Discover the Most Dangerous (Deadliest!) Animals in West Virginia

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Published: March 14, 2022
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Known as the Mountain State, what dangerous animals live in West Virginia? Three-fourths of the state is covered in forests, so what dangerous animals can be found in the woods? Are there any bears in West Virginia? What about dangerous snakes? White-tail deer are cute and seem harmless, but if they cross the highway in front of your car, they are very dangerous. West Virginia has the highest number of deer-vehicle collisions in the country. Let’s find out about the most dangerous animals in West Virginia.

Are There Any Bears In West Virginia?

Black bears
There are about 12,000-14,000 black bears in West Virginia. Mother bears may become aggressive if they are protecting their cubs.

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The black bear is the state animal of West Virginia, so yes, there are bears in the state. Black bears are one of the most dangerous animals in West Virginia, but attacks on humans are rare. Due to the fact that they live in every county, there is an increased chance of having a bear encounter. There are about 12,000-14,000 Black bears in West Virginia. Most of the time, these bears will avoid humans and, if confronted, will turn and somber off. If they are protecting their cubs or feel threatened, they can become aggressive and attack.

On May 31, 2019, a bear attacked a woman in her backyard in Upsher County, West Virginia. She tried to save her dog that had been attacked. 66-year-old Opal Gillespie had let her dogs out to go to the bathroom at 1:30 in the morning when they saw the bear. She suffered lacerations to her head and upper body, but she was treated and released from the local hospital. Unfortunately, one of her dogs was not as lucky and died from injuries. Authorities think the bear was drawn to the house by the birdfeeder on her deck. Bears can enter residential areas when food becomes scarce, and they go looking for garbage, birdfeeders, grills, and pet food. In this case, the bear was probably startled by the barking dogs and reacted feeling threatened.

Are Coyotes The Most Dangerous Animals In West Virginia?

coyote walking in the field
Coyotes are 30-45 lbs and can be dangerous to small pets but rarely attack humans.

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Coyotes are common in West Virginia, and populations continue to grow since some of their predators, like cougars and wolves, no longer live in the state. They are highly adaptable and can live off a varied diet. While coyotes rarely attack humans, they can be a problem for livestock producers who have coyotes killing their calves and lambs. Coyotes also pose a threat to small pets. Although they appear ferocious, they are smaller than you may think, only weighing 30-45lbs about the size of a small Labrador retriever.

In Sissonville, West Virginia, a warning was put out to residents about an increase in coyote sightings. Several neighbors mentioned encounters in which they saw or were confronted by a coyote. There were no reported injuries in these cases, but there is always the potential when wild animals are involved. Keeping a close eye on pets and keeping food sources like garbage and pet food secured can help deter coyotes.

What Venomous Snakes Live In West Virginia?

Rattlesnakes While HIking - Timber Rattlesnake
Timber rattlesnakes are large snakes that are venomous. They use their fangs to inject a toxic venom that can be dangerous to humans.

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  • Copperhead snake: This is a pit viper. It is tan colored with dark-brown hourglass-shaped splotches along its body, has a copper-colored head, is 3-4 feet in length, is common throughout West Virginia, and is less venomous than timber rattlesnakes.
  • Timber rattlesnake: This is a pit viper. It can be two different coloration, one olive with dark-colored bands and the other almost black with faint bands. It is 4-6 feet in length, less common in West Virginia, found in remote mountainous areas, and more venomous than copperheads.

Both venomous snakes can bite and leave a nasty bite mark, but their venom can also cause swelling, nausea, dizziness, and vomiting. If a snake bites you, you should seek immediate medical attention. Medical facilities in the United States have access to antivenom, and therefore snake bites are rarely fatal.

Are There Any Other Venomous Animals In West Virginia?

Most Dangerous Spiders
Female black widow spiders are the only ones that have venom harmful to humans.

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Black widow spiders are about 1.5 inches long and have large bodies and smaller heads. They have a red hourglass marking on their back, making it easier to identify them. That is the marking on the females, which are the only ones that have venom harmful to humans; the male’s venom is not. Most people that get bit by spiders accidentally disturb the spider’s home. You should avoid reaching into a woodpile or a box in a garage. If you get bit, you should seek medical attention. Black widow bites are painful but rarely fatal.

What Animals Cause The Most Accidents In West Virginia?

white-tailed deer buck looking at camera
A white-tailed deer can suddenly cross a highway, which can lead to an accident.

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Animals try to coexist with humans and vice versa, but sometimes their worlds collide. When animals need to get across highways and roads, animal-vehicle collisions can result. According to a study by State Farm Insurance in 2021, “These claims were most likely in West Virginia, with one in 37 drivers making an insurance claim based on this kind of accident.” They reported 2.1 million animal collision claims between July 2020 and June 2021. What animal is responsible for the majority of these crashes? It’s the white-tailed deer.

White-tailed deer can grow to be 150 lbs, and the male deer, bucks, can have a large rack of antlers. They lose their antlers in the winter and regrow new ones every season. Female deer do not grow antlers. Imagine running into a 150 lb buck with a large rack! Deer-vehicle collisions can result in expensive repairs to vehicles, personal injuries, and sometimes even death. Sometimes motorists swerve to avoid a deer and cause a head-on collision with cars in the other lane. Authorities remind people not to swerve to avoid deer. Most accidents occur in the fall during mating season when the deer are on the move. Motorists need to be more aware during these times as well as at sunrise and sunset. With 12,000-15,000 deer-vehicle collisions a year, deer are one of the most dangerous animals.


The Featured Image

A white-tailed deer standing in a meadow
A white-tailed deer standing in a meadow
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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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