Indiana’s Most Dangerous Animals: 11 Deadly Creatures

Ready for a list of the most dangerous animals in Indiana? It’s riddled with biting bugs and prowling felines that you’ll want to know all about before you start exploring this corner of the Midwest. Oh, and that’s not even mentioning the venom-laden serpents and the big brown bears that sometimes cross state lines to make Indiana their home. Check it out…

Kissing bugs

Kissing bugs
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Starting this list of the most dangerous animals in Indiana on the small side, the kissing bug might not pack in bear-like jaws or venom, but it’s certainly worth watching out for in the Hoosier State. They measure just over an inch from top to bottom on average and have a distinctive orangey-brown and dark brown color pattern across their body. The name comes from the strange lip-like protrusions that form the mouth, along with the fact that these irritating fliers love to bite.

But a nibble from an Indiana kissing bug might not be as harmlessly annoying as you might think. This type of triatomine carries the trypanosoma cruzi parasite, which is known to cause debilitating Chagas disease. It often starts with redness and swelling at the site of the bite itself. Then come periods of vomiting, strong headaches, sickness, and skin rashes. In total, this phase of the infection can last a few months. However, around 70% of victims will also get chronic Chagas. That can have implications on health for the rest of your life and even lead to severe cardiac issues down the line.

Mountain lions

mountain lion
Image by 3031830 from Pixabay

Mountain lions are also known as cougars. They’re the second largest of all the big cats in the Americas, dwarfed only by the jaguar of South America in stature within their genus. Although scientists believe that there are currently no breeding populations of the feline in the state of Indiana, reported sightings are increasing in frequency. Most occur in the hillier and wilder southern portion of the territory, closer to the border with Kentucky.

Often the apex predator within its strand of the food chain, the mountain lion preys on all manner of small critters, but also stalks deer and larger plains animals. When it comes to humans, cougars will very rarely attack. That’s mainly because their hunting is a learned behavior and it’s not common for them to come across people in the wild. There have been some attacks in the USA, most notably in California and Washington in recent decades.

Grey wolves

gray wolf
Image by steve felberg from Pixabay

Officially, there are no breeding populations of grey wolves in the great state of Indiana. That follows a trend that’s similar to many territories west of the Continental Divide, where these iconic pack hunters of the plains have been all but eradicated. That said, it’s certainly possible for grey wolves to stray into the Hoosier State – they are known to inhabit portions of next-door Michigan and have also been spotted in other areas across the American Midwest.

Wolves are known to hunt in groups of up to 15. It’s the strength in numbers that lets them bring down bigger prey, such as moose and deer. For humans, the main danger will come from habitat crossover, particularly in agricultural situations. In fact, there have been a minimal number of reported incidents in the USA since 2000, and rates of rabies infection – one of the main complications and risk factors involved in a wolf bite – are known to be much lower than in the wolf populations of Europe and Asia.


Photo credit: Christopher Bruno @ Wikimedia

A close relative of the wolf (see above), coyotes have a habitat range that covers virtually all of North America. Yep, you’ll find these canines trotting around the Carolinas and California; from sun-scorched New Mexico all the way to the snowy Canadian Rockies. They also exist in Indiana, where they’re often referred to as prairie wolves.

Sightings on both the rolling plains and in cities are now common. Often mistaken for a domestic dog, these guys are far more dangerous. They possess a sharp bite and plenty of wit and intelligence. Hunting is done as part of a pack of multiple individuals that are rarely related. Particular issues with humans are down to coyote territory and agricultural land crossover.


Image by milesz from Pixabay

The beautiful and elegant bobcat is surely up there with the most elusive cats in North America. Although it’s still noted as a least-concern animal on the list of endangered species, you won’t find it easy to spot one these guys in the Hoosier State. There are known to be some breeding populations, but it’s pretty tricky to estimate how many individuals there are in this corner of the Midwest. That’s mainly down to nocturnal habitats and a penchant for being very far away from human habitation.

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And while the chance of spotting a bobcat is slim, the chance you’ll be attacked by one is even slimmer. Yes, they deserve a place on this list of the most dangerous animals in Indiana on account of their quick, charge attacks that come when you least expect it. But bobcats are small, weighing around just 18kg at their max. Even they known they’re not much of a match for an adult human!


Photo by Stolz Gary, USFWS on Pixnio

The Cottonmouth, also known as the western cottonmouth, is actually one of the Hoosier State’s endangered species. It’s also 100% up there with the most dangerous animals in Indiana. The reason? It’s got a whopping potent venom that reigns as some of the most powerful neurotoxin of any snake on the continent. Bites from these guys can lead to complete necrosis of the flesh around the site of contact, along with anaphylactic reactions that can cause death. In some cases, amputation of affected areas will also be necessary.

If that’s all got you worried about your next trip to this part of the Midwest, it really shouldn’t. Not only are encounters with cottonmouths pretty rare, but scientists believe that there’s actually currently only a single population of the serpents in the state. That’s down in the extreme south-west of Indiana, around the creeks and woodlands of Dubois County.

Timber rattlesnake

timber rattlesnake
Photo by De’Andre Bush on Unsplash

You’ll need to head to the far south-western end of Indiana to catch a glimpse of the timber rattlesnake. These guys prefer the sylvan valleys and wooded hills that roll through reserves like  Brown County State Park and the vast Hoosier National Forest. They’re pretty unique in terms of looks. There’s a body that can grow to over 1.5 meters adorned with beige and stripes of brown and black, along with a big rattle at the end of the tail that’s sometimes – only sometimes, mind you – used to warn off potential prey.

