9 Most Dangerous Animals In Ohio: Watch Out For The Deer!

Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake; one of the most dangerous animals in ohio
Photo by Nick Scobel from Flickr
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Believe it or not, there are some dangerous animals in Ohio that could cause serious injury or harm. Like everywhere in the world, there are many species of unseen animals lurking in the shadows, even across the diverse Ohio landscape. From trendy urban spaces to misty-covered national parks, this North American state has plenty of places for dangerous creatures to hide, big and small.

We’ve done the research for you and determined that your chances of survival amongst Ohio’s wildlife are pretty high. Sure, there are venomous snakes and poisonous spiders in Ohio, along with disease-carrying bugs and some mammals you need to give a wide berth. However, most of these dangerous animals choose to avoid humans when they hear us stomping through their necks of the woods!

Read on to learn more about what lurks in the shadows of Ohio. You never know what you may run into!

Venomous Snakes

There are 25 snakes native to Ohio, three of which are venomous and should be avoided. Most snake bites and attacks on humans occur when the snake feels threatened.

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Northern Copperhead

Northern Copperhead coiled in undergrowth
Photo by cowyeow from Flickr
Latin NameAgkistrodon contortrix
Where To FindAcross rocky, forested hillsides, and wetlands of Ohio
CharacteristicsDark chestnut color, blotch pattern, close to 1 meter in length
IUCN StatusLeast concern

Northern copperhead snakes are one of the most commonly seen species across the USA. Luckily, the venom is relatively mild and their behavior is generally quiet. With most human encounters, these snakes will often choose to remain motionless or retreat slowly. However, if agitated enough, this snake will bite giving fair warning before the vigorous attack.

Although this snake is responsible for the highest number of venomous snake bites reported to the CDC, fatalities are extremely rare. While you should always call the emergency services immediately after a snake bite, most cases involving a copperhead don’t require antivenin treatment.

The northern copperhead typically grows to a length of 61–91 cm (24–36 in), some can reach 135 cm (53 in). The color pattern follows an hourglass-shaped pattern running the length of the body. Generally, this species color is a dark chestnut with a copper-red color nearer the head.

Timber Rattlesnake

Timber Rattlesnake coiled in ohio habitat
Photo by Peter Paplanus from Flickr
Latin NameCrotalus horridus
Where To FindAcross deciduous forests in rugged terrain of Ohio
CharacteristicsDark brown in color with yellow bands, close to 1 meter in length
IUCN StatusLeast concern

The timber rattlesnake, also known as a banded rattlesnake, is a venomous pit viper endemic to eastern North America. The species average a length of around 1 meter with long fangs and are identified by dark brown or black crossbands on a yellowish-brown body, along with the rattling tail. This snake is considered the most dangerous snake in the USA.

The venom packed by the timer rattlesnake contains neurotoxic components that can cause significant harm to humans. They have a fearsome reputation are known to be aggressive hunters, preying on large rodents, birds, and even other snakes.

While the IUCN list this species as ‘not threatened’, timber rattlesnake population numbers in Ohio are extremely low and are at risk of becoming endangered in the area. So chances of you seeing one of these snakes while hiking are extremely low, but there is always a possibility.

Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake

Photo by Jake Scott from Flickr
Latin NameSistrurus catenatus
Where To FindAcross wet areas including wet prairies, marshes and low areas along rivers and lakes of Ohio
CharacteristicsLess than 60cm, tan ground color with dark bands
IUCN StatusLeast concern

Massasauga snakes are found across most of the USA and are venomous. The venom is a cytotoxic venom that destroys tissue, so it’s very important to seek medical attention if you are bitten by one of these. There have only been two recorded fatalities caused by a bite from the eastern massasauga rattlesnake (in Ontario), in both cases, the victims did not receive proper treatment.

These are not large snakes, often only growing up to 60 cm in length. The coloring is an excellent camouflage for blending into the various habitats, ranging from swamps and marshes to grasslands. They are typically grey or tan ground color with rows of large rounded brown/black blotches along the length of the body.

Poisonous Spiders

Ohio has so many species of spiders, however, there are two poisonous species you should know about. Spiders only bite humans when disturbed. So don’t reach into crevices and you should be fine!

