The Deadliest Animals in Minnesota: 7 Dangerous Animals

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In the USA’s Upper Midwest and the Great Lakes region lies the state of Minnesota – aside from its urban and farming areas, the state’s geography is made up of the Prairies in the west and the deciduous forests found in the south east. It is the 12th largest state by area and the 22nd most populous.

Before the arrival of European settlers, Minnesota was home to various indigenous people, such as the Dakota, Ojibwe and Anishnaabe tribes. During the mid 19th century and the early 20th century, European immigrants from Scandinavia, Germany and parts of central Europe began to settle in the area and the cultural impact is still evident to this day.

This state is also home to a wide range of wildlife, from hardy mammals, venomous snakes and a host of insects. Obviously the majority of animals in this state are completely harmless and will try to avoid human contact at all costs but despite this, it is always sensible to keep your distance from wild animals so they do not feel threatened.

Below are 7 of the most dangerous animals in Minnesota that should be avoided in the wild.

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American Bison

bison
Image by Lubos Houska from Pixabay

Bison are considered one of the most dangerous animals in the US due to their short tempers and likelihood to attack if provoked. In Yellowstone National Park for example, there have been numerous reports of tourists being attacked and gored after getting too close to this giant creature. Between 1980 and 1999 more than three times the amount of people in the park were injured by Bison, than by bears.

As well as puncture wounds, this animal can also break bones when charging at a human, with one attack resulting in a death in 1983 – therefore the Bison should not be under estimated as a dangerous animal.

Bison, also known as the American Buffalo could be found in vast numbers across North American, dating back to 900 BCE, however due to commercial hunting and bovine diseases, the species nearly became extinct in the 19th century. By the end of the 18th century their numbers were around 60 million, dropping to a registered 541 bison left in 1889. Thanks to efforts made in the mid 20th century, wild numbers are now around 31,000, mainly in national parks and protected reserves.

The current Bison herd in Minnesota is said to be around 130.

The Bison can grow to 7 – 11.5 feet tall and weigh between 930 – 2,200 pounds, with a lifespan of 12 – 20 years. Despite the mammoth size of this animal, they can reach speeds of 40 miles per hour and possess horns which can grow to 2 feet in length.

American Black Bear

Black Bear in Forest
Photo by Geoff Brooks

These bears are North America’s most common and familiar species, typically found in forests due their excellent ability to climb trees, but can also be spotted in mountainous and swampy areas, showing their adaptive capabilities.

Despite the name, Black Bear, this creature’s fur can also come in blueish-gray, brown, cinnamon and in extremely rare cases, white!

A solitary animal, these bears are not particularly fussy about they eat with their diet consisting of; fruit, roots, berries, insects, fish, mammals & birds. They are also fond of human food and can often be found rummaging through the trash in campsites and rural back gardens.

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Male Black Bears in Minnesota weigh around 125kg on average, while females weigh around 70kg. The largest black bear on record was found in New Brunswick in the 1970’s and weighed around 500kg and was 8ft in length.

This animal is more than capable of killing a human but will avoid all contact if possible. Most attacks on humans occur in national parks and in campgrounds where bears had been attracted by food waste that had not been properly disposed.

Coyotes

Coyote resting in grassland
Photo by David Nieto

The Coyote is smaller than its relative, the Wolf and is similar to the Golden Jackal found in Eurasia and are abundant in North America, helped by their highly adaptive nature and ability to survive in environments altered by humans.

The average male weighs between 8-20kg and can be identified by their gray, red, black & white fur.

The coyote’s diet consists of deer, small mammals, birds, reptiles and fish, while their predators incude; humans, wolves and cougars.

Attacks on humans are not common in Minnesota and typically do not result in serious injury, with only two reported deaths caused by Coyote attack in the US since the 1980’s. Familiarity with humans has caused an increase in aggression by Coyotes due to a lack of fear, not helped by some people feeding them.

Coyotes also pose a threat to pet dogs and have been known to attack dog walkers, particularly owners of smaller breeds. Most attacks occur because the Coyote deems the dog to be a threat to its territory. If attacked, you should make yourself as big as possible and yell, before picking up your dog and slowly backing away. A flashlight can also help scare off an aggressive Coyote.

Eastern Massasauga

Coiled Rattlesnake
Photo by D’Andre Bush

A species of Rattlesnake and Pit Viper, this is one of two venomous snakes found in Minnesota and its main habitat includes swamps, marshes and grassland. The name derives from a Native American word meaning ‘great river mouth’.

