What Are the Most Dangerous Creatures in Oklahoma?
Wanting to visit the Sooner State? Don’t let this list of dangerous creatures keep you from traveling to Oklahoma.
All states have animals that strike fear in visitors, but most of these creatures aren’t as terrifying as people think.
However, you definitely want to know how to react should you encounter one of them.
Let’s dive in!
Most Dangerous Creatures in Oklahoma: Mammals
Let’s first look at three mammals that make our list of the most dangerous creatures in Oklahoma. Mountain lions, black bears, and feral hogs roam the plains and mountain regions. And if you encounter one of these animals, you need to be prepared to act accordingly.
Mountain Lion – Rare and Elusive
Although mountain lions were common centuries ago, they’re much rarer today. They still exist, but the likelihood of seeing one or being attacked by one is very small. As hunters killed most of the deer population, the mountain lions began to disappear as well since deer are their primary food source. In 2020, trail cameras caught a few mountain lions on video, but the animals didn’t interact with humans.
The National Park Service (NPS) says mountain lions are elusive creatures that live alone. The NPS recommends not feeding deer because that invites the deer population to stay close to humans, which could also draw in mountain lions. Don’t hike or run alone and keep your children close when venturing out to places with heavy vegetation or river banks.
Black Bears – Most Unpredictable Dangerous Creatures in Oklahoma
Unlike the mountain lion population in Oklahoma, the black bear population is growing. According to Oklahoma State University, two populations of black bears are being recolonized in eastern Oklahoma in the Ozark and Ouachita mountains. Since 2011, Oklahoma has allowed black bear hunting from Oct. 1 to early November.
Unlike other wild animals, black bears are very unpredictable. Even though attacks on people are rare, they do happen and can be deadly.
Hike in groups and never alone. Keep dogs leashed and kids near. Don’t keep food in your tent when camping. Don’t leave food outside your RV. Store any items with smells (deodorant, shampoo, food, etc.) in a vehicle with a hardtop (although bears are known to break windows sometimes) or in a bear-resistant container.
Know Before You Go: Watch this video by the Great Smoky Mountains Association that explains in more detail what to do if you see a black bear.
Feral Hogs – Most Aggressive Dangerous Creature in Oklahoma
Feral hogs have become a concern across the U.S. because of their growing numbers. Most active at night, feral hogs destroy crops and landscapes looking for food. They’re also dangerous to humans. Feral hogs carry diseases they can transmit to other animals and people.
They’re also territorial animals and will act aggressively if you invade their space. They have sharp tusks and can charge at hikers. One of the best suggestions, if you find yourself in a stand-off with a feral hog, is to climb a tree, boulder, or car to get off the ground.
Most Dangerous Creatures in Oklahoma: Snakes
You’re more likely to encounter one of these snake species than a mountain lion or black bear. Make sure you stay alert when you’re enjoying the great outdoors.
It’s best to consider all snakes venomous just to be on the safe side. The natural features of a venomous snake include a diamond-shaped or triangular head, pits below the eyes, and elliptical “cat-like” pupils. Hopefully, you won’t be getting close enough to notice these features, but if you or someone you’re hiking with gets bitten, gathering as much information about the type of snake as possible could save a life.
If you are bitten, try your best to stay calm. Hopefully, you’re traveling with others. Allow them to carry you to safety, so you don’t put pressure on the bite or exert energy trying to walk. Immediately call the Oklahoma Center for Poison and Drug Information at 1-800-222-1222. If you’re having chest pains or difficulty breathing, call 911 and get to a hospital. Don’t ice the wound or try to extract the venom.
These venomous snakes are usually less than three feet long and live in eastern Oklahoma. Their tan and brown crossbands easily identify Copperheads. Because of their color, copperheads blend in with leaves and woodpiles, which is where you’ll typically find them.
Cottonmouth or Water Moccasin
Adult cottonmouths or water moccasins can grow to more than three feet. They live near water sources in eastern Oklahoma. Their backs are a dark olive, brown, or black color, while their bellies are cream-colored.
A member of the cobra family, you’ll find the Texas coral snake in southern Oklahoma near the Red River. This snake is similar in coloring to non-venomous snakes, with black and red bands separated by yellow bands. Their bright color distinguishes them from other venomous snakes like copperheads and rattlesnakes. This species is usually about two feet long.
The smallest of the Oklahoman rattlesnakes, the pygmy rattlesnake, is usually less than two feet long. Most pygmy rattlesnakes also have a faint reddish-brown stripe going down their back. Even though you might not be able to hear its tiny rattle, you should be able to recognize its dark blotches.
One of the larger rattlesnake species in Oklahoma is the timber rattlesnake. They can grow from three feet to four and a half feet. These snakes are golden-colored with dark bands. Some will have a reddish stripe down their back.
“Velvet tail” is a name commonly associated with the timber rattlesnake because of the dark coloration of the tail near the rattle. Be careful when traveling in the eastern part of Oklahoma near wooded areas or swamps.
