Most Dangerous Animals in Washington and the Pacific Northwest

Without a doubt, Washington State is a paradise of national parks, mountains, crystal lakes, and lush evergreen forests. Anyone lucky enough to call the state home knows they live in a true paradise. Residents must remember, however, that we share such natural beauty with dozens upon dozens of animal species, some of whom can pose a grave danger. Below is a list of the most dangerous animals to be found in the great Evergreen State.

#8 Bears

While Washington is home to both black bears and grizzlies, the latter is far rarer and more sequestered in the far corner of the state. Wildlife experts believe there are less than 100 grizzlies located between the Selkirk Grizzly Bear Recovery Zone and the North Cascades. The species’ population has seen a minor bump in its numbers, but not enough for casual Pacific Northwest hikers to worry much about stumbling upon one.

Washingtonians are far more likely to run into the grizzly’s cousin, the misnamed black bear. Estimates put the number of black bears in Washington at as much as 25,000 and they are located in virtually every corner of the state. If you do happen to come across a black bear, remember that they are likely more scared of you than vice versa. Black bears are more interested in eating bugs and plants than they are in wayward hikers. Simply follow these 4 tips and everything will turn out fine:

  • Walk backwards away from the bear and never turn your back on them to run
  • Avoid eye contact
  • Speak softly and remain calm; do not startle the bear into a defensive posture
  • Pick up your children to prevent them from panicking or running away

#7 Mountain Lionsdangerous animal washington

Weighing in at close to 150 pounds, mountain lions are the feline kings of the Pacific Northwest. They are also one of the most elusive of animals. Creeping along the forest floor or leaping from treetop to treetop, if you have a chance encounter with a mountain lion it will likely be too late. Mountain lions, also known as pumas or cougars, are true natural born killers.

Luckily, mountain lion attacks are rare in Washington State. Since 1924, only 20 attacks have been reported to authorities and such attacks are often due to misidentification on the giant cat’s behalf. The most recent attack, upon a North Bend bicyclist, likely occurred because the mountain lion mistook the hapless biker for a sprinting deer. If you do, per chance, bump into a mountain lion on a hiking trail or while camping you should avoid running, make yourself appear bigger, and never turn your back on the animal. And if the mountain lion attacks, fight like hell. Your goal to survive is to convince the animal that you are not prey, but something far more dangerous.

#6 Rattlesnakes

Washington is home to over a dozen snake species, yet only one is actually poisonous: the Western rattlesnake. Growing as large as 4 feet long, the Western rattlesnake is a common sight in arid region of Eastern Washington. Rattlesnakes of virtually every variety are easy to identify by their diamond-shaped heads and the eponymous rattles at the tip of their tails.

Rattlesnakes are best to be avoided altogether. Even dead, they are known to bite by reflex alone. If you are bitten by a rattlesnake remain calm and do your best to keep the wound below your heart. Avoid using erroneous solutions such as a tourniquet, lancing the wound, or even attempting to suck out the venom. The best advice after being bitten by a rattlesnake is to call 911 immediately and to not panic.

#5 Spiders

Similar to snakes, poisonous spider bites are a rare occurrence in the Pacific Northwest. A number of people do die from them annually though. And no other spider kills more people each year than the infamous black widow. These spiders are easy to identify due to their characteristic red markings and hourglass shape. Thankfully, black widows rarely attack humans so as long as you stay away from their eggs you should be okay.

The only other venomous spider in Washington State is the yellow sac spider. While the bite of such a spider is quite painful, it is not deadly. If you are bitten by a yellow sac spider you could experience a sharp pain similar to a bee sting and a blister might form. Occasionally, bite victims describe feeling ill after being bitten, but they eventually recover after a few weeks. Our advice would be to visit your doctor or healthcare professional just to be safe.

#4 Bees, Wasps, and Hornets

These flying insects may not technically be considered animals, but they certainly do cause their fair share of deaths and injuries to the United States population. Over 100 deaths are reported annually from been, wasp, and hornet stings in the US alone. Most of these deaths are due to an allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis, which is an overreaction by the immune system. The poison passed on by such flying insects are known to cause the following symptoms:

  • Discoloration of the skin, red or white
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Hives
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Diarrhea
  • Periods of unconsciousness
  • Shock

If you’ve suffered a sting or a bite from such a flying insect and exhibit the symptoms of anaphylaxis, do not hesitate to call 911. It’s better to be safe than thrashing about on the ground from a dangerous allergic reaction.

#3 Dogs

Modern dogs may have been bred and domesticated to be adorable and utterly irresistible, but the injuries they cause are far from cute for victims. According to CDC statistics, over 5 million people suffer dog bites each year in the United States. Considering that 1/3 of these bites become infected, a dog attack is not something to simply shrug off. Compared to more ferocious animal attacks, such as sharks and bears, dog bites may seem benign but they are far more common. To put the numbers in perspective, 1 out of every 70 Americans are victims of dog bites every year. So the next time you come upon a cute dog in the street, you might want to reconsider stopping to give Fido a pat on the head.

#2 Deer

Easily the most unexpected animal on this list, deer are one of the most dangerous in all of Washington State. Few would have guessed Bambi could be so deadly. Each year, dozens of people are injured in car accidents involving deer attempting to cross busy streets and highways. Deer collisions with automobiles lead to an average of 200 deaths annually and over a billion dollars in car accidents and property damage. Drivers should be especially wary during deer mating season which runs from October to December.

The most effective way to avoid hitting deer with your car is to, first and foremost, always fasten your seat belt. You should also be mindful of deer crossing signs and if you see a deer, be prepared to encounter more since deer tend to travel in packs. If you are about to collide with a deer try to brake instead of swerving since this often leads to a rollover car crash. Keep such precautions in mind and you should make it out of deer country in one piece. Unless you come across one of those bizarre zombie deer, then you may need to see a doctor ASAP.

#1 Humans

Listing humans as the most dangerous animal in all of Washington and the Pacific Northwest may seem to be a cop-out, but there’s no denying the numbers. Each and every time you leave your house, the greatest threat you’ll face day in and day out is that of other humans. Just one look at the latest crime and car accident statistics shows humans have earned their place at the top of this list:

  • 13,100 cases of Aggravated Assault
  • 195 Murders
  • 5,651 Robberies
  • 22,023 instances of Violent Crime
  • 49,180 reports of Burglary
  • 1,932 serious injury car accidents
  • 525 fatal auto crashes