Canada is the land of changing scenery, vast temperature changes, beautiful wildlife and some pretty awesome part towns. From the east coast to the west, there is something for everyone. But when planning a trip to see the great expanse of the country, so few people think of the dangers some animals can present. So, we have prepared for you the top nine most dangerous animals to be found in Canada. The wilds just got wilder!
Join us as we talk poisonous vs venomous, teeth, claws and everything in between. We settle the argument: which is the most dangerous animal in Canada? And finally, we prove that you don’t have to be the size of a bear to do some pretty hectic damage to a human. By the end, you will feel fully prepared to meet all types of vicious beasts in the wilds!
Are you ready?
The Most Dangerous Animals in Canada
By now, you are likely to have a catalogue of the most dangerous Canadian animals in your mind. Let’s find out which of those make the cut!
Cougar (Felis Concolor)
The cougar is easy to spot because of its sheer size, telltale red-brown or greyish fur and white underbelly. This wild animal can cover eight to nine metres in a single bound, reaching heights of five metres! The power in their legs is what makes them such good mammals for slinking through mountain and forest. Plus, their massive paws could knock you out with one swipe.
You will mostly spot a cougar in the rocky mountains or in the deep forest of the Canadian west, so they aren’t all that likely to be seen in cities and towns. Though some have been spotted as far east as the Prairies, the south of Ontario, Quebec, and even New Brunswick!
Expansion of human living areas and the erosion of their habitat means cougars can sometimes venture closer to humans in search of an easy meal. This is likely to result in a rummage through your bins, though domestic pets have become prey from time to time!
For the most part, however, cougars will avoid humans and their homes. And incidents of human attacks are limited in the wild as a cougar will only attack if feeling threatened. Especially if you come across a mother and her cubs! Definitely one to steer clear of in spring, then.
Black Bear (Ursus Americanus)
Whilst black bears are not the most dangerous animals in Canada, they still represent the main threat in the minds of most tourists who visit. This is to be expected, it is one of the most majestic animals to spot in the wild! They are easily distinguishable by their black fur, usually with a white patch at the chest. However, throughout each province and forest region their colouring is known to differ from auburn to light or dark brown. Even rarer, though still prevalent, are the cream-coloured bears found closer to the Alaskan region of northern BC and the Yukon.
Attacks on humans are relatively rare however, and only tend to happen when campers fail to secure their food properly. However, as with cougars, bears have been known to move into neighbourhoods where unattended bins provide a 24 hour buffet. Many Canadians living near forests now bear-proof bins in order to avoid run-ins.
Black bears are only a danger to humans if they feel threatened. Generally they will back off and walk away before you do. But, if you come across a black bear with no escape, this is the best course of action is to band together, stand tall and make as much noise as possible. This should deter the black bear, but do not attempt this with a grizzly bear!
Grizzly Bear (Ursus Arctos Horribilis)
If you see a grizzly bear, the advice is very different! You are far more likely to survive if you stop all sound, make yourself small and back away slowly. You can also try speaking in a quiet and soothing voice as you do so. A grizzly is far more likely to act aggressively, pawing the ground and giving a sort of bear-bark while gnashing teeth. This is a defence mechanism, and does not always mean the bear will strike.
The best way to avoid a bear attack is to avoid bears altogether. You can do this by being aware of your surroundings, and making lots of noise as you walk. This is likely to clear the path before you. If you pass by a noisy river or brook, you may startle a bear or any wild animal here, so be super vigilant in noisy areas! Bears do not have prey as such, as they prefer to snack on berries, root vegetables and the like found in thickets and undergrowth. They also love a hiking trail!
Hikers swear by bear spray, so always best to have this on you if you are planning some wilderness walking. Have it close to hand at all times, and if needed aim the nozzle properly, and only spray once the bear is within 25 feet.
Grizzlies can be found in the northern regions of Canada, especially in BC and the Yukon, the Rockies Nunavut and Manitoba. Mating season is apt to be the most ferocious time for mothers, so be wary in spring especially!
Wolves (Canis Lupus)
Whilst attacks on humans are minimal, the grey wolf has been known to attack humans if they need to. Their sharp teeth and claws can do some serious damage when necessary. This being said, there have only been two serious wolf attacks in the past 25 years!
