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Dangerous Wildlife in Michigan (8 Animals)

Michigan is home to a wide variety of wildlife, some that is harmless and some that can be dangerous. The shores of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior attract a wide variety of insects and arachnids, while venomous snakes could be waiting for you under any log, In this article, we will look at some of the most dangerous wildlife in Michigan. We’ll show you how to identify it, and why it’s dangerous.

Let’s have a look!

Photo collage dangerous wildlife in Michigan

Dangerous wildlife in Michigan

Most wildlife living in Michigan is harmless. However, there are a few species that if provoked can cause some serious harm. From venomous spiders to 2-foot long rattlesnakes, a few species living in Michigan can be downright terrifying.

Here is a look at a few species that you want to avoid next time you are in Michigan and how to identify them.

1. Brown Recluse Spider

brown recluse spider
brown recluse spider

The Brown Recluse Spider is known to be one of the most dangerous animals living within the Michigan borders. Most of the time you won’t even know that you have bitten. However, these spiders are venomous.

Symptoms from a Brown Recluse Spider bite include fever, convulsions, itching, nausea, muscle pain, and in rare cases death. If you are bitten by one, it is best to visit a doctor immediately.

Brown Recluse Spiders are most commonly found in the counties surrounding the Ohio and Indiana borders. They are brown and easily identified with a violin-shaped mark on their body. They have a light brown hue with yellow spots and are found near rocks and inside logs.

2. Black Widow Spider

One of the most well-known of the arachnids, the Black Widow Spider, is commonly found in the western lower peninsula of Michigan. Similar to Brown Recluse Spiders, Black Widows are dangerous, because they are venomous.

Some people are barely affected by the Black Widow’s venom, while others may have a more serious reaction. Symptoms from the bite can include burning, swelling, muscle pain, and paralysis of the diaphragm. Fatalities are rare but are most common in children and the elderly.

Black Widows are fairly easy to recognize. They are all black with two red triangles that form an hourglass on the underside of their abdomen. The spiders like dark, dry spaces like garages, hollow stumps, and dense vegetation.

3. Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake

image: Peter Paplanus | Flickr | CC BY 2.0 | Massasauga Rattlesnake

The Easter Massasauga Rattlesnake is the only venomous snake in Michigan. It can grow up to almost two feet in length once it is fully matured. While the snake won’t attack you unless provoked, their bites can be very dangerous.

Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnakes are considered more venomous than most other venomous snakes. Their venom can cause damage to your circulatory system destroying blood cells and skin tissue resulting in internal hemorrhaging. At the very least, their bites are extremely painful.

These rattlesnakes have heart-shaped heads, vertical pupils, and thick bodies. They are grey or light brown with large chocolate-brown splotches. They enjoy wet areas and are especially common along the lake edges. Keep an eye out for them under logs, tree roots, or in small mammal habitats.

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4. Black-legged Ticks

image by Fairfax County via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

The Black-legged Tick, also known as the deer tick, can seem relatively harmless due to its small size. However, its small size is actually what makes it so dangerous. It can attach to a mammal without notice spreading disease and wreaking havoc on its unsuspecting host.

Black-legged ticks can spread diseases like anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and Lyme disease. Of the greatest concern is Lyme disease as it can affect joints and the central nervous system if left untreated.

Deer ticks are about the size of a sesame seed and nearly impossible to spot prior to attaching to a host. They hide in the grass and shrubs and climb up the host for several hours before attaching. They prefer to attach to humans at the back of the neck near the base of the skull.

5. Mosquitoes

Like ticks, mosquitoes themselves are more of an annoyance than a danger. However, the diseases that they spread are extremely dangerous to humans.

Two of the most dangerous diseases that mosquitoes spread are the West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). West Nile Virus can cause seizures, muscle weakness, and confusion. EEE will attack the brain and spinal cord, which is always dangerous.

There are over 60 different species of mosquitoes living in Michigan, so they can be found practically anywhere. Mosquitoes are attracted to water so try to avoid standing water or water-drenched plains if you are looking to escape them.

6. Paper Wasp

source: Insects Unlocked

Paper Wasps are very common in Michigan and can be very dangerous if provoked. They are venomous and, unlike bees, do not die after one sting.

Paper Wasp stings can be painful and cause redness and swelling. They are especially dangerous and can be lethal to those who have an allergic reaction to their stings. If you are stung, it is important to not swat or squash the wasps as it will further irritate the wasps.

Paper Wasps have slender bodies that are a little less than an inch long. They are mostly black with yellow markings. They tend to build paper-like nests in trees, vegetation, or even on decks and in garages.

7. Black Bears

Black Bears are actually very docile creatures, but they make the list because they can be dangerous if encounters are handled poorly. Death due to Black Bear attacks only account for one death per year annually.

If you do find yourself face-to-face with a black bear it is important to remain calm, but identify yourself as a human by talking slowly. Most attacks occur when there is a cub involved or if the bear is attacking a human as a last resort for food.

Black bears can be identified by their black fur. There are approximately 17,000 black bears living in Michigan, and they mostly live in the upper peninsula. Check out this article for black bear populations around the country.

8. Gray Wolves

image by Raed Mansour via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
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Wolves were seriously at risk of becoming extinct in Michigan in the 197os; however, over the past two decades, they have made an astounding recovery. Wolves are typically shy around humans but have been known to attack humans if there is an opportunity. Their amazing speeds and razor-sharp teeth make them extremely threatening.

Wolves hunt in packs and innately chase after prey that is fleeing. If you do see a wolf, do not run away. Back away slowly while maintaining eye contact and making yourself as large as possible.

There are approximately 700 gray wolves living in Michigan and almost all of them reside in the Upper Peninsula. There are about 15 wolves that live on Michigan’s Isle Royale National Park.