If you’re heading to the Yellowhammer State and want to know about the most dangerous animals in Alabama, then you’ve come to the right place. This guide will delve into the animal world in this corner of the US Deep South to showcase the critters and the creatures that we think might just demand a bit of attention from would-be travelers.
It’s a pretty eclectic list. Through the five animals that we focus on, you’ll see hulking bears that patrol the coastal forests and the northern hills, semi-aquatic snakes that love the sprawling swamplands of Alabama, and even spiders that have somehow navigated their way here from the balmy depths of South America.
It can make for some pretty uncomfortable reading if you’re concerned about snakebites and arachnids, we have to be honest. But remember that deadly incidents with the critters below do tend to be very rare and you can mitigate risks even more by taking proper precautions. In other words, we don’t think you should let the most dangerous animals in Alabama influence your trip to this fun-filled corner of the stars and stripes…
Eastern copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix)
Ah, the eastern copperhead – perhaps the most common type of pit viper in the whole of the USA. This one lives all over the Yellowhammer State but that’s really just a small portion of where it can be found. Mhmm…you’re just as likely to spot one amid the Catskills of New York State or the riparian woods of the Ohio River valley in the Midwest as down here on the sunny shores of the Gulf of Mexico.
Talking of spotting one, you’re on the hunt for a medium-sized serpent specimen that can usually clock up 60-85cm but could be a touch longer in some regions. They are colored rich brown and tan tones, with the occasional pinkish tinge to the top of the body. The underbellies tend to be darker again, mingling better with the undergrowth, but can also have patches of pale white.
Venom from the Agkistrodon contortrix isn’t likely to kill you. Still, these guys deserve a place on this list of the most dangerous animals in Alabama because they can do some hefty damage. Localized symptoms are particularly noticeable – you’re typically looking at immense pain at the site of contact, out-of-control swelling, and pins and needles that last for hours on end.
Eastern copperheads are fantastically well adapted snakes that can live and thrive in a whole host of different sorts of habitats. Their overall favorite places are thick mixed woodlands (of which Alabama has plenty). During the winter months, you’ll regularly find them holed up with rattlesnake pals in rocky outcrops.
American black bear (Ursus americanus)
Yep – there are bears in Alabama. Cue the American black bear, which are known to reside all across the contiguous US and even beyond, from the shores of Southeastern Alaska to the hardwood forests of Texas and the Florida panhandle. They live in a very wide variety of habitats, but generally make their home in palmetto woods in these balmier southern states, though also reside in mixed deciduous forests in the northern part of the territory.
You’re looking for a beefy customer that can weigh up to 250kgs a pop – that’s a quarter of a ton! Thankfully, the ones that live in the southeast of the US – Yellowhammer included – tend to be a touch smaller than that. They possess long claws and are clever to boot, capable of using tools like rocks to hunt prey, and even open doors according to some reports!
Unlike their very distant cousins, the feared grizzly bear, black bears aren’t known to come into frequent conflict with humans. They are much more solitary by nature and will tend to avoid confrontation when possible. It does happen, though, and something near 1,000 incidents of bear on human violence are now recorded each year in the USA, usually close to national reserves.
Eastern diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus)
Beware the Crotalus adamanteus. Seriously, we’re not joking – this bad boy is considered to be the single most venomous snake in the whole of North America. So, that certainly puts it close to the top of the list of the most dangerous animals in Alabama. Some estimations put the mortality rate of humans who’ve suffered a bite from the eastern diamondback rattlesnake at a whopping 30%. That means nearly a third of people who get bitten won’t recover. Yikes!
The venom in question is a potent mix of enzymes that play havoc with the cardiovascular system. After injection, they can cause painful local symptoms and quickly progress into severe hemorrhaging and blood loss. There are some useable antivenins that can stem the flow of it, but they don’t always work and you’ll need lots of it very fast, which isn’t always possible.
The good news is that eastern diamondback rattlesnakes only occupy a small portion of the country. It’s a bend in the Florida Panhandle that reaches up to the edge of the Carolinas and across to Mississippi. Alabama is right there in the thick of it, and it’s actually thought that old Yellowhammer has some of the highest population numbers.
These snakes tend to be pretty darn large – some specimens have measured in excess of 2.5 meters. They’ve got a dusty, dark tan and brown color scheme and a trademark rattler at the end of the tail. They particularly like to live in palmetto flatwoods and sandy shoreline regions amid the dunes. However, they are also regularly seen in swamps and bayous.
Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus)
Capable of hitting nearly two meters in length, the cottonmouth is one of the largest types of pit viper that you’ll come across in the Yellowhammer State. That’s backed up by an aggressive nature – studies have shown that over three quarters of these guys will attack when provoked, compared to a mere 20% that prefer to avoid confrontation. Oh, and there’s that venom; a cell-killing cytotoxic venom that can leave you dead or short a limb without too much trouble.
Cottonmouths are also called water moccasins for their penchant for living in aquatic habitats. They’re often found residing in murky wetlands, preferring warmer, muddier waters that don’t openly flow – those Alabama swamps are sounding just a touch more dangerous, eh? Sometimes, they’ll emerge into palmetto and eucalyptus thickets, where they can lie in wait on hiking paths, biting any humans that happen to step too close (at least that’s how the most bite incidents go down).
Aside from the large size, cottonmouth snakes can be discerned by their dark brown and black color schemes and they unique shape of their head, which is noticeably diamondlike. Peer inside the mouth (or, better yet, don’t!) and you’d see a light skin tone of pale pinks and white – the reason for the rather odd name.
Unfortunately for those who really don’t like snakes, cottonmouths reside almost all over Alabama. They are present in the woods that run along the Gulf of Mexico coast right up to the rolling streams and pines of the Bankhead National Forest. The only part of the state where they don’t make their home is in the far northeast where it gets a little too hilly.
Chilean recluse (Loxosceles laeta)
There have been reports of the feared Chilean recluse making its way out of its native South America and up into the warmer southern states of the US in the last few decades. To date, colonies have been recorded in LA country, CA, in the Sunshine State of Florida, and even in Kansas. Experts are all but sure they are also now present in Alabama and the Deep South to boot.
Capable of growing up 40mm across, the Chilean recluse is a strange looking beast. It’s got a pale, yellowish hue the whole way across, with legs and limbs that can look almost see-through on occasion. The marking down the back is the most famous aspect of their appearance. It’s shaped distinctly like a violin, which lends the critter it’s more common name: The fiddleback spider.
Unlike other dangerous spiders that you can cross paths with in Alabama – the black widow especially – these guys aren’t particularly aggressive. In fact, they really don’t like human contact at all. However, there’s a sheer potency to the bite that means they are a whole load more worrisome than other eight-leggers in these parts.
Mhmm…a nip from a Chilean recluse can lead to total death of the skin cells around the bite, spreading and swelling into a severe local infection that can warrant proper medical treatment and hospitalization. Most bites occur when people pull on pieces of clothing with a recluse tucked away somewhere inside, so check those tees and jackets before getting dressed!
The most dangerous animals in Alabama – our conclusion
There are plenty of dangerous animals in Alabama. This guide focuses in on five of what we consider to be the most formidable specimens. It’s got venomous snakes that you’ll find in the swamps of the Deep South, claw-wielding bears that patrol the state’s palmetto forests, and spiders that actually originate all the way away in South America.