Side view of a coyote.

The 12 Deadliest Animals In Virginia

Virginia is known for the Appalachian Mountains and majestic coastline across the Atlantic. As one of the 13 original colonies, Virginia is a state full of rich history to reflect on. Virginia is brimming with intriguing historical landmarks such as the Monticello, George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Arlington National Cemetery, and Colonel Williams Visitor Center. There's much to explore in Virginia for people interested in visiting the southeastern US state. But what about the wild animals that roam freely in Virginia? Some animals are far deadlier than others. How would you react if you were visiting one of Virginia's incredible historical landmarks but suddenly faced with a wild animal ready to attack? Here is a breakdown of the 12 deadliest animals you might encounter while spending time in Virginia.

Copperhead Snakes

A closeup shot of a copperhead snake laying on dirt
A closeup shot of a copperhead snake laying on dirt.

A snake bite from a copperhead snake is rarely ever fatal, but that doesn’t mean these slithering creatures shouldn’t be avoided at all costs. Their venom has a low potency, but a bite from a copperhead snake will undoubtedly cause you loads of pain. If you’re ever bitten by a copperhead snake while hanging out in Virginia, or anywhere else for that matter, it’s in your best interest to seek medical attention immediately. Out of 7000 8000 venomous snake bites that occur each year across the United States, research shows that around 2920 of them come from copperhead snakes. This means that they’re accountable for 39% of venomous snake bites. Be wary of abandoned farm buildings, wood dumping grounds, sawdust piles, junkyards, and old construction areas since these are places where copperhead snakes roam.

Brown Recluse Spiders

Brown recluse spider close-up
Brown recluse spider close-up.

Whether you find spiders scary or not, staying away from brown recluse spiders is the smartest route in Virginia. Whether a brown recluse spider is male or female, it will grow to be anywhere between six and 10 millimeters long. Usually, brown recluse spiders are spotted with yellow to grayish-brown bodies and legs. Since brown recluse spiders commonly live inside homes and buildings filled with human beings, it’s difficult to avoid them. The good news about bites from brown recluse spiders is that they’re pretty rare unless these crawling critters are provoked. These bites can lead to muscle pain, fever, nausea, itching, and convulsions. In the direst of cases, these bites will lead to necrosis.


Western Coyote (Canis latrans)
Western Coyote (Canis latrans).

Having a natural fear of coyotes is normal and healthy as a human being. Coyotes are natural hunters, meaning they are liable to attack if they’re hungry or scared. Coyotes consume a versatile diet, including grass, berries, and meat. Coyotes typically live in forests and mountains, but they've been known to meander into colonized lands full of human beings. One of the biggest dangers regarding coyotes in domestic areas is that they can sneak into your backyard to attack small pets such as cats or dogs. For this reason, it’s best to keep small animals inside at night. When it comes to coyote attacks on humans in Virginia, that issue is incredibly rare. The level of rarity doesn’t mean the threat of a coyote attack shouldn’t be taken seriously. Coyotes will use their sharp claws and teeth to scratch and bite.

Timber Rattlesnakes

Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus)
Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus).

Since timber rattlesnakes can grow to be anywhere from 30 to 60 inches long, it’s not difficult to spot these ambush predators as they slither around. They prefer living in forests, which means you'll have to keep an eye out for them while hiking. Timber rattlesnakes are arguably the most dangerous animals in Virginia since their venom is highly dangerous. The venom they release is potent enough to end your life fully. According to Fox News, a rattlesnake expert died after being bitten by a timber rattlesnake in West Virginia back in 2022. Humans should avoid these snakes since they won't hesitate to strike.

Black Bears

Black bear profile looking sideways
Black bear profile looking sideways.

Black bears can weigh up to 600 pounds and stand as tall as six feet. Their non-retractable claws can be used to attack prey they're ready to fight or eat. For the most part, black bears are timid around human beings. As of now, only a couple of bear attacks have been reported in Virginia. They prefer spending time in forests and mountains, which means people will only cross paths with them when venturing into nature. As far as a black bear's diet goes, they enjoy chowing down on berries, sedges, fruit, and insects. While it’s true that black bears likely wouldn’t hurt human beings unless they’re being provoked, their ability to kill still exists.

Cottonmouth Snakes

Side view of a Cottonmouth snake, ready to strike
Side view of a Cottonmouth snake, ready to strike.

Another dangerous snake to keep an eye out for in Virginia happens to be the cottonmouth snake. They’re the only aquatic snakes in Virginia that are also highly venomous. They slither around near bodies of water, including rivers, streams, ponds, slams, and marshes. Swimmers in Virginia should be wary. If you’re ever passing through a flooded field or drainage ditch in southeastern Virginia, it’s also in your best interest to stay alert against cottonmouth snakes. Cottonmouth snake bites are rare, but they're quite serious if they occur. The venom of a cottonmouth snake does enough damage to destroy human tissue.


