In this article, we list the seven most dangerous animals that can be found in Louisiana, including the USA’s biggest venomous snake, the world’s largest living alligator, and America’s most venomous spider. And whilst those three deadly creatures might send a shiver through you, they’re not the biggest killers in the Pelican State.
But let’s not ruin the surprise! The single most deadly wildlife in Louisiana is later on in our list (if you must know: it’s number 7), but we’re going to start with a well-known arachnid that’s been plaguing America’s central midwest since the late 1800s.
So if you’re a touch arachnophobic, perhaps you should jump to the second entry. If not, then read on for our list of the 7 deadliest animals in Louisiana.
1. Brown Recluse (Loxosceles reclusa)
Roughly the size of a quarter, the brown recluse is one of the most feared spiders in the US, armed with a venomous bite that can rot flesh. And Louisiana is covered with them.
Also known as the fiddleback spider because of its violin markings, the brown recluse hides away in woodpiles, sheds, garages, and closets: basically anywhere dry and undisturbed. Inside a house, you’ll typically find them in old cardboard boxes or at the back of a dusty shelf; but they’ve been known to hide in shoes or piles of discarded clothing (which is a good reason to hang your clothes neatly, just like your mother always told you!)
Despite what you may have heard, these spiders are not aggressive. Their first instinct is to flee from any sudden movements and, failing that, they will often play dead. But, if it feels some sort of counter-pressure (like brushing against it with your hand) — a brown recluse will bite.
Technically, it’s called necrosis, or tissue death — brown recluse venom contains a rare cell-killing protein that destroys cell membranes, leading to the death of the surrounding tissue. (So, yeah: it literally rots flesh.)
But although there have been a few (and that’s very few) severe reactions, in reality just 10 percent of recluse bites ever require medical attention. Other bites might sting or raise a small welt, but they will usually heal by themselves. Truth is: most reported brown recluse bites are a case of mistaken identity, and the spider that bit you was probably a similar-looking, but totally harmless, Southern house spider.
North American Fatalities: According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, there have been three deaths from brown recluse bites in the last twenty years. The last was in 2014. Average deaths per year: 0.15.
2. Louisiana Black Bear (Ursus americanus luteolus)
They may have been the inspiration for the original children’s teddy bear the world over, but these strong, fast, and intelligent black bears can kill a human with one blow.
The Louisiana black bear, a subspecies of the American black bear, is the state’s official mammal and is found only in its home state, Texas and Mississippi. Compared to other black bears, the Louisiana black has a more streamlined skull and larger teeth.
Males stand at up to 6 feet from head to toe, although 4 to 5 feet is more common, and larger individuals can weigh up to 600 pounds. The biggest male ever recorded weighed an estimated 1,100 pounds in life and measured a frightening 7.9 feet at full height. Just stop and picture that for a minute…
They are solitary animals and roam large territories, often 60 to 80 square miles wide. They’re extremely adaptable and find climbing trees as easy as walking, and their incredible strength can propel them to a maximum speed of 30 miles per hour. So no, you can’t outrun a bear.
Although they are classified as carnivores (meat-eaters), Louisiana blacks eat a mostly vegetarian diet. However, they occasionally eat beetles and other large insects, and some in the Tensas River Basin area have been known to feed on wild hogs and white-tailed deer. And, of course, when they can get it bears love honey, and the honeybees that make it.
American black bears rarely attack when confronted by humans, they usually make mock charges and swat the ground with their paws. Most actual attacks are motivated by hunger rather than defending territory, meaning the bears are weak and can sometimes be fought off.
The species was considered threatened until 2016, and hunting laws protect the estimated 500 to 750 Louisiana black bears that remain. Even unintentionally killing one can lead to a six-month jail sentence and up to $50,000 in fines.
