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Most Dangerous Animals in Nebraska

When imagining regions with high concentrations of deadly animals, the American Midwest probably doesn’t rise to the top of the list. However, this area is home to venomous spiders and snakes, disease-ridden insects, and even some predatory mammals.

We’ll discuss some of the most dangerous animals in the state of Nebraska and how to stay safe around them.

A rattlesnake in attack positionVenomous Snakes

There are four species of venomous snakes in Nebraska, most of which are only found in the southeastern corner of the state. All four are pit vipers, a classification that includes rattlesnakes and copperheads.

Any time you encounter a snake, give it plenty of space. Most snakes will not strike unless provoked or threatened. Do not attempt to catch or hurt a snake, as several snake species are protected in the state of Nebraska.

If you are bitten by one of these snakes, seek medical attention right away.

Timber rattlesnake

Also known as the banded rattlesnake and canebrake rattlesnake, the timber rattlesnake tends to live in forests and along the limestone bluffs found along the Missouri River. They’re most commonly found in Jefferson, Gage, and Pawnee counties in Nebraska.

The timber rattlesnake is typically tan, gold, or light brown with horizontal black bands from head to tail. They can grow up to five feet in length, though they are typically closer to four feet. They are active from April to November.

Western massasauga

The western massasauga has a similar range to the timber rattlesnake, with most sightings occurring in Jefferson, Gage, Thayer, and Pawnee counties. Unlike the timber rattlesnake, however, massasaugas prefer grasslands, wet prairies, and floodplains over forests.

The massasauga is much smaller than the timber rattlesnake; some massasaugas are shorter than two feet long. They are usually gray or brown with dark blotches on their backs. They are often confused for some of the non-venomous snakes of Nebraska. 

Copperhead snake

Copperheads are not rattlesnakes like the rest of the reptiles on this list, nor is their venom as strong as the other snakes’. They are a reddish-brown color with light-colored crossbands outlined in white.

Copperheads have only been found in Richardson and Gage counties. They live in hilly, wooded areas, where they can blend in with the soil and rocks on the ground. They shake their tails when frightened, but do not have a rattle to make noise.

Prairie rattlesnake

Unlike the other three, prairie rattlesnakes can be found across a large swath of Nebraska, their range covering the entire western half of the state. This snake prefers short grass prairies with rocky mesas.

Prairie rattlesnakes can grow as long as 45 inches and are usually greenish, gray, or brown. Dark colored blotches run down the length of their backs, getting lighter toward the tail.

Mountain Lion

A mountain lion perches on a a rock while focusing.

For a time, mountain lions, also known as cougars or pumas, were considered extinct in Nebraska, the last known sighting happening in the early 1900s. Sometime in the late 20th century, the big cats began to recolonize the state, with a confirmed kill of a female mountain lion occuring in 1991.

Today, the sleek and muscular cats live in three areas in the state: the Pine Ridge ecosystem, the Niobara Valley, and the Wildcat Hills. Mountain lions are skilled hunters and may view humans as prey, particularly if they are alone or vulnerable. While attacks are rare, they can be fatal. 

Hike in groups when in mountain lion territory. Make noise to announce your presence, and if you encounter one, maintain eye contact, stand tall, and slowly back away without turning your back.

Black Widow Spider

Black widow spiders are one of the deadliest spiders in North America. Their venom contains neurotoxins that can cause severe pain, muscle cramps, and other symptoms, particularly in vulnerable individuals. 

Fortunately, black widows are easy to recognize—most people are familiar with the red hourglass-shaped marking on the spiders’ bellies. They also prefer to play dead rather than bite threats. Most black widow bites to humans occur when the spider is accidentally squeezed or pinched.

To stay safe around black widow spiders, wear gloves and long sleeves when working in areas where they may reside, such as sheds or garages. Use caution when reaching into dark or hidden spaces, and seek medical attention if bitten.

