The States Where You’re Most Likely to Be Killed by Animals

Ice Cube unaware that he's about to be attacked by a wild animal in the movie 'Anaconda'
Ice Cube is unaware that he’s about to be attacked by a wild animal in the movie Anaconda. | Columbia Pictures

Damn nature, you scary.

For millennia, humans have been scared of what lurks in the dark. Be it bears, wolves, or big cats, deadly animals have lived alongside humans for all of history. That’s not even counting the arachnids and insects that have killed millions over the years. But truth be told, modern Americans really have little to worry about.

An occasional animal attack will result in a human death. But it’s nothing compared to what people in other countries and different time periods experienced. Need an example? Over the past 400 years, tigers have killed roughly 1 million people in India. That puts things in perspective.

In modern America, though, you’re more or less safe. There are some parts of the country that are more dangerous than others, however. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (and analyzed by The Washington Post) shows 2,989 human deaths between 1999 and 2013 as a result of animal attacks. These can be broken down geographically, which shows where, exactly, you’re most likely to be killed by animals.

Here’s the list, starting with an unsuspecting state.

15. Oklahoma

When you think of Oklahoma, you don’t generally think of killer animals — more like windswept prairies and tornado sirens. Nevertheless, Oklahoma ranks within the top 15 states with the most human deaths attributable to animal attacks. The data shows Oklahoma is in a region notable for a high number of deaths caused by “other mammals.” You can read that as horses, cows, etc., in most cases. All told, 70 people died between 1999 and 2013.

We go from the prairie to the desert, now, where things get a little less hairy and a little more poisonous.

14. Arizona

emperor scorpion
An emperor scorpion | Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

The desert can be a scary place. And Arizona is nothing if not a desert. You can imagine all of the creepy, crawly things living out in Arizona, including tarantulas, scorpions, etc. And you definitely don’t want to forget about snakes — they love the desert. Between 1999 and 2013, 77 people died in Arizona as a result of animal attacks, with culprits including the aforementioned and many others.

You’d think Arizona would be a much more dangerous place than Illinois. But you’d be mistaken.

13. Illinois

pet ferrets
A ferret, which probably won’t kill you | Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images

At one time, there were about 29,000 animal species native to the state of Illinois, but very few of them are of any threat to humans. In fact, like every other state on our list, it mostly boils down to a select few species that tend to pick a person off now and then. In our selected time frame, 84 people were killed as a result of animal attacks.

A state just south of Illinois also found its way onto our list.

12. Missouri

Bengal Tiger
Bengal tiger |

Interestingly enough, Missouri was home to a tiger attack not too long ago. Of course, that’s way out of the ordinary. But it proves that if you can get attacked by a tiger in Missouri, it can happen just about anywhere. Our data shows a total of 86 deaths via animal attacks between 1999 and 2013, and most of them (if not all) had nothing to do with tigers.

We’re not done with the Midwest.

11. Wisconsin

Wolf pack standing in the woods
A wolf pack standing in the woods |

When you try to think of dangerous places, Wisconsin doesn’t really come to mind. But it’s a largely rural state and is home to a good number of scary predators. That includes wolves, bears, mountain lions, and more. Of course, those species hardly ever kill anyone. But people do succumb to animal attacks in Wisconsin on occasion. In all, 87 people were killed between 1999 and 2013.

One state away, things don’t get any safer.

10. Michigan

pit bull
A pit bull cooling off | Ramin Talaie/Getty Images

Michigan is in the same boat as states like Wisconsin. It’s in the northern part of the country, so people there have to contend with some ferocious wildlife. But that ferocious wildlife really isn’t what most people need to worry about. Domestic pets, such as dogs, are more likely to hurt you than a bear or pack of wolves. In our time frame, 88 people were killed by animals in Michigan.

It’s not just those living in rural states that need to worry about animal attacks.