North American Fatalities: In the last twenty years (since January 2000) there have been 28 deaths as the result of black bears. None were reported in Louisiana. Average deaths per year: 1.4
3. American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)
There are more of these ruthless killers here than in any other state. At one time near extinction, they’ve bounced back to become an American icon, similar to New Orleans’ recovery from Katrina. So, fittingly, the official state reptile of Louisiana is the American alligator.
Also known as the common gator, the American alligator is the largest living species in the world (the only other is the Chinese, which is significantly smaller). The American grows to over 12 feet in length and can weigh up to 1,000 pounds. Males tend to be larger than the females, and the largest reported individual male was a mammoth 19 feet 2 inches.
American alligators seek freshwater wetlands, so Louisiana is just about their favorite state, with over 4.5 million acres of perfect habitat to choose from. Along with the population in Florida, which also has crocodiles, over 2 million American alligators are living in the US.
The main threat is from their bite, which is amongst the most powerful on the planet. Once a gator has hold of its prey the chances of being released are almost zero, and death from drowning is the usual outcome. The bite also carries a high risk of infection, which can be can be fatal even with medical treatment.
North American Fatalities: Since 2000, there have been 21 reported deaths in the US as a result of alligator attacks. Average deaths per year: 1.05
4. Eastern Diamondback (Crotalus adamanteus)
The Eastern diamondback rattlesnake was once considered for the National Animal of the USA, instead of the bison. And it’s easy to see why: it’s the most bad-ass snake in the whole of the United States.
It’s fitted with huge venom glands and inch-long inch fangs which can pump as much as 450 mg of toxic venom. The venom contains peptides that kill red blood cells can lead to cardiac failure, and as little as 150 mg can kill a human. Survivors have reported the bite as being “instantly like two hot hypodermic needles”, and both the internal and local pain is intense.
The Eastern diamondback is the largest rattlesnake in North America: the maximum recorded length is a massive 8 feet 3 inches (reassuringly, the average size is 3 to 5 feet). It will aggressively defend itself if threatened, and many will strike repeatedly. Due to its hostile nature, the diamondback is responsible for 4 to 5 fatalities every year: more than any other snake in the US.
Habitat destruction and predation have, sadly, seen a decline of Eastern diamondbacks in Louisiana, and only five or six have been spotted in the past decade. Despite dwindling numbers, this snake is not an officially protected species.
5. Eastern (‘Harlequin’) Coral Snake (Micrurus fulvius)
The Eastern or Harlequin coral snake, also confusingly known as the American cobra, boasts some of the most potent neurotoxic snake venom in North America. Like all North American coral snakes, it is banded in black and red with smaller yellow bands. Confusion with similar-looking snakes – especially kingsnakes – has led to unwarranted attacks, so here’s a handy reminder: ‘Red touching black, safe for Jack. Red touching yellow, kill a fellow.’
Although they carry enough venom to kill up to five adults, Eastern corals are unable to inject a full dose with one strike, and even then it requires a chewing process to activate the toxins. It’s estimated that at least 40 percent of the bites contain very little venom — often none. It’s not an aggressive defender and is primarily nocturnal, which further lessens the chance of an attack.
In 2006, a bite victim failed to seek medical care and succumbed within hours. That was the first reported death following an Eastern coral snake bite in the US for over 40 years.
6. Copperhead Snake (Agkistrodon contortrix)
The copperhead, like most of the venomous snakes in North America, is a member of the pit viper family. A moderately-sized snake, most individuals are less than 3 feet long, although the largest recorded was feet 5 inches 6 inches. This snake is also known as the Eastern copperhead (why are they all called ‘Eastern’?) and the dry-land moccasin.
When threatened, this snake will often use a ‘freeze in place’ strategy and rely on its excellent camouflage to escape detection. Ironically, it’s superb ability to hide makes it easier for unwary humans to step on it, which is likely to provoke a bite.
Even though it reportedly bites more than any other US snake, the copperhead is unique in that its first defensive strikes include no venom. If it still feels threatened, a second strike almost always does include venom.
