Texas is the largest state in the lower 48 with 268,597 square miles. You can actually fit the fifteen smallest states in the US in the same area as Texas! The land of Texas is also greatly varied with grasslands, deserts, mountains, and a long coast along the Gulf of Mexico. It also boasts the largest barrier island in the world with South Padre Island being the longest at 113 miles. One more record is that Texas has the most farms in the US with 247,000 farms and ranches at the end of 2020 and is the number one state for beef cattle.
With ranches, deserts, and islands, are there any dangerous Texas animals? Are there any poisonous or venomous animals in the state? What about just off the coast, what animals are dangerous at the beach? Let’s find out about the various dangerous (even deadly) Texas animals.
Let’s start in the desert, are there any dangerous Texas animals that live in the desert?
Texas has its share of venomous animals. Between snakes, scorpions, and spiders you’ll want to be aware of which animals in Texas could cause the most harm:
- Snakes: Rattlesnakes get a bad rap, but there are other venomous snakes as well. In Texas there are four types of venomous snakes. The rattlesnakes inlclude the western massasauga, motted rock rattlesnake, blacktail rattlesnake, Mojave rattlesnake, timber rattlesnake and the western diamondback. The other venomous snakes are the coral snake, pit vipers (the copperhead), and cottonmouth (sometimes called a water moccasin). In the US there are around 7,000-8,000 venomous snake bites a year but only an average of 5 of those are fatal. If you do get bit by a snake it is best to seek medical attention because medical facilities in the US carry antivemon.
- Scorpions: The most venomous scorpion in the US is the Arizona bark scorpion and those are not found in Texas. There are other scorpions that can bite but according to Texas Parks and Wildlife there are not medically dangerous scorpion species in Texas. If you do get bit by a scorpion you can apply ice to ease the pain and watch to make sure the person doesn’t have an allergic reaction in which they would need to seek immediate medical attention.
- Spiders: There are two kinds of spiders to be aware of in Texas, the black widow and the brown recluse. If you think you have been bitten by either one of these spiders it is important to seek medical attention. While spider bites are rarely fatal they can cause an allergic reaction and can be more dangerous for young children and the elderly.
What animals can be found on the farms in Texas?
Farming is a dangerous occupation and farm machinery is responsible for the most farming-related injuries and deaths. But animal-caused deaths on farms are also a real threat. In a five-year study of cattle-related fatalities in four farming states (not including Texas) there were 108 fatalities caused by cattle. 33% of the deaths involved working with cattle in an enclosed area and 24% of the deaths were in moving or herding the animals. Cattle workers in Texas need to follow the best practices in caring for and moving cattle to be sure to remain safe on the job.
Fun fact about the Texas Longhorn: Texas Longhorn are a breed of cattle that look like they would be dangerous. Their horns grow straight out the side of their heads and grow a little every year. Cows and bulls have horns that are typically four feet wide tip to tip but steers can grow horns up to six feet or more!
What dangerous animals are in the Gulf of Mexico off Texas?
Texas has a long coastline and many freshwater lakes, let’s look at some dangerous animals in its waters!
- Sharks! Yes, there are sharks in the Gulf of Mexico and they do occasionally interact with people. Shark attacks are extremely rare with the Florida Museum of Natural History’s International Shark Attack File reporting 47 unprovoked attacks in the US in 2021 with none of those occurring in Texas. In August of 2018 there was a reported shark attack near Crystal Beach northeast of Galveston. A 42-year-old man was bitten in the leg while he was swimming by a sandbar. Worldwide there were 137 shark-human incidents in 2021 that resulted in 11 total fatalities so the chances of being attacked or killed by a shark are extremely low.
Fatal Alligator Attacks (and Beyond) in Texas
While thinking about the most dangerous animal in Texas might cause your mind to drift to sharks, or poisonous snakes, the reality is that Texas has twice as many veheicle collisions with animals as any other state. There are more than 5,000 of these collisions per year (more on this below) and they lead to 17 fatalities. So, it’s actually the deer that is Texas’ most deadly animal!
Below, we’ll look at a couple animals that have led to fatal attacks in Texas:
- Feral Hogs: Feral hogs are wide spread throughout the East, South and Central Texas and are considered invasive and dangerous. They can get up to three feet high at the shoulder and weigh between 100-400lbs. It is not common for wild hogs to attack humans but there was a case of a woman in Anahuac, Texas, east of Houston who was found dead outside of a home with multiple injuries caused by a pack of wild hogs. Christine Rollins was a care provider for an elderly woman and she was going to work. The elderly woman was concerned when Christine didn’t show up and went outside to look around, that is when she found Christine’s body. The Department of Parks and Wildlife said they are not usually dangerous; this is an unusual and unfortunate incident.
- Alligators: We all know that alligators can be dangerous and keeping your distance from them is the best practice. Always follow posted signs alerting people to potential alligator presence and keep all pets leashed while in alligator territory. One man did not follow these guidelines and paid for it with his life. In Orange, TX in July of 2015, 28-year-old Tommy Woodford was swimming with a woman at 2:30 in the morning (his first mistake) when they saw an alligator. The woman got out but Tommy did not (second mistake). Lastly it is reported that the man started to taunt the alligator (third mistake) and the woman reported the alligator attacked him and dragged him under. Alligator attacks are rare in the United States and are rarely fatal.
Are armadillos, the state animal, dangerous?
The nine-banded armadillo is the only kind of armadillo that can be found in the US and it is the state animal of Texas. These armored animals have a shell that is made up of bands of plates that cover their back. Although some armadillo species can roll up completely into a ball, the nine-banded cannot quite make it all the way. They are about two-and-a-half feet long and have a long scaly tail. One of the most interesting facts about armadillos is that they give birth to identical quadruplets almost every time! Armadillos prefer to live in warm, wet climates and can actually hold their breath for a long time.
If they need to cross a river or stream they are quite comfortable swimming across. Crossing a highway is a bit trickier which is where they can potentially be dangerous. From 2010-2016 there were 51,522 animal-vehicle relatled accidents in Texas with 64% caused by wildlife and 31% by domestic animals (another 5% was unspecified). Looking at the kinds of wildlife that cause accidents armadillos did not make the list. It seems vehicles are more of a threat to armadillos than the other way around. Deer were the number one wild animal that caused accidents in Texas. Keeping an eye out at sunset when animals are on the move can help make the roads a safer place for everyone, humans and animals.
A List of the Most Dangerous Animals in Texas
With our look at dangerous animals in Texas complete, let’s take a look at a list of Texas’ most dangerous animals:
- Coral Snakes
- Mojave Rattlesnakes
- Timber Rattlesnakes
- Motted Rock Rattlesnakes
- Blacktail Rattlesnakes
- Western Diamondbacks
- Black Widows
- Brown Recluse Spiders
- Cattle (Farm accidents)
- Bull Sharks
- Great White Sharks
- Mountain Lions
- Deer (Auto accidents)
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/tobiasfrei
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Are there wolves in Texas?
Wolves were extirpated from Texas by 1970. Today there is a small breeding population of red wolves in a sanctuary and discussions about reintroducing gray wolves into Texas, but for all practical purposes, they are absent from the state.
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