When you think of Alabama you may think of southern hospitality, salty peanuts and a friendly college football rivalry (while you hear “Sweet Home Alabama” playing in your head!). But is it safe to enjoy a round of golf without worrying about an alligator on hole eight? What about hiking just outside of Birmingham, should you be on the lookout for scorpions? And if you are enjoying the day in Gulf Shores, how can you be sure you won’t be sharing the beach with a shark? Let’s find out about some of the deadliest animals in Alabama!
Dangerous (and Poisonous) Spiders in Alabama
In the United States, there are only 7-11 deaths per year caused by spider bites. It is extremely rare for a spider to cause the death of a human. However, a 5-year-old boy was reported in Alabama to have died from the bite of a brown recluse spider, back in 2014. The director of the Regional Poison Control Center Children’s of Alabama said that in the 32 years of her career she had not known of any deaths, before this one, from spider bites. The brown recluse spider venom is different from that of the black widow. Black widows inject a neurotoxin that affects your nervous system. The brown recluse injects a venom that is a cytotoxin that causes the skin and tissues below the skin to break down. Although the venom is poisonous, bites from both black widows and brown recluses are rarely lethal to humans due to the small amount of venom. Here is a list of venomous spiders in Alabama:
- Black Widow
- Northern Black Widow
- Brown Recluse Spider
- Chilean Recluse Spider
- Mediterranean Recluse Spider
Poisonous Snakes in Alabama
According to the CDC, 7,000-8,000 people in the United States are bitten by venomous snakes each year with an average of only 5 deaths per year. In Alabama, in 2014 for example, there were 152 reported snake bites, none of which were fatal. The most recent fatality from a snake bite in Alabama was in May of 2019, a 52-year-old man was bit by a copperhead when he was out on the patio of his lake home with his puppy. He was taken to the hospital and later airlifted to the Huntsville Hospital where they were unable to save him. The report stated that he had a severe allergic reaction causing anaphylactic shock. Most snake bites do not cause this reaction. Here is a list of venomous snakes in Alabama:
- Eastern diamondback rattlesnake
- Timber rattlesnake
- Cottonmouth snake
- Copperhead snake
Dangerous Scorpions in Alabama
There are more reported scorpion bites than snake bites per year, for example in 2014 there were 196 reported scorpion bites. However, the scorpions of Arizona are non-lethal so most bites can be treated at home without any medical intervention. There have not been any human deaths due to scorpion bites in Alabama. There are three scorpion species in Alabama:
- Hentz striped scorpion: these scorpions have a dark body with light brown stripes and grow to be about 2 inches in length. Although they are venomous, they are not lethal to humans.
- Southern unstriped scorpion (southern devil scorpion): these scorpions are dark grey or dark brown and are usually less than 2 inches, they are venomous but not lethal to humans.
- Brown scorpions: brown scorpions are light brown in color and are a little larger with the males getting to be up to 3 inches, they are venomous but not lethal to humans.
Are Sharks a Deadly Threat in Alabama?
Sharks have a terrifying image, due somewhat to the Hollywood image but also to their intimidating look with a mouth full of razor-sharp teeth! There are several beaches along the shores of Alabama that sit on the Gulf of Mexico. So, is it safe to swim in the Gulf off the beaches of Alabama?
Yes. Shark attacks are extremely rare and there are only an average of 10 human deaths caused by sharks a year worldwide. In the past 160 years, there have only been 12 reported shark attacks in Alabama with four of those being fatal. The last shark attack in Alabama was in 2020 on Orange Beach when a 14-year-old boy was attacked by a blacktip reef shark. He suffered puncture woods from a bite but was treated and released from the hospital. These are some of the sharks you might encounter off the coast of Alabama:
- Blacktip shark
- Bull shark
- Sand Tiger
- Scalloped Hammerhead
- Tiger Shark
Are there Alligators in Alabama? Alligator Attacks in the State
Compared to say, Iowa, yes you are more likely to die from an alligator attack in Alabama, but from 1999-2019 there were only 10 reported deaths due to alligators in all of the southeast states and none of those were in Alabama. Florida has the highest number of alligator and crocodile-related deaths.
Dangerous Fire Ants…In Alabama?
Fire ants are small black and red ants from South America that didn’t live in the United States until 1918. Alabama was the first state ever to have fire ants. In 1918, it was believed that a group of black fire ants accidentally entered the port of Mobile, Alabama probably mixed in the water and soil in a ship’s ballast. They have been here ever since.
Red fire ants were accidentally introduced in the 1930s. Both species have spread to 9 of the southeast states of the US including Alabama. The problem with fire ants is that they attack in groups with multiple ants biting at the same time. They make nests in mounds of dirt and if an unsuspecting animal or human steps on the mound a group of ants may aggressively run up the person’s leg biting as they go. In most people, the result is painful, itching bumps that heal in about ten days, but if someone is allergic it can be deadly.
Unfortunately, a woman from Prattville, AL had just such a reaction. In May of 2016, a 29-year-old woman was standing on top of a hay bale, talking on her cell phone, and was casually tapping the hay with a stick which seemed to stir up the ants, they climbed on her ankles biting multiple times. She went into anaphylactic shock with her airway swelling making it unable for her to breathe.
Although volunteer firefighters arrived on the scene they were unable to save her before arriving at the hospital. But it is extremely rare for people to have such a severe reaction, the CDC says, “Thousands of people are stung by insects each year, and as many as 90–100 people in the United States die as a result of allergic reactions.” With a US population of 332,403,650 (as of Jan. 1, 2022) the instances of deaths due to insect bites is extremely rare.
Could Bees, Wasps, or Hornets be the the Deadliest Animals in Alabama?
The most recent study by the CDC looked at records between 2000 – 2017 in the United States which had 1,109 deaths caused by bees, wasps, and hornet stings. This averages out to around 62 deaths per year. There are not specific stats for Alabama but as a southern state, it has its share of bees, wasps and hornets. Most stings are just painful, but some people have an allergic reaction causing them to go into anaphylactic shock and eventual death.
What about dog bites in Alabma?
Despite being “man’s best friend” you will find instances in almost every state of people being killed by dogs. There were 46 dog-bite-related fatalities in the US in 2020. Alabama is not one of the states that have the highest number of dog-related fatalities ranking 21st, but in 2020 there was an unfortunate case of a 36-year-old woman being attacked by multiple dogs resulting in her death. Several groups aim to create Community Awareness campaigns to help people be responsible dog owners and to report any dogs that may pose a risk. These programs help to put an end to unnecessary deaths due to dogs, making Alabama and all states a safer place to be!
How many animal-related deaths have there been in Alabama?
According to a study by the Center for Disease Control, there have been 56 animal-related deaths in Alabama between 1999-2013.
Summary of the Most Dangerous (Deadliest!) Animals in Alabama
|2||Northern Black Widow|
|3||Brown Recluse Spider|
|4||Chilean Recluse Spider|
|5||Mediterranean Recluse Spider|
|6||Eastern diamondback rattlesnake|
|10||Hentz striped scorpion|
|11||Southern unstriped scorpion|
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