Close-up of a Prairie Rattlesnake.

The 10 Deadliest Animals in Nebraska

Nebraska, also known as the Cornhusker State, is a landlocked state known for its pioneer history and Arbor Day. Here, you will find the infamous Chimney Rock, which once pointed people toward the Missouri River. It is also the place where the world’s largest mammoth fossil was discovered in 1921. Even though mammoths no longer roam this part of the Great Plains, other animals continue to. Some are docile, while others only appear so. Like in many other states, Nebraska has several deadly animals. Whether you want to visit this state or live there, knowing which animals to avoid whenever possible is important. These are the ten deadliest animals known in Nebraska.

Mountain Lion

Image of a Mountain Lion
Image of a Mountain Lion

Mountain lions are native to Nebraska but were sadly eliminated just before the turn of the 20th century. They returned slowly through natural expansion and still move between states, including South Dakota and Wyoming.

Today, there are breeding populations in four regions, and multiple sightings of mountain lions in southwest Nebraska have recently occurred. Mountain lions often roam areas along with their cubs, which is a dangerous situation in itself.

If you know a mountain lion is roaming your area, especially if there are cubs, keeping pets and children indoors is crucial. If you encounter one outdoors, it is advised that you back away slowly, but only if possible. While mountain lions rarely attack humans, they will become aggressive if provoked.

And, although there have been relatively few cougar attacks over the past few decades, some of them included two women who were killed and partly eaten.


Close up of giant hornet on a tree surface
Close-up of a giant hornet on a tree surface

Hornets are huge wasps and are found all over Nebraska. There are five types of wasps to look out for. These are paper wasps, mud daubers, cicada killers, yellow jackets, and bald-faced hornets.

Paper wasps can become aggressive if they feel threatened and provoked. They will defend their nest; if they sting you, it will hurt more than a bee sting. They also sting you multiple times. Paper wasps can be identified by their black or brown coloring with yellow or brown stripes.

Mud daubers are even more aggressive and will aim to sting you even if you pose no threat to them. These black and yellow striped slender wasps build small mud tubes for nests. They are also especially dangerous to pets.

Cicada killers feed on cicadas, so you will likely see them during the summer months. Fortunately, the male cicada killer wasps do not have stingers, so they cannot hurt you or your pets. The females, however, have large stingers, and their sting is very painful.

If you see yellow jackets around your property, you have a big problem. Yellow jackets sting repeatedly, releasing chemicals that attract more yellow jackets. If you are allergic to a yellow jacket’s venom, your reaction to the sting could be fatal. They are easily recognizable with their black and yellow coloring.

Lastly, bald-faced hornets are black with white or ivory coloring on the face, thorax, and at the end of the abdomen. If you suffer a severe allergic reaction from a bald-faced hornet sting, it could also be fatal.


Side view of coyote
Side view of coyote

Thankfully, coyote attacks are rare in the U.S., but since these animals do not fear humans, staying out of their way is important.

If you see a coyote in your neighborhood, you could try yelling at it to scare it away. Look the coyote in the eye while stomping your feet and making a noise. At the same time, maintain a safe distance.

There have been 159 coyote attack fatalities in the U.S. and Canada between 1960 and 2006. While this figure is low, a coyote may attack you if it is hungry. Moreover, a coyote bite could lead to a rabies infection, for which no treatment exists.

Coyotes also attack livestock, so you must keep your cattle, sheep, pigs, and goats out of harm’s way.

Prairie Rattlesnake

Closeup of a Prairie Rattlesnake
Closeup of a Prairie Rattlesnake

Prairie rattlesnakes are typically found in the western two-thirds of the state. These snakes have a triangle-shaped head with a blunt nose. They grow to 60 inches long and are typically pale green or brown. Prairie rattlesnakes are usually identified by the dark and light lines surrounding black or brown markings on their body. These markings turn into rings on the snake’s tail.

These snakes seek out grasslands and prairies but are also found in forests. They use their rattling tails to make their presence known to predators. They do not usually threaten humans but will bite if you provoke or try to catch them.

If a prairie rattlesnake bites you, you must get immediate medical attention. While these bites are rarely fatal, they can cause organ failure if left untreated. It is recommended to seek medical attention within half an hour after being bitten.

Black Widow Spider

Black Widow Spider waiting for her prey
A Black Widow Spider, waiting for her prey.

Black widow spiders are known for causing infestations in Nebraska homes. They are also difficult to remove once they have invaded a house because they are very good at hiding. Female black widows are shiny black with a red hourglass on their abdomen. The males are brown or gray and dotted with red spots.

If you accidentally disturb a black widow spider, it may bite you. Black widow spider venom affects a human’s nervous system. Some people barely have a response to the venom, while others may experience intense pain and swelling.

If a black widow bites you and you experience stiff muscles, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, or difficulty breathing, you must get medical help right away.