Brown Recluse Spiders

Brown recluse spiders are another species of venomous spider found throughout the United States. Nebraska is in the very northern part of the spider’s range, so they are typically only found in the southeastern region of the state.

The venom of the brown recluse can cause skin ulcers in humans, which can take months to heal. These spiders can be difficult to recognize and are often confused with other species of spiders, making them potentially more dangerous than the black widow.

Brown recluse spiders are light brown with a dark violin-shaped marking on their backs. Like black widows, they make their homes in dark, undisturbed spaces.


Mosquitoes are, far and away, the most dangerous animal in the world. These tiny insects kill hundreds of thousands of people every year. Though their bite itself is not deadly, they can pick up dozens of diseases by feeding on human and animal blood. They then transmit these diseases when they bite.

Malaria is the most common mosquito-borne disease—more than 200 million cases are diagnosed every single year. West Nile virus is another deadly disease humans can pick up from mosquitoes. It is especially dangerous to elderly adults and those who are immunocompromised.

Prevent mosquito bites by using EPA-registered insect repellents and wearing clothes that cover your arms and legs. Cover strollers and baby carriers with mosquito netting.


Coyotes are slender, dog-like canines with gray or reddish-brown fur and bushy tails. They inhabit a variety of habitats in Nebraska, including prairies, forests, and urban areas. 

Coyotes rarely attack humans, but they may attempt to prey on small children, livestock, or pets. Keep your dogs on leash when hiking, as a coyote may attempt to lure them back to their den, where their pack waits.

Keep pets inside at nighttime and secure livestock. Always keep an eye on small children while they play outside. Do not keep pet food or food waste outdoors. If you see a coyote on your property, shout and wave your hands to scare it away.


Wasp stings are, thankfully, not typically life-threatening, unless the victim is allergic to their venom. There are several types of wasps that live in Nebraska, including hornets and yellowjackets.

In general, these stinging insects will not harm humans unless they feel threatened or provoked. Depending on the species, stinging a human may kill the wasp.

If you find a wasp nest in a dangerous area on your property, keep an eye on it to see if it is active. If it has been abandoned, you can safely remove it yourself. If you see wasps coming in and out, or if you aren’t sure if it is active, it is a good idea to contact a pest control service to take care of the nest instead.

If you are stung by a wasp, remove the stinger as soon as possible. Apply ice to the sting to minimize swelling. The affected area will likely hurt and itch for a few days, but with antihistamines and acetaminophen, most people will recover fairly quickly.

In the case of allergic reactions, seek medical attention immediately. Severe swelling and difficulty breathing are both evidence of allergic reactions. The allergic individual may have a prescription for epinephrine—if so, they should use it as directed.

White-Tailed Deer

White-tailed deer are abundant in Nebraska‘s woodlands and fields, posing a significant risk to motorists. Collisions with deer can cause serious injuries or fatalities, particularly at dawn and dusk when deer are most active. 

To stay safe while driving, exercise caution, especially in rural areas and during deer mating season (October to December). Be vigilant for deer crossing signs and scan the road ahead for movement. Use your high beams when it is dark and slow down when making blind corners or coming over hills.


Dogs are, of course, not wild animals, but that does not mean they cannot be deadly. Thanks to their proximity to humans, domestic dogs are one of the most dangerous animals in the world in terms of number of bites. Dog attacks can cause serious injury or death—approximately 30-50 people are killed by dogs each year in the United States.

To keep yourself, your family, and your dog safe, train your dog to come immediately when called. Keep your dog on leash in public spaces and do not allow them to approach other dogs without the owner’s permission. Even if your dog is friendly, other dogs may not be.

If you are approached by an aggressive dog, do not run. Stand firm and speak calmly. Attempt to distract the dog by throwing food or objects away from yourself. If you can get on top of a wall or car, do so.

If you are bitten by a dog, seek medical attention right away. Report the bite to animal control and consider contacting a dog bite attorney. The Nebraska Advocates have years of experience representing dog bite victims, and we can help you too. Contact us today for a free consultation.