There are 60,000 grey wolves in Canada, with many varieties within the species. After Russia, Canadian lands represent the wolves largest habitat, and they are prominent throughout all of Canada.
Whilst they normally make the wilderness their home, this is another wild animal that has ventured closer to humans and their seemingly endless food supply. Whilst not the most dangerous animals in Canada, they do command a healthy dose of respect, even admiration!
These grey wolves are not to be confused with the coyote. Set apart by their reddish-brown fur, they are smaller and less fearsome. Though they can still bite and scratch if they feel threatened! They are also widespread across the Canadian provinces, across prairies, forests and mountain ranges. In fact, whilst the wolf populations seem to dwindle in relation to human expansion, coyote populations seem only to get bigger!
Polar Bear (Ursus Maritimus)
Bigger and meaner than both grizzlies and black bears, polar bears are notoriously difficult to scare away. Full-grown males can grow to between 770 and 1,540lbs in weight! Generally, bears spend their time in around clusters of sea ice, hence their latin name which translates to ‘Maritime Bear’. With their habitats being destroyed due to climate change, however, they are likely to be added to endangered species watch list.
As magnificent as they are, these beasts can decimate a human! The official guidelines for survival during a polar attack is: act as a threat, utilise the bear spray, and never give up! Also, bring a flare. According to Polar Bears International, the creatures have a “problem with screaming fireballs”. Go figure.
As with most bears, it’s best to avoid them at all costs if you can, and never enter bear territory without such deterrents. Even a rape alarm or whistle would do to avoid ever seeing a bear. As the bear with the most carnivorous diet, they would not think twice about snapping you up in their jaws!
Massassauga Rattlesnake (Sistrurus Catenatus)
With temperatures around Canada reaching dizzying lows, only the toughest snakes can be found in North America. And none are so fearsome as the Massasauga rattlesnake, which can be found in Ontario region and parts of Alberta. These are subspecies of the pit viper, and as such are extremely venomous! Massassaugas are obvious by their giraffe-like brown or grey pattern on a beige or cream background.
They mainly prey on small mammals, amphibians and reptiles, and live in the undergrowth in forests, swamps and marshes. Attacks on humans are only likely to happen if they are startled, so making lots of noise and heavy footsteps is a great deterrent. If you are bitten in the wilderness, head to a hospital immediately!
Whilst smaller than a bear, these guys earn their spot on this list of most dangerous animals in Canada through their cytotoxic venom. Not only does it prevent blood from clotting, but it can destroy the tissues causing mass deterioration.
This is made more tricky by the fact that the specific anti-venom used to treat a massassauga bite is not widely available! And failure to get proper treatment can lead to some disastrous symptoms. If you are going into rattlesnake country (which is basically anywhere there is undergrowth) be sure to wear high sided boots, and avoid walking anywhere you cannot see the ground properly. That means patches of leaves and twigs are out!
An honourable mention also goes to the prairie rattlesnake in southern Saskatchewan and Alberta. This has a similar venomous bite, though the anti-venom is more widely available! Markings are similar, though the prairie rattlesnake has a greenish tint to its patterned patches.
This might seem like an unexpected twist in this list of the most dangerous animals in Canada. But Moose, and often Elk, are responsible for some pretty tricky deaths. Sure, they are far more docile than the bears and even snakes. But if you were to run into one on a highway, the results are often bleak.
The moose is a fairly solitary, and will typically spend its life amongst the forests in temperate to sub-zero climates. Their vegetarian diet does little to halt their growth, with the average moose weighing around 1800 lbs, standing as tall as an average man. Around 5 to 6.5 feet!
No doubt they are beautiful creatures, with broad open antlers forming an open hand shape and the thick broad body akin to that of a horse. But whilst slow moving and sedate, if startled or threatened they can become quite angry and even charge the threat! This is why vigilance pays when you are out in the wilds. If you are driving on Canadian highways, too, stay vigilant at all times! A collision with a moose can prove fatal.
Black Widow Spider (Latrodectus Variolus)
This arachnid is likely the last thing you would expect to find in Canada, but the danger still lurks. This is actually one of many species occurring throughout the world, and this can also be found in the USA.
In Canada, there are actually two sub-species: the northern black widow found in Ontario, and the western black widow in British Columbia and parts of Manitoba! You will tend to find them out in the wilds, though they have been known to migrate into homes with the onset of winter.