9. New York

brave man holding snake
A snake |

As we wind our way down the list, you’ll notice the more populous states tend to rank higher. That makes sense — ┬áthe more people there are, the more opportunities for animal attacks. New York is an example. A lot of people call the state home, which means there are simply more opportunities for animals to pick somebody off. Only 88 people were killed, though, between 1999 and 2013.

Down in the South, there are a lot more critters that can kill than there are in New York.

8. Georgia

A rattlesnake | Pixabay

The state of Georgia is home to all sorts of wildlife. But being in a warmer climate, Georgia attracts a lot of reptiles and amphibians, many which carry venomous bites. There are a number of poisonous snakes in Georgia, for example, though human deaths caused by bites are still rare. Our data shows 107 people have been killed by animals in our established time frame.

Jetting back up north now, you’re not even safe in coal country.

7. Pennsylvania

spider web
A spider web | Pixabay

In Pennsylvania, 108 people were killed as a result of animal attacks between 1999 and 2013. Again, Pennsylvania is a state with a fairly high population and a mix of urban and rural environments. In short, there are plenty of opportunities for animals to get their shots in. Like many other states, Pennsylvania has its collection of poisonous snakes and spiders to worry about.

One state away, prospects don’t get any better.

6. Ohio

Stephen King’s Cujo | Warner Bros.

Another populous state; another (relatively) high body count blamed on animal attacks. In Ohio, 112 people have bitten the dust after having been bitten by an animal or insect. There was a very curious incident when a number of exotic animals escaped from a private residence and caused havoc all over Ohio. So, it’s rare, but crazy things involving animals do happen.

Next, there’s plenty to see in Tennessee, including deadly animal species.

5. Tennessee

A wild boar with cubs
A wild boar with her family | Dieter Nagl/AFP/Getty Images

What did Tennessee? Ferocious beasts, perhaps.

Tennessee may not be one of the most populous states, but it wound up among the top five in deaths via animal attack, according to our data. That’s 120 people killed in 14 years, all told. So, what’s responsible? All sorts of things. Tennessee is home to bears, mountain lions, bobcats, and even wild boars — the last of which is more dangerous than you thought.

One of Tennessee’s neighbors also made the top five.

4. North Carolina

A copperhead statue
A copperhead statue | Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

North Carolina is home to a diverse set of landscapes. You have mountainous regions and coastlines, meaning you could get attacked by a mountain lion or bear just as easily as you could a shark. All of these are exceedingly rare, of course. But it can happen. Between 1999 and 2013, 122 people were killed by wildlife in North Carolina, including snakes.

Our next state is known for one particularly deadly animal.

3. Florida

American alligator in grass
An alligator in the grass |

Florida’s a swamp. Well, part of it is, anyway. It’s home to all kinds of scary monsters. There are panthers, alligators, snakes of all sorts, boars, bears — really, just about everything. And every once in a while, one of those animals manages to kill a human. Between 1999 and 2013 171 people were killed. A recent example? The toddler who was killed by gators at Disney World in one of the more nightmarish scenarios in recent memory.

We mentioned big populations make for a lot of targets. And our final two states supply plenty of fodder.

2. California

A black widow spider
A black widow spider | Ian Waldie/Getty Images

The Golden State is huge and, as such, is home to all kinds of creatures. There are deserts, coastlines, mountains, swamps. You name it, you can find it in California. And because of that, there are tens of thousands of species crawling around, some of which can kill people. The data shows 212 human deaths as a result of animal and insect attacks between 1999 and 2013.

Finally, they say everything’s bigger in Texas, including the number of animal-related deaths.

1. Texas

A rattlesnake's death rattle
A rattlesnake’s rattle | Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images

Texas takes the top spot, with 356 deaths attributed to animal attacks between 1999 and 2013. That’s by far and away the biggest total and can be blamed, at least in part, on the fact that Texas is big in both population and geographic boundaries. Texans deal with snakes, mountain lions, bears, alligators, boars, spiders, sharks — really every scary animal you can think of.

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