17 things lurking in the woods of Ohio that can kill you
Your likelihood of dying in the back woods of Ohio is almost non-existent. You have a better chance of winning the lottery or getting struck by lightning than perishing from a rattlesnake bite or a bear attack. The Browns are more likely to win the Super Bowl this year than you are to be bitten by deadly Brown Recluse spider or a rabid coyote.
That having been said, if you were to die in the forests of the Buckeye state, it will likely be at the hands (or fangs, or paws) of one of these things:
The Timber Rattlesnake is on the endangered species list and today only lives in a handful of Ohio counties. But it’s one of the few venomous snakes residing in the Buckeye State. There’s little reason to worry about the timber rattler, however, as it isn’t generally considered aggressive and only bites humans in self-defense.
It’s important to note that the vast majority of snake bites aren’t deadly. Roughly 8,000 people are bitten by venomous snakes in the United States every year, and only around a dozen of those bites are fatal.
The Northern Copperhead is the most common venomous snake in Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Much like the Timber Rattlesnake, it doesn’t slither through the woods looking for people to inject with its poison. Experts say its most common victims are small rodents and it won’t attack a human being unless provoked. Even when it does bite people, fatal bites are incredibly rare.
Excessive hunting and destruction of their habitat has largely driven black bears out of the Buckeye State, and they are said to be afraid of humans. They pose a greater threat to gardens and trash cans in their quest for food than they pose to people.
Some bears live near populated areas and have lost their fear of humans, making them potentially dangerous. Even so, bear attacks are almost unheard of. If you see one in the wild, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources recommends making sure it has an escape route and backing away slowly if it sees you. Running or trying to climb a tree could provoke a chase.
The spread of agriculture in Ohio has destroyed much of the Massasauga Rattlesnake’s natural habitat, and like other snakes, they hunt small rodents rather than humans. We pose a greater threat to them than they do to us, but you still don’t want to get bitten by one. The best way to avoid a bite is to be very careful if you see one. Experts say they only attack if they feel cornered or threatened.
Only a miniscule number of black widow bites are fatal, and the spiders themselves will only bite humans if they feel trapped or threatened, experts say. But those facts haven’t kept the Black Widow from becoming one of the most feared spiders in the world (and arguably the most feared spider in Ohio).
Brown Recluse Spider
The Brown Recluse Spider isn’t nearly as famous as the black widow, but their bite is no less serious. Like their eight-legged peer above, their bite is rarely, if ever, fatal, and sometimes doesn’t even require medical attention. Additionally, the Brown Recluse only bites humans if it feels threatened.
Coyotes are versatile creatures, capable of adapting to different climates, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. That is perhaps how they came to live in the Buckeye State, even though they are more closely associated with desert climates. On the rare occasions that Coyotes make the news, they mostly kill livestock, and earlier this year a coyote killed a beloved family dog in Lakewood. But coyotes attacks on humans aren’t unheard of.
The Kissing Bug
The Triatomine — or “kissing bug,” as it is colloquially known — isn’t native to Ohio, but it’s been spotted here on occasion, most recently in 2015. The tiny creatures are typically the size of small cockroaches and feed off the blood of larger animals. They earned their informal title because they typically bite their victims on the face.
That sounds terrifying, but rest assured that a bite from the kissing bug is almost never fatal, and their most common target is rodents and other small animals, not humans. The bug’s bite itself is mostly harmless, but the Triatomine has been known to carry the parasitic Chagas Disease, which is fatal in a small number of patients infected with it.
Much like kissing bugs, it isn’t the mosquitoes themselves that can kill you, but rather the infections they carry, which include West Nile Virus and Zika. This of course, comes with the usual caveat that deaths from those diseases in Ohio are exceedingly rare. But still, don’t forget your bug spray if you plan to spend time outdoors in the summer.
Black Legged Ticks
Much like the previous two entries, it isn’t the ticks themselves, but rather what they carry, that is potentially deadly. Ticks in Ohio have been known to spread Lyme Disease, which is fatal in an (exceedingly) small number of patients who contract a certain strain of the disease and aren’t treated.
Most mushrooms aren’t poisonous, and Ohio only has a handful that are. Those include a few varieties that are potentially deadly if eaten. The horrifyingly named “death cap” mushroom, for example, sickened dozens of people in the Cleveland area in 2012. Best to be 100 percent positive that you’ve correctly identified a mushroom and eliminated the possibility that it’s poisonous before you try to eat it.
Bobcats were once considered eradicated in Ohio, but recently started to make a comeback. They mostly hunt small animals like rabbits rather than humans, and likely won’t attack you for the simple fact that you’re bigger than they are. But bobcat attacks aren’t unheard off, although only a tiny percentage of them are fatal.
The wild boars in Ohio pose a bigger threat to crops and livestock than they do to people, but wild boar attacks will sometimes make the news — often with sensationalist headlines — but those attacks rarely ever end in death.
The philosopher Socrates was famously made to drink poison hemlock after he was sentenced to death. But you might not have realized that poison hemlock has been spotted in several Ohio counties. This should go without saying, but don’t try to eat it.
It is thought that Abraham Lincoln’s mother, Nancy, died from milk sickness after she drank milk from a cow that was poisoned by white snakeroot. Despite this high-profile example of milk sickness, the affliction is almost unheard of in the 21st Century, as the pastures that farmers allow their cattle to graze on are much more tightly controlled and milk is often pooled from several sources.
Most parts of this purple flower found in some parts of Ohio are poisonous, and in a small number of cases have resulted in death after they are ingested.
You might be surprised to find this entry on the list, as deer have far more to fear from human hunters than the average person has to fear from deer.
But car crashes involving deer kill around 200 people every year in the United States. So watch out when you see those “deer crossing” signs.
Originally Posted on July 27, 2017 on Cleveland.comClick here to return to our blog