The 6 Most Dangerous Animals in West Virginia, and Where You’ll Find Them

bobcat
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Written by Jaydee Williams

Updated: September 26, 2023

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If you’ve ever explored the wild landscape of West Virginia alone, you know the eerie feeling of danger and excitement. While known for its beautiful mountains and woodlands, the West Virginia wild is not famous for its safety. In fact, West Virginia has the highest ratio of animal attacks to population in the U.S., with a 1 in 30,271 chance of being attacked if you live there, according to a report by BetOhio.com. Below are the six most dangerous animals in West Virginia.

While rattlesnakes came in first on our list of dangerous animals, black widow venom is actually 15 times stronger than rattlesnakes.

Timber Rattlesnake

Timber Rattlesnake coiled on ground.

Timber Rattlesnakes are extremely venomous, but they are not typically aggressive.

©iStock.com/NajaShots

While small and silent, this slithering creature can be deadly with just one bite. The timber rattlesnake is luckily quite docile unless provoked and known to give travelers a bit of warning before striking. Deemed the state reptile in 2008, this creepy crawler seems to be quite beloved by locals despite its dangerous venom.

The timber rattlesnake has a long lifespan of up to 30 years and can grow up to 5 feet in length. It is most commonly found in the eastern part of the state in dry, mountainous regions. However, due to habitat loss and persecution by humans, the species does seem to be dwindling. In fact, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources has asked that any sightings be reported through their website. This helps provide a better idea of where timber rattlesnakes live and how many are left in the West Virginia landscape. 

Black Bear

Black Bear

As dangerous as any bear can be, black bears are rarely sighted due to their timid nature.

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While black bear cubs are absolutely adorable, you may not feel the same about their six-foot-long, 300-pound parents! The average male black bear weighs between 150 and 450 pounds, with females coming in around 100 to 300. This can make for a dangerous and scary meeting in the West Virginia wilderness! 

The black bear is the state animal of West Virginia. They are found in every county in the state, though not often sighted due to their timid and docile nature. There was a time in the 1970s when the future of black bears looked bleak. With less than 500 bears estimated in the state, conservationists began taking steps to increase the population. Now considered to have a conservation status of least concern, the black bear population is thriving in West Virginia. This is partly due to people becoming kinder toward bears, as well as the development of more woodsy areas.

Northern Copperhead

Copperheads bite more people than any other species of snake in the United States.

©DnDavis/Shutterstock.com

More common than the timber rattlesnake, the northern copperhead is almost as venomous and dangerous as its rattling cousin. Copperheads are known to bite more people than any other snake species in the United States. However, rattlesnake bites are considered more dangerous than copperheads, earning them a bit higher ranking on our list of dangerous animals in West Virginia.

Northern copperheads can easily be identified by their most prominent feature — copper heads. They grow to an average of three feet, up to four feet, and have hourglass markings that wrap around their bodies. Northern copperheads can be found throughout the entire state of West Virginia, and most commonly like to be in rocky and woodsy areas. 

Black Widow

Most Dangerous Spiders

While black widow bites to humans are rare, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately if one ever bites you.

©Sari ONeal/Shutterstock.com

West Virginia has only two venomous spiders, the most dangerous being the black widow. Female black widows are shiny black with a red hourglass shape on their backs and range from a quarter to a half-inch long. Male black widows are slightly smaller than females, have longer legs, and brown markings along with the shiny black and red.

While rattlesnakes came in first on our list of dangerous animals, black widow venom is actually 15 times stronger than rattlesnakes. Black widows prefer dark, cluttered areas to live in like basements and closets that haven’t been opened in a while. They do not like moisture and prefer to be in dry places. Luckily, though their venom is extremely strong, black widows rarely bite humans and are not aggressive. If you see a black widow, the best choice is to leave it alone.

Bobcat

bobcat - wild lynx

As nocturnal predators, humans rarely spot bobcats in West Virginia.

©Vaclav Sebek/Shutterstock.com

The bobcat is the only species of wild cat in West Virginia that still exists today. They are elusive and not often seen by humans because of their incredible hunting techniques. As nocturnal predators, they capture their prey at night with darkness and stealth on their side. 

While they may look like cute and fuzzy kitties, you certainly wouldn’t want to be stuck in the woods at night with one of these dangerous animals. Bobcats can grow up to 45 pounds and are carnivores, with a few known to attack humans if given the chance. Most human attacks are due to bobcats protecting their young, being provoked, or having rabies, so if you see one of these cats, it’s best to give them their space. They live in woodsy areas across West Virginia and have about a 10- to 20-mile territory range. 

Coyote

Pack of coyotes

Highly adaptable and intelligent predators, coyotes have begun spreading their territory into suburbs and cities. They don’t typically bother humans, though, so long as you’re not alone.

©Josef Pittner/Shutterstock.com

Coyotes are omnivores and can adapt to live on many different types of sustenance. They grow to around 30 to 45 pounds and are known for their yips and howls that can be heard at nighttime. 

Coyotes are intelligent and adaptable predators, which is why they have recently spread their territory into suburbs and cities. They usually won’t bother humans, but they can be dangerous to small children or anyone who is walking alone. Like their canine ancestors, they have the instinct to pick off weaker prey, so it’s good to keep an eye out when walking alone at night. For their tenacity for survival and predatory instincts, coyotes are one of the most dangerous animals in West Virginia.

Summary Of The 6 Most Dangerous Animals In West Virginia

#AnimalWhere To Find Them
1Timber RattlesnakeEastern part of the state in dry, mountainous regions
2Black BearIn every county in the state
3Northern CopperheadThroughout the state in rocky and woodsy areas
4Black WidowPrefer dry, dark, cluttered areas like basements and closets
5BobcatWoodsy areas across the state
6CoyoteThroughout the state in sheltered areas

Are There Wolves in West Virginia?

yellowstone gray wolf

Gray wolves once roamed the landscape of West Virginia but now can only be seen in captivity.

©Nagel Photography/Shutterstock.com

West Virginia has more than 75 species of animals, of which 67 are endemic to the state, and seven are non-native. However, there are a few species that once were found in the state but now are no longer present. In addition to the gray wolf no longer roaming the area, the bison and the mountain lion are absent.

The last recorded wolf in West Virginia was in 1900 when it was killed after bounties were put on the species in the late 1800s. While they are endemic to the state, if you would like to see a wolf on your visit, you will only encounter one in captivity. In recent years, the red wolf has been reintroduced to neighboring states, like North Carolina, and it is thought that they will eventually make their way back to West Virginia, where its historic range was in the southern and central Appalachian mountains.


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About the Author

Jaydee Williams is a writer at AZ Animals where her primary focus is on gardening, mammals, and travel. She has over 5 years of experience in writing and researching and holds a Master's Degree in English from the American College of Education, which she earned in 2019. A central Florida native, Jaydee loves being on the water, playing music, and petting her cat, Beans.

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