Black Widow Spider

black widow spider on a web
Photo by Art Vaughan from Flickr
Latin NameLatrodectus mactans
Where To FindAcross sheltered, dimly lit locations of Ohio
CharacteristicsSmall spider with iconic red hourglass coloring on the back
IUCN StatusLeast concern

Black widow spiders are found across the globe and have a strong reputation that’s well earned. Females have the iconic red hourglass brandished on their black backs, while the male spiders tend to be smaller and dark brown. In Ohio, these spiders are most commonly found in old abandoned buildings, wooden outhouses, and barns.

The venom that is part of the black widow spider bite can lead to several complications. The double fang bite can cause some of the following:

  • localized pain
  • swelling
  • redness
  • rising of blood pressure and heart rate
  • infection
  • tissue damage

Brown Recluse Spider

Photo by Tom Jenkins from Flickr
Latin NameLoxosceles reclusa
Where To FindAcross sheltered, dimly lit locations of Ohio
CharacteristicsDark brown coloring, long legs and stocky body
IUCN StatusLeast concern

Brown recluse spiders are another dangerous species found globally and are fairly common in Ohio. In some ways, bites from these spiders are worse than that of a black widow. Side effects can include:

  • redness
  • blistering
  • blue discoloration
  • severe swelling
  • tissue death
  • significant scarring

These spiders are larger than black widows, and as the name suggests, they are brown in color with a slightly darker center. Some individuals can grow to a fairly large size, however, most measure around half an inch across their bodies.

Kissing Bug

Photo by jciv from Flickr
Latin NameTriatominae
Where To FindCan live indoors, in cracks and holes of substandard housing, as well as rocky areas of Ohio
CharacteristicsDark brown coloring, similar looking to cockroaches
IUCN StatusLeast concern

Kissing bugs, also known as Triatomines, are not native to Ohio but numbers have been increasing over the years. These small bugs are similar in appearance and size to cockroaches. However, they are parasites and feeding off the blood of larger animals.

Lucky for us, these bugs tend to stick with smaller mammals and rodents, though a bite to humans is not unheard of. The bite itself is not dangerous. The issue comes with the parasitic Chagas Disease which can be fatal if infected with it.


Photo by Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash
Latin NameCulicidae
Where To FindAcross Ohio, typically close to bodies of water
CharacteristicsSmall, buzzing insect with a long beak-like, sharp sucking mouth
IUCN StatusLeast concern

Mosquitoes are one of the biggest annoyances on the planet and are found in just about every corner of the world. These small bugs can be carriers for some nasty diseases and viruses, including West Nile Virus and Zika Virus. The bites themselves can become sore and painful depending on the individual.

While incidents of these viruses and diseases in Ohio are extremely rare, mosquito bites are common! So remember to load up on the bug spray before venturing out on any trails.

Black Legged Ticks

Photo by Erik Karits on Unsplash
Latin NameIxodes scapularis
Where To FindCan be found under leaf-litter, at the edges of wooded areas, in areas of high grass or thick vegetation
CharacteristicsDark brown coloring, with strong jaws that latch onto other animals
IUCN StatusLeast concern

Similar to mosquitoes and kissing bugs, it’s what the black-legged ticks could be carrying that is dangerous, not so much the bug itself. Ticks are another parasite animal that feeds off mammals, typically found on dogs, cattle, and other livestock.

The ticks in Ohio have been known to spread Lyme Disease. This can be extremely dangerous, some cases even resulting in death, for patients who contract a certain strain of the disease and aren’t treated appropriately. If you have been bitten and develop a fever, be sure to seek medical advice.


Photo by John Thomas on Unsplash
Latin NameCanis latrans
Where To FindCan be found in open grasslands, brushy areas.
CharacteristicsSimilar looking to wolves but smaller, pack animals, can become rabid
IUCN StatusLeast concern

Coyotes are versatile and highly adaptable. These animals thrive in Ohio’s landscape, across forests, agricultural spaces, and brushy areas. This canine species is extremely similar to wolves, but they are slightly smaller. They are carnivorous, with a diet consisting mainly of deer, rabbits, and rodents, however, they occasionally cause issues for farmers with livestock.

Attacks on humans are rare, however, not unheard of. Coyotes can carry the rabies virus which affects the behavior – they become unpredictable and aggressive. A rabid coyote may bite a human if cornered. If you are bitten, you must seek urgent medical attention to receive the appropriate vaccine.

Black Bear

Photo by Pete Nuij on Unsplash
Latin NameUrsus americanus
Where To FindTypically southern Ohio, in intermixed landscapes with forests and open land
CharacteristicsPowerful jaws and paws, protective of young
IUCN StatusLeast concern

Bears do roam wild through Ohio, however, their numbers are decreasing due to the destruction of habitats and excessive hunting. Most of the time, black bears do their best to avoid us. They can be curious though and are often caught rummaging through garbage cans and gardens.