The timber is a formidable slider in the world of North American snakes. It doesn’t attack too many people each year. However, it does wield long fangs connected to a larger venom sack than lots of other rattlers. The result is a much more potent bite than its compadres; one that can often result in hemorrhaging and shutdowns of the nervous system.

Eastern massasauga rattlesnake

Image by Foto-Rabe from Pixabay

The eastern massasauga rattlesnake does exist in Indiana, but it’s probably limited to only a few counties in the northern parts of the state. In fact, its population numbers are now so low that it’s got a place on the federal endangered animals list. Known by the Latin name of sistrurus catenatus, the serpent is armed with a rather unpleasant cocktail of venom that disrupts blood flow and kills living tissue.

On the plus side, massasauga rattlers are really rare in the Hoosier State and they’re very shy towards humans. Most will turn and flee from danger rather than face up and defend themselves. You can further reduce your chance of getting bitten by always sticking to marked hiking trails and not crossing overgrown areas with heavy grass coverage especially.


copperhead snake
Image by Foto-Rabe from Pixabay

The copperhead is the most common of all the venomous snakes in Indiana. It’s also one of the most recognizable, too, thanks to the eponymous tan and ochre colors of its head, along with the distinct desert-camo pattern that runs down its back. Adult specimens of the copperhead can hit nearly a meter in length from tip to tail. They love to live in rocky, woodland areas, but also spread into wetlands and riparian habitats.

Bites from a copperhead cause the most deaths and hospitalizations of any snake in the USA each year. That’s mainly down to just how common the snake is, but also because they’re known to be pretty aggressive when feeling threatened. The venom is strong but rarely kills. More likely is local damage at the area of contact.

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Black bears

Black Bear
Image by Kevin Phillips from Pixabay

Black bears are very, very uncommon in Indiana. However, a few sightings have reported some individuals straying across state lines from Michigan in recent years, so they’re certainly worth a mention among the most dangerous animals in the region. They might not be the biggest bear species in the US, but they can still weigh in at a toe-breaking 250kg. Fully grown adults can also stand at a whopping two meters from foot to snout.

Unlike the grizzly, the black bear isn’t known for being aggressive. It will attack when under stress and if there’s food or territory involved. But, on the whole, incidents are few and far between, especially in Indiana where they’re a rare breed. When things do go off, the black bear uses a combo of charges, swipes, bites, and bear hugs to defeat its prey. Even Rocky Balboa would struggle, we reckon.


Image by Lubos Houska from Pixabay

Believe it or not, there’s simply no amount of massasauga rattlesnakes or prowling coyotes that could trump the humble and elegant deer to the top of the league when it comes to the most dangerous animals in Indiana. Yep, these common woodland dwellers are one of the highest causes of human fatality relating to animals in the whole of the Hoosier State. Hold the phone – they’re actually one of the most dangerous critters in the whole of the USA!

The reason? Automobile accidents. The stats are pretty sobering. Deer are estimated to cause upwards of one million car crashes every year. That’s more than 2,500 daily! Things are much worse in regions like Appalachia, but Indiana and the Great Lakes of the country also see their fair share. Thankfully, there are sure ways to cut your chances of joining those numbers. Always check weather conditions on the roads when you drive, particularly in winter. Go slowly, stick to speed limits, and try not to travel too much after dark.

What is the most dangerous animal in Indiana?

If you go with the numbers, there’s no doubt about it: Deer are the most dangerous animal in the state of Indiana. They kill far more than snakes and brown bears and all the mountain lions you can muster in the Hoosier Forest each year. To cut your risk of getting into trouble, be sure to drive safely and plan your travels around the weather – car accidents are the reason that deer are even on this list of the most dangerous animals in Indiana!

Are there dangerous spiders in Indiana?

There are dangerous spiders in Indiana, however we’ve not put any on this list of the most dangerous animals in Indiana because bites are rare and often don’t require medical treatment. That’s not to say they never do. In fact, an encounter with the formidable black widow spider can even cause death in some patients. There’s also the brown recluse, which has a nasty bite that can lead to complications such as sepsis and blood infections.

Are there mountain lions in Indiana?

There are mountain lions in Indiana, but there aren’t many. At least, that’s probably the case. Mountain lions are notoriously difficult to track, mainly because they tend to stick to going out at night and love to live far away from human civilization. The most likely place for them to be in the Hoosier State is the more mountainous and forested south and south-western portions of the territory.  

Dangerous animals in Indiana: A conclusion

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

From deer to slithering rattlesnakes, there’s no question that the mix of dangerous animals in Indiana is an eclectic one. The truth is that car accidents resulting from contact with animals kill far more people every year in this corner of the Midwest than direct bites from venomous snakes or pack hunts carried out by bloodthirsty wolves.

What’s more, we’d say that there are lots of other creatures you should be wary of when traveling in the Hoosier State. Cattle are known to harm humas in some situations, for example, and there are some species of spider we haven’t included here but aren’t the nicest of characters for sure.


James Ardimento has spent the last 12 years journeying around the globe ! With its precious experiences and tips he gained around Asia, South America, Europe and the US he is a precious asset for this blog and for its readers