Other serious symptoms include a rash, swollen eyelids, numbness or tremors, and temporary leg paralysis.

Furthermore, if you suspect your child or parent sustained a black widow bite, get them to the ER immediately. Black widow bites are often fatal in older people and young children.

Timber Rattlesnake

View of Timber Rattlesnake
View of Timber Rattlesnake

The timber rattlesnake is the largest rattlesnake found in Nebraska. These heavy snakes are usually light brown, gray, or tan with black bands in the shape of a V. They have wide heads, narrow necks, and yellow eyes. Timber rattlesnakes also have facial pits on each side of their heads between their eyes and nostrils.

Timber rattlesnake bites may be rare, but these snakes have enough potent venom to kill a human if they bite them. It is difficult to do, but if a timber rattlesnake bites you, you must try to stay calm. If you panic, more venom will spread through your bloodstream. Call 911 or get to the nearest ER immediately. If you receive treatment fast, you can recover fully.

If you do not get treatment, the snakebite can be fatal.

Common Desert Centipede

Common Desert Centipede or Scolopendra Polymorpha
Common Desert Centipede or Scolopendra Polymorpha

You would not normally think of a centipede as being dangerous. However, the common desert centipede found in Nebraska delivers an incredibly painful bite. It hurts worse than a wasp sting, and the pain worsens until you get treatment.

People who have been unfortunate enough to be bitten by this centipede have reported that the bite hurts worse than a bullet ant sting and can cause tissue necrosis around the bite wound.

Common desert centipedes are typically orange-brown with black stripes, but some are pale blue with purple stripes. These wild-colored centipedes usually have turquoise legs.

Even if you do not experience an allergic reaction after a common desert centipede bites you, you should seek medical treatment immediately.


Side view of Moose
Side view of a moose

Moose are not native to Nebraska, but there have been sporadic sightings of these animals in recent years. These moose are believed to wander from neighboring states while following river corridors. As recently as 2023, a young bull moose was spotted in Gering.

You do not want to come face-to-face with a moose under any circumstances. Especially if the moose in question is a female defending her young. Female moose kill grizzlies, black bears, and wolves to protect their young. They can and will also kill people.

Bull moose also become highly aggressive during the fall rut. If provoked, they will attack.

If you find yourself in a situation where an agitated moose approaches you, you must back away. If the moose charges at you, you must run fast. Try to get a solid object between you and the moose, ideally a massive tree, building, or car. If the moose strikes you with its front hooves and you are knocked down, protect your head and curl into a ball.

Chances are the moose will stop the attack because sustained attacks are rare. When the moose retreats and is out of sight, get to safety as quickly as possible. If you sustain injuries, seek medical treatment.

Kissing Bug

Adult Kissing Bug of the Genus Panstrongylus
Adult Kissing Bug of the Genus Panstrongylus

Kissing bugs were first discovered in Nebraska in 2021. They usually have cone-shaped heads and are black or dark brown with orange, yellow, or red markings.

Kissing bugs are known to carry a parasite that leads to Chagas disease. Fortunately, this is not common in the U.S., but those bitten by these bugs usually have a bad time of it. These bug bites cause intense itching; some scratch so much that they break the skin. This leads to infection, which makes things worse. These bugs usually bite people on the face around the mouth while they sleep.

If you are bitten at night, the bugs will feed on blood and also poop on your skin. If you rub your skin while sleeping, you can get this poop into your mouth or eyes or in the bite wound. This is typically what causes Chagas disease, caused by the Trypanosoma cruzi parasite.

There are treatments for Chagas disease, but if it is not treated, it can lead to death. This is especially true for people with weak immune systems. Chagas disease also causes complications like heart failure and heart attack. It is crucial to see a doctor or go to the ER immediately if you suspect a kissing bug has bitten you. Getting fast treatment will prevent the bite from becoming infected.


Mosquito on top of someone's hand
Mosquito on top of someone's hand

Mosquitoes are everywhere, including in Nebraska, but they are more than just an annoyance. They spread diseases like malaria, Zika, West Nile Virus, and dengue fever. Pets and livestock are also in harm’s way, with some mosquitoes transmitting dangerous diseases and pests like heartworm.

If you have a mosquito problem in and around your home, you have to eradicate them to prevent the spread of disease. You may be able to get vaccinated to protect against disease, but it is best to rid your home of mosquitoes altogether.

Make sure there is no standing water near your home, and use mosquito netting and bug repellants to keep mosquitoes at bay. Combine these prevention measures to protect yourself and your family against mosquitoes. Remember to always take insect repellant when you spend a prolonged period outdoors (like camping or hiking).


Nebraska is a state filled with creatures of all shapes and sizes, not all deadly. Either way, you must maintain respect and awareness of all animals to keep yourself and your family safe. Knowing when and where to avoid dangerous animals and taking preventative measures can ensure you and your loved ones stay safe.


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