If you do encounter a black bear in Ohio, it’s important to stay calm and slowly retreat. While they tend to be docile, mothers will protect their young if they feel threatened. Black bear claws can do some serious damage if you’re caught in the middle of a swing.

Common Snapping Turtle

Photo by twenty20photos from Envanto Elements
Latin NameChelydra serpentina
Where To FindTypically in almost any freshwater habitat, though it is most often found in slow-moving water with a soft mud bottom
CharacteristicsPowerful jaws, hard shell and long tail
IUCN StatusLeast concern

Common snapping turtles are aptly named! These bad-tempered reptiles are known to have an aggressive streak and have got powerful jaws with a lightning fast bite. Belief is that these turtles are strong enough to sever a finger if caught in an attack!

These turtles average around 18 inches across the shell and at a weight of 25-35 lb. While sighting one in the wild would be awesome, make sure you give them plenty of space. They spend most of their time underwater, so encounters are extremely rare in Ohio.

White-Tailed Deer

Photo by Joe Cox on Unsplash
Latin NameOdocoileus virginianus
Where To FindTypically found in fields and meadows using clumps of broad-leaved and coniferous forests
CharacteristicsFlight animals, can grow large, often cause of road traffic accidents in rural areas
IUCN StatusLeast concern

Last but not least, we have the white-tailed deer. Of course, deer are not out to attack humans. In fact, they are incredibly docile and flight animals, doing their best to avoid us!

Unfortunately, deer are commonly involved in road accidents across Ohio. On average, there are around 200 fatalities, and over 10,000 injuries, each year in the USA caused by deer accidents. The odds of hitting a deer with a car in the US are 1 in 116, which makes them one of the most dangerous animals in Ohio!

Wrap Up: Dangerous Animals In Ohio

Photo by Victoria Tanner on Unsplash

So there you have it! All the animals in Ohio that could cause you serious harm or injury, ranging from the creepy crawlies to a deer caught in headlights. But don’t let this stop you from enjoying ‘The Buckeye State’. Your chances of getting involved with one of these animals are incredibly slim.

What is the most dangerous animal in Ohio?

The timber rattlesnake is the most dangerous animal in Ohio. The venom this snake packs is a strong neurotoxin capable of causing significant pain, and potentially even death in some cases. Luckily, chances of encountering this rattlesnake as super low, even if you’re hiking through Ohio’s wilderness.

So, while most people fear spiders and snakes, the animal that causes the most fatalities in Ohio is actually the white-tailed deer. These majestic animals are often involved in road accidents; at dusk and days with low lighting, drivers struggle to see the deer bounding along the road until the last moment. There are over 200 deaths on the road per year in the US involving collisions with deer.

Are there venomous snakes in Ohio?

Ohio has over 25 species of snakes, three of which are venomous. The timber rattlesnake is the most venomous, closely followed by both the northern copperhead and eastern massasauga rattlesnake. If you are bitten by either of these snakes, you must seek urgent medical attention to receive the appropriate antivenom and cleaning of the wound to avoid further infection.

Fortunately, the snakes in Ohio are extremely shy and do their best to avoid contact with humans. Most are found across the rocky plains, away from developed areas. Homeowners may discover snakes in yards, hiding under leaf piles, or in old outhouses. You should always contact a professional if you need a snake removing from your property, regardless of the species or whether it’s venomous.

Are there dangerous spiders in Ohio?

Spiders can be found across Ohio in both the rural outdoor space and domesticated areas, two species of which are poisonous. Both the black widow and the brown recluse spider can be found in Ohio, hiding in nooks and crannies. Most spider bites occur when people are clearing disused spaces, reaching their hands into a spider’s den by accident.

What is the most dangerous bug in Ohio?

There are three bugs that you should avoid when in Ohio: the kissing bug, black-legged ticks, and mosquitos. Using a strong repellent containing DEET should be enough to ward off these critters. The bugs themselves don’t pose much of a threat to humans, it’s the potential disease or virus that they transfer via a bite that makes them some of the most dangerous animals in Ohio.

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Hi! I'm Abigail, a surfer, traveller, and nature lover. I'm from the UK but have been able to call Bali home for several years. I've backpacked across Australia on a shoestring budget, explored European coastlines, and taken in the sights across the pond and down into South America. My travel wishlist keeps growing the more I explore our perfect planet!