Deadliest Animals: The 9 Most Dangerous Animals in Oklahoma

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From creepy crawlies to venomous snakes, this list of the most dangerous animals in Oklahoma takes you through the critters and creatures that are worthy of their reputation in the Sooner State. You’ll hop from the river-carved Choctaw Nation close to the border with Texas in the east and roll to the Great Plains in the west, stalking undergrowth, clusters of boulders, marshes and prairies, all to see the fauna you’d probably prefer to avoid in the erstwhile land of the cowboys. Enjoy…

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Black widow

Black widow spider
Photo credit: Skeeze via Pixabay

The black widow is the most famous spider in America. You’re looking for the female of the species, who are the biters and the ones with the most potent venom. They’re easy to spot because they’re 100% black with a clear mark of scarlet red on the thorax. Attractive, yes, but don’t be tempted to get close!

Commonly found in barns and porches and garages, the widow is an insect eater that’s more frequently encountered by Oklahoma locals in the warmer months of the year. The actual inflicting of a bite usually goes unnoticed and can be little more than the sensation of a splinter. It’s what comes after that does the damage: Vomiting, severe headaches, muscle pains and more. It’s seldom deadly in adults but can be very dangerous for children and pets.

Brown recluse

Brown recluse
Image by Robby Lockeby from Pixabay

Okay, so the brown recluse won’t kill you (at least, it probably won’t kill you!) but it’s also not something you’d want to encounter. A bite from one of these rather common domestic spiders can be downright serious. Sometimes, they’ll be nothing more than a nip – lots of incidents don’t even involve venom. Other times, they’ll give rise to bulbous blisters and puss-filled nodules that take weeks and weeks to heal. Even rarer, but still possible, is a full-body reaction of convulsions and vomiting.

With a name like recluse, you’d be right in thinking that these guys aren’t the most aggressive of dangerous animals in Oklahoma. In fact, humans often live side by side with the eight-legged crawlies and don’t even notice. They’ll usually only bite when they come into direct contact with human skin and have no other way to escape.

Western diamondback

Western diamondback
Photo credit: https://www.pikist.com

The western diamondback is sometimes called the Texas diamondback, mainly because its range is centred on the Lone Star State. That’s a little to the south, but these guys will stray well into OK territory. They particularly like the Pineywoods region and the forested swathes of southern Oklahoma, where they inhabit the Choctaw Nation and the Chickasaw Nation in great numbers.

There’s no getting around it – the western diamondback rattlesnake is one of the most feared snakes in the country. It has a very large rattle capping off its tail and a sinister demeanour that hits a zenith with that sharp, triangular head. Typically on the hunt for small mammals, these serpents are known to attack humans. The bite isn’t any fun. It involves a mixture of proteolytic enzymes that will cause severe bleeding and more holistic effects such as vomiting, nausea, dizziness and spasms.

Western cottonmouth

Western cottonmouth
Photo credit: Greg Schechter @ Wikimedia

The only venomous water snake in Oklahoma is the western cottonmouth. It’s found in the eastern portion of the Sooner State, where more riparian, marshy habitats abound away from the drier Great Plains. In fact, the cottonmouth is only confirmed to be present in a handful of areas in the far corner of OK, from Choctaw County to Atoka County, and occasionally in neighbouring regions.

Also known as the water moccasin, the cottonmouth is often mistaken for other aqua-dwelling sliders. You’ll need to look for the wide-berth neck and the olive-brown patterns that run down the back. These guys also have a clear, pale-white interior to their mouths – that’s where the name comes from! Bite wise, it’s a pretty scary customer, with a venom that degrades flesh and can lead to scarring and even amputation on rare occasions.

Copperhead

The northern copperhead
Photo credit: Ltshears @ Wikimedia

Perhaps the best-known of all the Oklahoma snakes on this list is the American copperhead. A nasty customer, it’s actually responsible for the overwhelming majority of snake attacks in USA each year. With the Latin name agkistrodon contortrix, it gets its moniker from the almost metallic hue of tan brown that dusts the back and the head. There are clear markings of a darker brown running down the torso, which usually measure just shy of a metre in length.

There are actually two subspecies of the copperhead viper in Oklahoma. They both look roughly the same and both wield and pretty impressive cocktail of venom, although it’s still considered one of the weakest of all the dangerous snakes in the country. Victims can expect to feel strong pain sensations, muscle throbbing, and even eventual necrosis of the flesh. Be especially wary of copperheads when hiking Oklahoma’s forested trails. They have fantastic camouflage and won’t retreat if startled – they prefer to strike!