The black widow spider has definitely earned its place on this list of the most dangerous animals in Canada. One bite could kill a human with its venom if left untreated. Though admittedly this is more likely in a child or elderly person. Lucky for you, one bite and you would know about it! The pain is said to be excruciating, with muscle contractions, nausea, sweating, vomiting, and even an erratic heartbeat. Interestingly, it is the female of the species which should be feared, whilst the male is harmless to humans!
You can spot a female black widow by its size, with an average of .5″ to 1.5″, and about half that in males. A male will also often have red and yellow spots across its back. However, a good rule of thumb is if you see any black and red spiders, avoid them at all costs!
Northern Pacific Rattlesnake (Crotalus Oreganus)
Also known as the western rattlesnake, this is another form of venomous invertebrate that can exist in a variety of temperatures. And yes, another snake in this rundown of most dangerous animals in Canada! For good reason, snakes are sneaky!
Generally found in British Columbia, this is another form of venomous pit viper that can be discerned by the giraffe-like markings, though often with a brownish-red hue. Adult rattlesnakes can reach 39″ in length, and although less venomous than the massassauga rattlesnake, it can still cause a lot of damage!
Symptoms can go from reduced limb function and paralysis, to tissue and muscle damage as the venom breaks down cells. There is often some issue with blood clotting, which can sometimes result in heavy internal bleeding if left unchecked. If not treatment is sought, seizures, shock and organ failure can occur.
The good news is the venom is more widely available than that for the massassauga snake. So as long as you seek treatment straight away, you should make a full recovery! If you find yourself walking through forests or undergrowth, ensure you have a decent pair of high-sided walking boots. Stamping on the ground as you walk is also a great way to ward of wary snakes!
Are There Crocodiles in Canada?
Whilst 23 species of crocodile exist in the world, none of these are native to Canada. No, these reptiles seem to prefer constantly warmer climates of the southern regions of America and further afield.
If you do want to spot some crocodiles in Canada, however, head to Toronto Zoo. Here you can see Canada’s largest croc; the 13 foot long, 1000lb behemoth named Induna! You can also take a look at an American alligator, and a west African dwarf crocodile!
Does Canada have Poisonous Animals?
Canada does have its share of venomous animals, this much is true. However it does not have any poisonous animals. The distinction lies in the way venom is made, stored and secreted. Whilst poison is generally used as a form of defence, venom is usually administered as an attack.
Venom is made by the creature, and store in glands, around the neck. This is mostly true aside from the jellyfish which administers its venom via hook like tentacles. Either way, the venom must be injected. A poison, however, merely needs to be licked or touched to get into the bloodstream. It can be stored in glands throughout the body, or on the skin. The most obvious example of this is the golden poisonous, or poison dart frog.
There are some species existing in the world which are both poisonous and venomous, like the blue-ringed octopus. This is very rare, however.
The important thing to remember is, there are no poisonous species native to Canada. Though you will find a healthy dose of venomous beasties lurking if you look hard enough! Read on to find out more!
Are There any Deadly Snakes in Canada?
There are a handful of deadly snakes in Canada, yes. Whilst the bulk of venomous snakes seem to prefer more temperate climates, often closer to the equator, there are exceptions. What you will find are some of the most hardy snakes on the planet. Species of the pit viper family can be found throughout British Columbia, parts of Alberta and the southern parts of Ontario, and they can be vicious if threatened!
What Animal Kills the Most Humans in Canada?
It might surprise you to know that the moose is the number one killer in terms of a wild animals’ death toll for humans! Whilst the somber herbivorous animal seems harmless, its sheer heft is a mighty force in a highway crash. Which can be quite common at particular times of the year.
Whilst bears, wolves and snakes will give you a run for your money, they will often steer clear of urban areas and humans. While teeth, claws and stature can be formidable, their natural aversion to humans does a lot to save us! Even when in their habitat.
By now you should feel formidable against most dangerous animals in Canada. Now go forth, with your newfound knowledge of those dangerous beasts lurking in the Canadian wilds. Some large, some small, all deadly for their own reasons. If you’re like us, you will be hell-bent on planning your next trip over there. So, share this with your adventure pals and get going!