown Recluse and the Mediterannean Recluse are the other two venomous spiders that are native to Ohio. Identified by the violin-shaped marking that starts at the head, these ¼-inch to ½-inch spiders are often known as violin spiders or fiddlebacks. Interestingly they only have six eyes, not eight, which are arranged in two rows of three.
As their name suggests, recluse spiders prefer to build their thin ‘tanglewebs’ in hidden-away locations. Outside, you’ll find them around rocks or woodpiles, and especially under rotting bark. Inside the home, they will build their webs in almost any undisturbed area, but they have a preference for cardboard as it mimics tree bark.
Unlike a lot of web spiders, recluses will leave their lairs at night to hunt. The males move around more than the females, who prefer to stay closer to the web. If disturbed they will occasionally attack, especially if the female thinks her web is being threatened. But attacks on humans are rare: one family in Kansas lived for six years in a house infested by 2,055 brown recluse spiders. Total number of bites? Zero.
Most bites from recluse spiders are ‘dry bites’, meaning no actual venom is delivered. If the toxin is injected, victims can develop a condition called loxoscelism (taken from the spider’s Latin name). The condition causes skin around the bite to die (necrosis), leaving a lesion that can take up to three weeks to heal.
However, the fangs of recluse spiders are not large enough to penetrate most fabrics, so on the rare occasion that a recluse does attack a human, the bite often misses its mark.
Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)
This bad-tempered turtle gets its name from its powerful jaws, which can snap with lightning speed. Their bite is rumoured to be strong enough to sever a human finger, although no such injury has ever been reported in Ohio (or anywhere else, for that matter).
The Common Snapper is Ohio’s largest turtle, with an average carapace (shell) length of 18 inches and an average weight of 25-35 lb. However, these reptiles keep growing throughout their lifetime and, as some can live for over 80 years, there are almost definitely individual males that are much larger.
They are extremely aggressive, including to each other. When fighting over a mate, male snappers have been known to bite their rival’s head off. However, they will always steer clear of humans if possible (because we’re bigger than they are!)
As they spend most of their lives underwater, snapping turtles rarely have any contact with humans. However, during nesting season (April to November) the females stay ashore. If they encounter a curious human, they will aggressively defend their nest, and warning snaps are very common.
In June 2006, New York adopted the common snapping turtle as their official state reptile — we’re not sure why.
Although there have been no qualified reports of severed fingers or similar, the snapping turtle is very aggressive and should be considered dangerous.
In 2009, a captive common snapper in Duisburg, Germany managed to escape and headed out to a busy street. Pedestrians tried to catch the animal, but it was so aggressive that eventually, the police had to be called.
Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus)
The Eastern Massasauga grows from 18 to 30 inches in length and is the smallest of Ohio’s venomous snakes. Rarely attacking humans, it’s been listed as threatened by the US Fish and Wildlife service. Like all rattlesnakes, it is a pit viper, and like all pit vipers, it is venomous.
The word ‘massasauga’ is from the Chippewa language meaning ‘great river mouth’, which is where this snake typically makes its home. Once found in abundance in wetland swamps throughout Ohio, the Massasauga now only lives on protected nature reserves. Even so, poachers still hunt this snake due to its rarity.
The Massasauga is a shy snake and seldom uses its rattle, preferring instead to lie in wait for its prey. It feeds primarily on small mammals such as voles and mice, but will sometimes eat frogs, birds and even other snakes.
Although its venom is very toxic, the Massasauga rarely attempts to bite unless it feels threatened. Its fangs are very small and can only;y inject small amounts of venom, so it poses very little danger to humans. Only two incidents of fatal Massasauga bites have ever been recorded in Ontario: they happened over 50 years ago and in both cases, the victims did not receive proper treatment.
Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus Horridus)
The Timber Rattlesnake is the most venomous snake in North America. They are large, with a highest recorded length of over 6 feet. Their venom is classified as exceptionally lethal, meaning it’s a lot more potent than Ohio’s other rattler, the Copperhead. Thankfully, they’re known for displaying a mild temperament: due to this, few fatalities have ever been reported.
Like many snakes in the US, the Timber Rattlesnake (sometimes called the Eastern Timber Rattlesnake) is on the endangered species list. Once found throughout Ohio, they now occupy small pockets in just seven counties, and some reports suggest that there less than 50 individuals still in existence. This is due in part to habitat destruction, but also because the female returns to the same den site every year, making her an easy target for illegal poachers.