Timber rattlesnake

timber rattlesnake
Photo credit: Peter Paplanus @ Wikimedia

The state of Oklahoma represents the south-westernmost extremity of the range of the timber rattlesnake in the contiguous United States. Common sightings in the wild occur largely in the eastern, more wooded, part of the territory, particular in the breeding seasons of spring and in the twilight hours during the summer months. Timber rattlesnakes hibernate the whole winter season under rocks, often with other species of snakes.

Distinctive features of these serpents include a thick-girth body and a pale beige rattler at the end of the tail. The pattern is often black stripes on dusky brown. Attack wise, the timber rattlesnake certainly deserves its place right up there with the most dangerous animals in Oklahoma. It has some of the most potent venom in the country, involving a debilitating neurotoxin that can lead to blood clots within the cardiovascular system.

Pygmy rattlesnake

Pygmy rattlesnake
Photo credit: Peter Paplanus @ Wikimedia

Small but powerful, the pygmy rattlesnake ain’t something you’d want to come across while exploring the backcountry of the Sooner State. Adults might only manage a max of about 60cm from fangs to tail, but they’re pretty unpredictable by nature. Some individuals will be chilled and calm in the presence of a human. Others will go into attack mode with their light and hard-to-hear rattle straight away.

A lot of the time, the problem with the pygmy rattlesnake is that it’s just too small to spot. However, you can look out for the strange colour scheme on the back, which fuses light blues and dusky greys over blotches of red and brown. Thankfully, pygmies can’t usually muster enough venom to do serious damage to a human, but incidents with children can be very serious and almost always require hospital treatment.

Prairie rattlesnake

Prairie rattlesnake
Photo credit: Ltshears @ Wikimedia

The prairie rattlesnake, crotalus viridis, is another of the most dangerous animals in Oklahoma to fall into the pit viper category. They’re found all over the south and southwestern United States, and even reside as far afield as Canada and Mexico. In OK, they simply love the swaying grasses of the western prairies – hence the name! There, they hide in rocky outcrops and prey on small rodents.

Known as a particularly aggressive snake, the prairie isn’t as chilled as other serpents mentioned here. It becomes stunned fast and is eager to defend its territory. They’ll often warn folk with a shake of the tail before pouncing. You won’t want to get that far though, because the venom is a potent combo of proteins and proteases that can destroy human tissue. Not nice at all.

Bark scorpion

Bark Scorpion
Photo by Stolz Gary M, USFWS on Pixnio

The primeval bark scorpion is just one of several species of stingers found in the state of Oklahoma. They aren’t too common and aren’t considered deadly. However, there’s no question that their sting is an unpleasant experience. It doesn’t involve poison or venom a la some of the Oklahoma snakes listed above, but does come in as a whole load more painful than the attack of a bee or a wasp.

Bark scorpions should be easy to recognise on account of their curved back tail – that’s where the stinger is, so hands away! They tend to reside in dark, dry crevices and cracks but have also been known to stray into domestic areas. Scorpion stings can usually be solved with a little bit of grit and some good over-the-counter meds, but younger victims or people with allergies should always seek medical attention.

What is the most dangerous animal in Oklahoma?

Strangely, the most dangerous animal in Oklahoma isn’t the most venomous at all. We’d say watch out for those copperhead snakes. Yes, they might have a milder cocktail of neurotoxins than other pit vipers and rattlers in the region, but they’re well disguised, very common, and responsible for more bites than any other serpent in the United States each year.

Are there dangerous spiders in Oklahoma?

There sure are. You’ve got the brown recluse. That’s one of the least formidable of the most dangerous animals in Oklahoma if you ask us. Bites from those can cause skin irritation and have severe side effects, although anything serious is quite rare. Much worse is the black widow. It’s the only spider in the state to have a neurotoxin venom and they’re fairly common, especially in the summer. You may not feel the attack when it happens, but you’re sure to feel the aftermath!

Are there wolves in Oklahoma?

Despite regular local reports of wolf sightings in the Sooner State, scientists are pretty much in agreement that these old prowlers are totally extinct in this corner of the US. There was a time when wolves were very common in these parts. Stories of pack attacks have been passed down through the generations since the age of the pioneers, and wolves hold an important place in the mythologies and legends of the state’s Native Americans.

Conclusion: What are the most dangerous animals in Oklahoma?

sunset in Oklahoma
Image by David Mark from Pixabay

There’s a really varied mix when it comes to the most dangerous animals in Oklahoma.

We’d say snakes take centre stage. The Sooner State has a clutch of bad-boy rattlesnakes and nasty vipers. It’s even home to the copperhead, which bites more people in America than any other serpent each year, and the timber rattler, which has one of the most destructive venoms on the continent.

Then you’ve got to factor in the spiders. The worst of those is surely the black widow, which can inflict a stealthy bite laced with a neurotoxin. ON top, there are also scorpions throughout the region, which can be a threat to hikers and outdoorsy folk especially. 

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