North American porcupine
North American porcupine.

Porcupines are covered in sharp quills that will bring you undeniable pain if you get poked. The good news is that they’re only dangerous if you try to pick them up! Porcupines only ever use their quills as a way of self-defense. If they do not feel the need to defend themselves, you likely won’t have to suffer from the pain of touching their pointy bodies. Porcupines roam around open tundra, desert lands, and forests. Humans never need to cross paths with porcupines unless they're adventuring in one of those outdoor zones. Keep in mind that porcupines are not inherently aggressive, yet they are still dangerous. These vegetarian animals don’t prefer to live their lives on offense. If they are left alone, their defensive nature never needs to surface. If they feel threatened, their defensive side may be revealed.

Wild Boars

Wild boar in forest
Wild boar in the forest.

Interestingly enough, wild boars were not always spotted roaming around Virginia. They're invasive mammals that were brought to Virginia from overseas in the 1980s. Wild boars have no fear and tend to be aggressive around other living beings, including humans. Their appetites are seemingly insatiable, so they do not hold back when ready to chow down. Wild boars reside in 20 of the 95 Virginian counties. They pose a health risk because they're capable of spreading disease and they're capable of brutally attacking humans. Fortunately, attacks on humans are a rare occurrence, however, it is best to stay wary of wild boars, particularly in swamps, riparian zones, brushlands, forests, and agricultural fields.

Black Widow Spiders

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

Since black widow spiders are so commonly recognized and talked about, plenty of folks might not understand how dangerous they are. In reality, they are the most venomous spiders that crawl around Virginia. The toxins that come from a black widow spider bite are 15 times stronger than the toxins from the bite of a rattlesnake. Since their bites can be so extremely poisonous, it’s crucial to seek medical care as soon as possible if a black widow spider bite ever happens to you. These bites will often feel extremely painful at the site, making them difficult to ignore. Black widow spiders might be attracted to your living space if you've got cluttered areas in your garage or home. Since Virginians can spot them inside their houses, remaining vigilant is key.

Bull Sharks

Approaching bull shark swimming on a very close approach
Approaching bull shark.

Going swimming in Virginia Beach means you’re potentially exposing yourself to shark attacks. Shark attacks are super rare in Virginia, though. Their rarity means the fear of a shark attack doesn’t have to be a top concern that creates loads of anxiety or worry. Since the mid-19th century, there have been only five unprovoked shark attacks in Virginia. Bull sharks are specifically spotted in Virginia along the coast and Chesapeake Bay. These sharks are a little more haunting since they can successfully survive in saltwater and freshwater. Some of the ways you can avoid a shark attack in Virginia are by avoiding swimming areas near piers and swimming far away from dolphins. You also shouldn't swim at dusk or dawn since those are timeframes when sharks are spotted more often.


Image of a wild rat
Image of a wild rat

Despite the small size of rats, these pesky critters are more dangerous than you might guess. Folks living in or visiting Virginia should keep an eye out for brown rats and black rats alike. They dig holes in the sides of homes and offices to bury and shield themselves from the elements of the great outdoors. The biggest issue that comes along with rat infestations is that they’re known to carry diseases and pathogens. A rat bite in Virginia isn't something that should be taken lightly. If a rat bite occurs, you should tell a medical provider about your exposure to rodents as soon as possible. While rats eat diets that mainly consist of fruit, plants, and seeds, they've also been known to feast on the flesh of the dead.


Elk in a state forest
Elk in a state forest

Elk are animals that deserve to be admired from afar. They most certainly shouldn’t be approached by human beings. The reason why? They are dangerously unpredictable and incalculable. During the fall and winter seasons, male elk get more aggressive as they grow territorial in their search for a female mate. Female elks get more aggressive during the spring as they protect their babies. Summer is the only time they are not seasonally impacted, but it is still in your best interest to avoid them year-round in Virginia.

Whether you’re planning to relocate to Virginia permanently or only want to book a weekend getaway, it’s vital to watch for some of the deadliest animals that roam throughout the state. Bites from copperhead snakes can be painful, while Brown recluse spiders can be uncovered inside your home. Coyotes have been known to attack small animals, while the venom in Timber rattlesnakes has been enough to end human lives. Black bears have the capacity to kill humans, and cottonmouth snakes have bites that can destroy human tissue! Keeping yourself safe when it comes to wild animals and insects is the best way to live, regardless of your chosen state. Ultimately, mankind should prioritize conservation efforts that keep humans and wildlife as safe as possible. There's a delicate balance between admiring wild animals with respect and taking the necessary steps to protect their natural habitats.


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