Which Animal Kills the Most Humans in the US per Year? It’s Not What You Think.

You’ve been scared of all the wrong things, guys. Here is the completely surprising order of the top 10 most dangerous animals in the United States, listed by the least number of human kills to the most.

Alligators – 1 person per year

As ferocious as you probably think alligators are, these shy reptiles only kill an average of one person per year. Generally, they prefer fish and small mammals. Animals that are too large for an alligator to eat in one bite will be drowned or allowed to rot, or the gator will aggressively twist the victim (known as a “death roll”).

gatorImage: Ryan Somma

Sharks – 1 person per year

You’ve probably avoided the ocean at all costs since you’ve seen Jaws, but the truth is that it’s more likely to be killed by a vending machine than by a shark. Yes, that’s an actual statistic. On the flip side, humans kill an average of 100-200 million sharks per year. Who should fear who?

sharkImage: Elias Levy

Bears – 1 person per year

Bears are actually extremely skittish and will not readily confront humans, so it’s no surprise that an average of only 1 person is killed by bears on an annual basis. The only bear you really don’t want to mess with is a mother protecting her cubs (can you blame her?).

bearImage: Soren Wolf

Venomous snakes – 6 people per year

While thousands of people are bitten by venomous snakes every year, medical treatment saves nearly all of them. Most of the deaths from these bites occur because of delayed or complete lack of treatment. According the University of Florida, “Fewer than one in 37,500 people are bitten by venomous snakes in the U.S. each year (7-8,000 bites per year), and only one in 50 million people will die from snakebite (5-6 fatalities per year).”


Spiders – 7 people per year

Spider bites are fortunately quite treatable with antivenin. Venomous spiders in the United States include the brown recluse and black widow. These spiders won’t intentionally harm you, but if it’s trapped between a rock and a hard place (pun intended), it will defend itself by biting.

spiderImage: James Gathany

Non-venomous arthropods (ants and other insects) – 9 people per year

Though the CDC doesn’t elaborate on the exact type of these critters, we know that fire ants fall into this category. Fire ants are extremely aggressive insects that swarm and kill small creatures. They occur mainly in the southern United States, and most people killed in this way go into anaphylactic shock as a result of the numerous stings. Don’t worry though, most people just develop red bumps that go away on their own.

Entomologist Mike Raupp explained what a fire ant nest looks like, saying “It’s a large mound that you will be able to see on the ground. If you bump into that nest, they will swarm out immediately and aggressively attack you, and no other ants will do that. There are no other stinging ants in North America. So if you get stung by an ant, you can pretty much assume it’s a fire ant.”


Cows – 20 people per year

cowsImage: Leszek Leszczynski

Okay, this one seems a little nutty, but cattle are stronger than most people give them credit for. A bull can reach a staggering 2,400 pounds, and an adult female cow averages 1,200 pounds. Most deaths occur on cattle farms, so unless you’re a rancher, you need not worry about sudden death by cow.

Dogs – 28

dogImage: Llee Wu

We don’t want to believe this one either, but dog bites account for an average of 28 fatalities every year. Certain dogs can be unpredictable if not trained properly or raised in less than ideal circumstances; some may just attack without warning for no apparent reason. It’s a good idea to learn dog body language (is that tail wag really a happy one?”) for your own sake. Luckily, most pooches just want to kill us with kindness.

Bees, wasps, hornets – 58

Though imperative for keeping our flowers and trees alive and well, insects like bees and hornets account for nearly 60 human deaths per year. Deaths are the result of allergic reactions. Thankfully, as long as you don’t have an allergy, a sting will only be an annoyance.

beeImage: Thomas Leth-Olsen

Deer – 200

The animal that causes the most human deaths every year? Deer. We’re not even kidding, here.

Deer sometimes leap blindly into roadways causing tens of thousands of traffic accidents annually. These accidents cause an estimated 200 deaths every year, numerous injuries, hefty medical bills, and totaled cars aplenty. Read about one possible strategy (along with hunting season) that scientists are suggesting to deal with the problem.

And the sharks have been taking the blame all along.