The copperhead’s venom is relatively mild, and while it’s painful, it’s very rarely fatal. In fact, the antivenin’s potential side-effects are worse than the temporary bite symptoms, so treatment is usually very basic. In the last 20 years, only 5 deaths from copperheads have been recorded.
North American Fatalities (All three snakes): Of the estimated 6,000 venomous snakebites in the US every year, generally only 6 or 7 are fatal. Of these, between 4 and 5 per year are due to the eastern diamondback, eastern coral, and copperhead snakes.
7. Africanized ‘Killer’ Bees (Mellifera scutellata)
Killer bees established themselves in New Orleans – their first Louisiana city – in July 2005. But their introduction to the US was all a big mistake, and now they’re one of the deadliest animals in North America.
In 1957, the Brazilian government hired a biologist to come up with a new breed of honeybee that didn’t grow lazy in the hot weather. With limited animal breeding experience, he hit upon the idea of cross-breeding the existing bees with some more active, and foul-tempered bees from Africa. One day a well-intentioned visitor removed screens that separated the queen bees from their worker drones. Within minutes, an estimated 26 colonies — that’s roughly a quarter of a million bees — had been released into the wild.
More powerful and more aggressive, raiding parties of Africanized bees destroyed existing Brazilian hives and killed their queens. They bred like wildfire and soon swarmed north. By the mid-1980s, they’d made it as far as the US, where they soon become known as killer bees.
Their venom is no more potent than that of any other bee: it takes over 1,000 stings for the toxin to prove fatal. However, they’re more dangerous to humans because every bee comes out to defend their colony, and that can be 10,000 bees or more. If they perceive a person as a threat, they will give chase for up to a quarter of a mile, stinging repeatedly. Once disturbed, a colony can remain agitated for 24 hours, attacking anything that comes near their hive.
North American Fatalities: Annual average of 62 deaths, from all hornet, wasp, and bee stings. (Separate figures for killer bees are not available.)
A Final Word
Thanks for reading through our list of the most dangerous animals in Louisiana. You’ll have noticed we didn’t include mosquitoes. Although they’re linked with millions of deaths throughout the world, mosquitoes are really just carriers (called ‘vectors’) for diseases like malaria that are the real killers. As such, we decided not to include them.
We also missed off another controversial killer that often appears in ‘most dangerous creatures’ articles like this, and that’s mankind. Man indeed is one of the biggest killers in Louisiana (or anywhere else on the planet), but we feel that’s more of a moral issue, and we’re here to inform, not preach!
What is the most dangerous animal in Louisiana?
The most dangerous animal in Louisiana is the Eastern diamondback rattlesnake, which is only responsible for roughly 4 deaths per year but carries venom that can kill up to 3 fully-grown men. The deadliest animal – the one that’s killed the most – is the Africanized bee, also known as the killer bee. Together with hornets and wasps, they’re responsible for an average of 62 deaths per year.
Are there dangerous spiders in Louisiana?
The most dangerous spiders in Louisiana are the brown recluse spider (Loxosceles reclusa) and the infamous black widow (Latrodectus mactans). Both are venomous and both can kill, with the recluse having slightly stronger venom. The most seen spider is the common house spider, which is harmless but often confused with the brown widow.
Are there venomous snakes in Louisiana?
There are seven venomous snakes in Louisiana, of which the eastern diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus) is the most venomous and is responsible for the most snake deaths in North America. The other venomous snakes are eastern coral (enough venom to kill 5 adult humans but very tame), texas coral, the copperhead (bites more than any US snake), canebrake rattlesnake, pygmy rattlesnake (smallest rattlesnake in the world), and the western cottonmouth.
Are there alligators in Louisiana?
There are more than one million American alligators in Louisiana, which are the largest species of alligator in the world. Alligator mississippiensis has one of the most powerful bites on the planet and kills prey by holding them down under the water until they drown. Since 2000, there have been 21 reported deaths in the US as a result of alligator attacks.