Unlike the Copperhead, which thrives around human habitation, timber rattlesnakes tend to avoid areas frequented by humans. Instead, they keep to forested areas, where they typically curl up near logs on the forest floor and wait for prey. They rely on their camouflage to avoid detection, and even when disturbed they will attempt to escape rather than attack.
Before study revealed their mild nature, Timber Rattlers had a fearsome reputation and were a prominent symbol of anger and resolve during the American Revolution.
The bite of a timber rattlesnake, if left untreated, can be fatal to humans. The venom (known as canebrake toxin) is both neurotoxic and hemorrhagic, meaning it affects skin tissue and prevents blood clots from forming, which speeds up delivery of the toxin. Without immediate care, a bite victim can start to haemorrhage internally, which leads to severe organ damage and, in some cases, death.
But cases of death or even severe injury are very rare: as we stated earlier, the number of deaths from snakebites in the US is just 5 or 6 people per year.
White-Tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
Yes, deer. They might not be venomous or poisonous, but car crashes involving deer kill around 200 people every year in the US.
White-tailed Deer have been residents of Ohio since the end of the last Ice Age. The state’s nickname (‘The buckeye state’) comes from the Ohio Buckeye tree, so-called because the nut it produces resembles a buck’s eye. In 1988, the Ohio General Assembly made the White-tailed Deer Ohio’s official state mammal. These proud animals are very important to Ohio.
They’re also not very road-conscious. In Ohio alone, there are upwards of 20,000 deer-vehicle collisions every year. In 2015 (the most recent data publicly available), crashes involving deer caused 801 serious injuries and 4 deaths, not to mention car damages over $85 million.
Here’s another unbelievable statistic: drivers in Ohio have a 1-in-102 chance of hitting a deer whilst driving. To put that another way: if you live in Ohio and you’ve taken the car out at least three times a week over the last 4 months — watch out! And other states across the US have even worse figures — Ohio isn’t even in the top 10 (the first ‘prize’ goes to neighbouring West Virginia, with a 1-in-37 chance).
These kinds of road accidents could be blamed on the deer, especially bucks who are ‘in rut’. They have their eye on the prize (a doe) and will run straight in front of your car whilst in pursuit of a female. But the road signs are there for a reason, so it’s not really the deer’s fault.
Remember, the deer were there long before the roads, so stay vigilant, ease off the gas when you take those sharp corners, and you should be fine.
Are there Venomous Snakes In Ohio?
Yes. There are approximately 35 snake species in Ohio, and three of them are venomous. Out list includes all three, so read on for more details. Many Ohioans claim to have sighted dangerous cottonmouths (aka water moccasins) but this is unlikely, as the closest they get to Ohio is southern Illinois. What they’ve actually seen is the harmless Northern Water Snake, which can look quite similar, especially when viewed through flowing water.
How Many People Die in the US from Snake Bites?
According to the latest estimate from the CDC, between 7,000 and 8,000 people are bitten by venomous snakes in the U.S. States each year. It’s important to remember that venom is costly for a snake to produce, and snakes will rarely waste their toxin on you if you are not considered food.
The number of actual snakebite fatalities in the US is very low — it’s only 5 or 6 people each year, or less than one-tenth of one per cent. However, every snakebite is potentially dangerous, so victims should always seek immediate medical attention.
Does Ohio have Poisonous Spiders?
It most certainly does, although strictly speaking, they’re venomous, not poisonous — unless you eat them! Ohio has only two venomous spiders (well, four really), and we cover them in this article.
Want to save the planet?
Plastic pollution is covering the planet and is a tremendous threat to marine life. Do your part to help by traveling with a filter water bottle.
A filter water bottle is an effective way of purifying water to remove any impurities or contaminants.
Are there Scorpions in Ohio?
No, not really, but there are small creatures that look like scorpions. Most US states, including Ohio, have tiny animals known as ‘pseudoscorpions’, which are arachnids. Only measuring 2-5mm in length, they have pincers but no stinger and they’re totally harmless to humans.
So there we have it: seven of the most dangerous animals in Ohio, and how to avoid them. We hope our article has been both enjoyable and informative, and we’d love to hear your comments — especially if you think we’ve missed something out! So please get in touch: either by using the comments box below or via our social media icons.