The prairie rattlesnake is known for the shapes along its back. These dark brown markings are usually oval, square, or hexagonal. There are also gray rings around its tail before the rattle. Prairie rattlesnakes are typically two and a half to three and a half feet long.
Since they like to feed on prairie dogs and other rodents, you’ll find them in towns near prairies or other grassland areas in the western part of Oklahoma. They become aggravated easily.
The largest Oklahoman rattlesnake, the diamondback, can grow from three feet to more than six feet. Easily identified because of the diamond-shaped markings on their backs, diamondbacks also have black and white rings around their tails before the rattle. These snakes like dry areas, so you’ll find them in rocky soil, mountains, and prairies. They’re known to live in multiple parts of Oklahoma.
Most Dangerous Creatures in Oklahoma: Insects
From spiders to beetles to bugs, Oklahoma is home to many dangerous insects. Although most of them aren’t aggressive, you certainly want to pay attention when hiking in the woods or venturing along trails. Let’s look at a few.
Brown Recluse Spiders
The most common spiders in Oklahoma are orb weavers, wolf spiders, and jumping spiders. But one of the most dangerous spiders is the brown recluse. Commonly confused with wolf spiders because of their appearance, brown recluse spiders don’t typically spin webs as normal spiders do.
You can identify a brown recluse by its six eyes (since most spiders have eight eyes) and the dark violin-shaped pattern on its back. Although the brown recluse isn’t an aggressive spider, it can bite and cause severe skin damage if disturbed. Seek medical attention if you believe one has bitten you.
Black Widow Spiders
Another dangerous spider is the black widow. You can find all three species of black widow spiders in Oklahoma. The signature feature of a black widow is the red hourglass shape on the underbelly. If you suspect that a black widow has bitten you, seek medical attention. Symptoms of a bite include swelling, dizziness, fever, and nausea.
This insect has a toxin that can be deadly to horses and other livestock. Even dead blister beetles can harm animals because cantharidin retains its toxicity. This makes it very important to dispose of the dried remains of blister beetles.
Because ticks transmit a variety of diseases, they’re very dangerous to animals and humans. Rocky Mountain spotted fever is the most common tick-borne disease in Oklahoma. Most cases generally occur between April and September.
Symptoms include fever, chills, muscle aches, and headaches. Some people can experience delirium, restlessness, and a rash as well. Lyme disease is another tick-borne disease but uncommon in Oklahoma.
To avoid these diseases, check yourself and your loved ones every couple of hours when outside. Don’t panic if you find a tick. They have to feed for several days before transmitting any type of disease. You usually find them in tall grasses and forest areas in spring and summer. Wear protective clothing when hiking and stay on clearly marked trails.
American Oil Beetles
Belonging to the blister beetle family, the American oil beetle can irritate the skin. The oil it secretes when picked up can cause irritation and redness. These non-flying black beetles are most active in the spring. Although the oil from an American oil beetle won’t kill you, it can certainly cause pain and blisters.
Red Velvet Ants
The red velvet ant is actually a wasp. With their orange-red hair and body shape, they look like large ants. These dangerous Oklahoma creatures are nicknamed “cow killers,” and can repeatedly sting. And these stings hurt! Although they’re not aggressive insects, if you accidentally step on one without proper footwear or rummage around in the grass without gloves, you could fall prey to their painful sting.
The kissing bug feeds off the blood of mammals and generally comes out at night. These insects carry a deadly disease called Chagas disease and tend to bite around the face, hence the name “kissing bug.” Someone infected may not even know it and could have the disease for their entire lives without serious symptoms. Or someone could develop cardiac and gastrointestinal complications. Antiparasitic treatment is needed to cure Chagas disease.
The bark scorpion is pale yellow with two dark stripes going down its body. Since scorpions are nocturnal creatures, the bark scorpion hides in shelters like barns or sheds during the day. You may also find them under rocks. It’s unlikely for a bark scorpion to sting a human unless attacked. If you are stung, the pain and swelling should subside after 24 hours.
Can Any of the Dangerous Creatures in Oklahoma Kill You?
Clearly, an attack from a mountain lion or black bear can be fatal. A charging feral hog can also be life-threatening. Bites from a venomous snake can be fatal if not treated by medical professionals. So yes, there are dangerous creatures in Oklahoma that can kill you. Is it likely? No, but always be prepared and observant.
The most important preventative measure you can take is to be aware of your surroundings. This goes for anywhere — whether you’re on the East or West Coast, in the Midwest or Deep South, or anywhere in the world.
Take Precautions Around the Dangerous Creatures in Oklahoma
When traveling to a new place, do some research to know what to look for when hiking or camping. Pay attention to where your children are playing and keep your dogs on a leash.
Remember, most of these animals aren’t aggressive and don’t intentionally seek to attack humans. Oklahoma is no different from any other state, but take a mental note of these dangerous animals when you visit. Do you have your bear spray and good hiking boots packed?
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