Discover the Most Dangerous (Deadliest Animals in New Jersey

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Published: May 28, 2022
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New Jersey is a northeastern state with a long coast called the “Jersey Shore” along the Atlantic Ocean. The world’s longest boardwalk is in Atlantic City and the oldest seaside resort in the US is Cape May, NJ. Although the state is 42% forests, the people are concentrated in the urban areas with 90% of the people living there in areas like the New York City suburbs.

What kind of dangerous animals might live along the Jersey Shore? What about in the forests of New Jersey? Are there any bears or coyotes? What about poisonous or venomous animals in the state? If most people live in urban areas, are there any wild animals that share the city with humans? Let’s find out about some of the dangerous, maybe even deadly, animals in New Jersey.

What Dangerous Animals Live on New Jersey Beaches?

Great White Shark - Great White Bite

©Martin Prochazkacz/

There are about 130 miles of coastline in New Jersey. With all this coastal space, there are bound to be dangerous animals along New Jersey’s beaches. Let’s dive into a few of the more notable ones.

Shark Attacks in New Jersey

Bull Sharks Underwater

The 1916 shark attacks in New Jersey were likely from a bull shark.

©Martin Prochazkacz/

Sharks are usually the first animal that comes to mind when you talk about dangerous animals in the ocean. There are sharks off the coast of New Jersey, and there are shark nurseries where groups of juvenile sharks congregate to feed and grow. According to the International Shark Attack File (ISAF), in 2021 there were only 73 unprovoked shark attacks of which 9 were fatal, and that is worldwide (another 2 fatalities were considered provoked bringing the fatality count total to 11). None of those attacks occurred in New Jersey, but if we look back at history there was a significant event back in the early 1900s.

The “Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916” happened in the summer of 1916 when over a period of two weeks five people were attacked by sharks and four of those died. The first attack happened on July 1st, 1916 when a 24-year-old man was swimming and was attacked and killed by a shark. On July 6th another man was swimming off Asbury Park and was also attacked and killed making beachgoers and officials very nervous. Just six days later in Matawan Creek, a creek off the bay of the Raritan Bay, an 11-year-old boy was swimming off the dock when he was pulled under by a shark. It was unheard of for a shark to swim that far into the bay. The boy’s friends ran into town to get help and three men returned, but one of the men that jumped in to save the boy also was attacked and suffered a huge gash in his leg. He was brought to the hospital where they were unable to save him.

At the same time, a pair of brothers went swimming in the same creek, and a 14-year-old boy was attacked, suffering a bite to his leg but he survived. The town’s people were outraged and took to the water to hunt the wild shark and they were successful, killing a seven-foot bull shark in the creek. Most shark attacks occur when a shark mistakes a swimmer or surf boarded for another animal like a seal, which is a natural prey for sharks. It is still uncertain why these attacks in 1916 occurred.

More Dangerous Ocean Animals In New Jersey

clinging jellyfish

A clinging jellyfish.

©Clinging Jellyfish/

Beyond sharks, there are a couple of notable animals to be on the lookout for in New Jersey.

Clinging Jellyfish: Most jellyfish are large bulbous animals with long dangling tentacles, but the clinging jellyfish that can be found along the coastline and in inlets along the bay are tiny, only about an inch long. They cling to seaweed and seagrass and are dangerous because they have venomous tentacles, just like their larger counterparts. Although not commonly in swimming areas and only present at certain times, they can produce a painful sting. Treatment is to apply vinegar and seek medical attention if needed.

Cownose rays: These are large stingrays about three feet wide and weighing up to 50lbs and they travel in schools along the coast. While it is not difficult to see a whole school of stingrays, they also will spend time burrowed under the sand close to the shoreline, so beachgoers are advised to do the “Stingray Shuffle” as they enter the water, giving stingrays fair warning to get out of the way so you do not accidentally step on one and become the victim of a sting from their venomous spine that they have on their tail.

Are there any Large Predators that Live in the Forests of New Jersey?

Black bears

There are an estimated 5,000 black bears in New Jersey.


New Jersey is covered by thousands of square miles of forests. Here are a couple of the larger predators in the state.

  • Black Bears: There are around 5,000 black bears in the state of New Jersey and by 2021 there have been sightings in all of the counties. While sightings may be relatively common attacks are extremely rare. However, an 82-year-old man was attacked by a bear in 2020 in West Milford and needed 30 stitches. The first-ever fatal bear attack in the state was in 2014 when a 22-year-old student was killed while hiking in West Milford. One way to deter bears from coming into populated areas is to be sure to keep garbage containers sealed and bear-proof. Limiting the number of bear-human interactions makes it safer for everyone.
  • Coyotes: Coyotes also can venture into cities and suburbs, but they rarely attack humans. They are known to attack and kill small pets like cats and dogs so be aware of sightings in the area. Making sure they don’t get used to humans, by shouting at them and waving your arms can make them less likely to return.

What poisonous or venomous animals live in the state?

The Copperhead’s scales are keeled, and their eyes have vertical pupils that make them resemble cat’s eyes.

The Copperhead’s scales are keeled, and their eyes have vertical pupils that make them resemble a cat’s eyes.

©Creeping Things/

There are two venomous snakes in the state of New Jersey.

  • Timber Rattlesnake: The timber rattlesnake is a long, thick snake that can get to be 5 feet long or longer. They typically blend in well with their surroundings and are docile so prefer to be left alone. They are venomous but bites are extremely rare.
  • Northern Copperhead: These snakes are a bit smaller than the timber rattler but can still grow to be 3 feet long. They have a brownish body with hourglass markings and a copper colored head. Did you know that pit vipers like these snakes have fangs that fold up in their mouth when not in use? These fangs are what deliver the toxic venom when they bite, but in the US there is only an average of 5 snake bite fatalities a year.

Is there any wildlife in the city and if so, are any of them dangerous?

  • Dogs: There are plenty of dog owners in New Jersey and unfortunately dog bites are very common. According to the CDC, there is an average of 4.7 million dog bites a year in the US and a large percentage of those bites occur to young children. Always keeping young children supervised around dogs, even household pets can help reduce the number of injuries.
  • Squirrels?: Yes, squirrels. Apparently, people need to be cautious around squirrels. Most squirrels will go about their merry way searching for food and preparing for the New Jersey winters but in a report in Warren County, a 28-year-old man that was taking out his trash was attacked by a squirrel resulting in scratches and bites to his face. Stories like these are uncommon but they do occur and the biggest threat in situations like this is the chance of the squirrel passing along rabies. Rabies is rare but taking the series of rabies shots if you have been bit by a wild animal is the best course of action.

The photo featured at the top of this post is ©

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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share the planet with. I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with a degree in Elementary Education and I am a former teacher. When I am not writing I love going to my kids' soccer games, watching movies, taking on DIY projects and running with our giant Labradoodle "Tango".

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