Not only is California the most populous state, with close to 40 million people as of today, but it also has the richest biodiversity in the entire United States. Indeed, the Golden State is so bio-diverse, due to its wild and varied landscape, that it even surpasses the diversity of entire countries.
With so many animals, birds, and insects living side by side with 40 million Californians, problematic encounters are bound to happen between humans and wildlife populations. The following is the definitive list of the 10 most dangerous animals in the great state of California:
Despite their vicious portrayal in Hollywood movies, shark attacks, particularly in California, are incredibly rare. In fact, the last reported shark attack in California was all the way back in 2012 when a surfer was bitten by a Great White. The victim, Francisco Solorio, died shortly after being bitten in his upper torso. Considering how sharks almost exclusively attack surfers and body boarders, mistaking them for seals, sharks are certainly frightening to behold. But the actual threat of an attack remains little more than Hollywood fear mongering.
#9 Black Bears
While black bear attacks are even more rare than that of sharks, the furry mammals get the higher spot solely due to the better odds of encountering one in California. Thanks in part to California’s changing climate and endless seasons of forest fires, black bears are more frequently on the move in search of shelter and food. So, if you’re hiking out in one of California’s astounding national parks, be wary of bumping into any black bears. They may seem cute and cuddly from afar. But when you see on crashing through the tree line, claws thrashing and teeth bared, you better hope you know what to do to protect yourself.
#8 Mountain Lions
Whether you know them as mountain lions, pumas or cougars, these cats are ubiquitous throughout the western United States. Similar to shark attacks, mountain lion victims are usually mistaken for another type of prey: deer. Bicyclists, hikers, and even skiers are the most common victims of these elusive cats. In fact, the last known Californian to be killed by a mountain lion was attacked as he was repairing the chain on his bicycle in the Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park.
#7 Rattle Snakes
Anyone who has visited the renowned Joshua Tree National Park knows rattlesnakes are a danger for the sandal clad who make it a habit to not look down often. Named for its characteristic rattle, rattlesnakes are fairly common in California, with 6 species calling the Golden State home. On average, a total of 221 people are bitten by rattlesnakes each year in the Golden State. Considering how all 6 of these species are venomous, campers, hikers, and nature-enthusiasts should at least consider packing an anti-venom kit during their expeditions into what many Californian locals consider to be “rattlesnake country.”
#6 Black Widow and Recluse Spiders
While there are over 60 species of spider to be found in California, you should do all you can to avoid these two extremely venomous spiders. Black Widows and recluse spiders (Brown and Chilean) can be deadly to children, the elderly, and the sick if not treated both immediately and properly. Luckily, these spiders are rare in California, but you should be wary nonetheless, especially when it comes to black widows since they tend to live in closer proximity to humans.
#5 Hornets, Wasps, Bees
You may think these flying insects are more of a pest than a swooping aerial terror of doom and destruction. Unfortunately for too many people this assumption is wrong. Gram by gram, these winged insects are the deadliest creatures many Californians face each year. Whereas snake bites kill around 6-8 people annually, flying insects killed a total of 1,109 people between the years 2000 and 2017 for an average of 62 deaths each year. Granted, most of these deaths are due to allergies, but you shouldn’t let this diminish the risk. Many people don’t know they’re allergic until it’s too late. Also, being stung is rather painful, so it’s best just to avoid these winged scourges.
Below are a few of the symptoms to watch out for if you are suffering an allergic reaction:
- Discoloration of the skin, white or red
- Vomiting or nausea
- Low blood pressure
- Difficulty breathing
- Sudden unconsciousness
#4 Horses and Cows
For anyone who hasn’t worked on a farm or around cattle, this may seem a rather surprising entry. But to those in the know, horses and cattle have a rather dangerous reputation. Despite appearing to be slow and docile, cows can be deadly once they begin to stampede and they will surely stampede if they are provoked. If you are a jogger or bicyclist who ventures out into the countryside, be sure to keep your distance from any cattle roaming in the road. And maybe leave your dog at home, too. Dogs tend to spook cattle since they often mistake them for predatory cousins: wolves.
As far as horses are concerned…well, the threat they pose is already well documented.
Deer may be another surprising entry for a lot of readers, given their reputation for being gentle and peaceful. The truth is that they are one of the biggest threats to commuters who live in the countryside. Deer cause so many automobile crashes in California they cost the state upward of $300 million each year. Indeed, statistics show that you are far more likely to die at the hooves of a deer than from the bite of a shark. Some states have even adopted sterilization programs to reduce the number of deer out on the roads. If you still aren’t convinced of the threat posed by the Bambi’s of the world just pray you never encounter a full-sized buck in the rut. Also, don’t keep an eye out for the ever-present dangers of zombie deer.
Yes, yes, we know. Humanity’s best friend. Yada, yada, yada. But the simple fact is that your lovable, furry friend is extremely dangerous for a host of reasons. Data provided by the Center for Disease Control estimates that there are nearly 5 million dog bites every year in the United States. This statistic translates into 1 bite for every 70 Americans. What’s even more disturbing is that 20% of these bites are so severe that the victims require immediate medical attention. So, the next time you feel the need to pet a fluffy little critter on a leash remember that 1/3 of all dog bites become infected. It might be wiser to simply admire Fido from afar than to risk a virulent encounter with a Campylobacter infection.
Was there ever any doubt that humans would top this list? Just look at the numbers below if you have a quibble about our #1 Dangerous Animal in California:
- 118,077 Assaults
- 188,304 Burglaries
- 54,789 Robberies
- 174,796 Violent Crimes
- 1,930 Homicides
What makes these numbers even more harrowing is that they all took place in the year 2016. These statistics not good enough for you? How about 1.25 million people dead from road crashes each year? Or even the 20-50 million people who are injured in car accidents? The plain fact is that, by an incredibly wide margin, you are most likely to be injured or even killed by another human being than any other animal on this list. Combined. And, honestly, it’s not even close. Not that this is any new revelation for those who has spent time in the company of humans.
Thank you for reading our list of the Top 10 Most Dangerous Animals in all of California. If you are ever in need a personal injury attorney, do not hesitate to call The Advocates for a free consultation. Your case deserves an Advocate!