The Massasauga feeds on small mammals, lizards, frogs and other snakes, as well as insects like the centipede.

This snake’s venom destroys skin tissue and the digestive enzymes can disrupt the flow of blood and prevent blood clotting, stopping the wound from healing. Most of the Eastern Massasauga’s prey die from internal bleeding after being bitten, as this snake typically withdraws after injecting the venom to avoid being injured, it then waits for the toxins and enzymes to take effect.

Though dangerous, this snake will try to avoid humans if possible and will only strike if it feels threatened, most bites occur when a person accidentally steps on this camouflaged predator. To avoid the risk of being bitten, hikers should avoid areas with low visibility at ground level.Timber Rattlesnake

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Timber Rattlesnake

timber rattlesnake
Photo credit: Peter Paplanus @ Wikimedia

The next dangerous animal on this list is the notorious Timber Rattlesnake, the other venomous snake native to Minnesota.

This species of rattlesnake generally measures around 1 metre in length and its colouring is usually a gray, or yellowish-brown base, with dark brown or black cross bands. It habitat is mostly deciduous forests and rugged, rocky terrain, they also hibernate during the cold, winter months in dens and cliff side crevices.

Like the Massasauga, the Timber Rattlesnake feeds on small mammals, reptiles, amphibians and even birds. It has also been known to hunt other rattlesnakes, although the snake it feeds on the most is the Garter snake.

Its long fangs and the amount of venom it is able to deliver means this this is one of the most dangerous snakes in America. Luckily, this snake generally gives a fair warning with its loud rattle and it often feints to strike numerous times before unleashing a full attack. Like most rattlesnakes, the Timber produces a potent neurotoxin and the type of venom differs depending on their geographical location.

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The Northern Black Widow Spider

Spider web in the rain
Photo by Frank Albrecht

The smallest dangerous animal on our list, the Northern Black Widow comes with a gruesome reputation and any differences between it and its southern counterpart are subtle, although the Northern Widow’s venom is considered less deadly.

This breed of spider has achieved a certain level of fame over the years due to the terrifying habits of its females I.E. killing and eating the male after mating…

The Black Widow can be identified by its shiny black/ dark brown colour, sometimes with red or orange spots on its abdomen. Luckily, these spiders prefer to create their nests in dark and undisturbed areas, limiting their contact with humans. Common habitats for Black Widow Spiders include; holes made by other animals, woodpiles, underneath furniture or in little used basements.

This spider preys on any insect small enough to get stuck in its web, it hangs in wait for the unlucky victim to get tangled and quickly ‘spits’ venom on the creature before wrapping it in silk. Once the digestive enzymes have taken effect and the insect is liquefied, the Black Widow will then feed with a sucking action.

Around 2,200 people a year are bitten by this species in the US but no deaths have been reported since 1983. Most bites do not require medical attention as a large number are ‘dry bites’ when no venom is actually injected.

Steatoda spiders are often mistaken for Black Widows, earning the nickname ‘False Widows’ and although the bite can be painful it is not deemed dangerous.

Domestic Dogs

Dog in the snow
Photo by Joshua Dixon

Unfortunately, the most dangerous animal in Minnesota in terms of injury and even death is the domestic dog – as is the case across the US. It is reported that 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the United States, with 800,000 of these bites requiring medical assistance. This roughly means 1 in 73 people in the US are bitten by a dog each year.

Many dangerous dogs have often been mistreated, or are strays who are not used to human contact and attack out of fear. It is advised not to approach dogs who are not with their owner and if you think a dog appears distressed then contact the relevant authorities instead of taking the matter into your own hands.

Although man’s best friend is a deserved title for the domesticated dog, an undomesticated dog is 100% a dangerous animal which can cause serious injury or even death.

What is the most dangerous animal in Minnesota?

According to statistics the most dangerous animal in Minnesota is the domesticated dog, with the number of dog bites comparative to the national average – around 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs in the US each year.

Are there any poisonous animals in Minnesota?

Yes. Poisonous animals in Minnesota include the Northern Black Widow Spider, the Timber Rattlesnake and the Massasauga Rattlesnake. No other animal in the state produces venom.

Are there dangerous spiders in Minnesota?

The only dangerous spider in Minnesota that is capable of posing a threat to humans is the Northern Black Widow spider which can inject powerful neurotoxins which, in extremely rare cases, can kill a person.

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