What are the most dangerous animals in Canada? One of my biggest fears in moving to the Alberta Rockies was the dangerous Canadian wildlife (especially grizzly bears). I come from the UK, where it seems the biggest killer of humans is the cow.
The UK and Canada do have one thing in common. Most animal-related deaths are caused by vehicle collisions with animals. Deaths from other animal encounters in Canada are quite rare. In fact, you are probably more likely to die from an attack by a dog than any other animal.
Sixteen years on, I am not nearly so worried about bears, but pretty terrified of elk. So what are the most dangerous animals in Canada? And what can we do to protect ourselves? These are the ones you need to watch out for (not listed in any particular order):
Grizzly Bears – Are Grizzly Bears Dangerous?
Grizzly bears are often considered one of the most dangerous animals in Canada. However, they really don’t want anything to do with humans. They usually only attack if they are surprised or if a mother is defending cubs.
Having said that, with males weighing up to 700kg, an encounter is something that you want to avoid. They kill using their teeth (which are apparently strong enough to crush a bowling ball) and will basically eat you alive.
The best tactic is to avoid an encounter. If a grizzly bear hears you coming, it will probably move away. This is why the best advice is to make noise when in bear country (e.g. talk or use bear bells) and, ideally, stay in groups.
How To Survive A Grizzly Bear Attack
- Do use bear spray
- Do play dead
- Do lie face down, hands behind the neck, elbows in, and legs splayed
- Don’t try to defend yourself (you won’t win!)
- Don’t run (unless your top speed is more than 30mph!)
Polar Bears – Are There Polar Bears In Canada?
Polar bears are similar in size to grizzly bears. They kill in the same way, and attacks are usually fatal. It is for this reason they can be considered one of the most dangerous animals in Canada. They are predators, but they normally don’t attack humans unless they are provoked or very hungry.
They live mainly in the sparsely populated areas of the Arctic Circle. Attacks are rare due to the lack of people in these regions.
How To Survive A Polar Bear Attack
- Do use bear spray
- Do fight back hard with anything you have to hand
- Do kick (aim for stomach or face)
- Don’t play dead
- Don’t run (always back away)
Black Bears – Are Black Bears Dangerous?
Black bear attacks are the most common bear attack due to larger numbers in Canada. On a positive note, they are relatively small (around half the size of a grizzly bear), and attacks are less likely to be fatal.
Black bears aren’t aggressive. They will normally avoid contact and often run away if provoked.
How To Survive A Black Bear Attack
- Do use bear spray
- Do Make yourself look as large as possible.
- Do fight back (throw things at them, hit and kick, focus on their face)
- Don’t play dead
- Don’t run or turn your back on them
How Do You Tell The Difference Between Grizzly & Black Bears?
The easiest way to tell the difference between a grizzly bear and a black bear is the pronounced hump on the shoulders of a grizzly bear.
Another less obvious difference is the facial profile. Black bears have a smooth profile; grizzlies have a concave profile – but not so easy to spot without experience.
In terms of colour, grizzly bears are normally brown but can also be almost white. Black bears are most often black but can also be tan, cinnamon or blonde in colour.
Mosquitoes – Are Mosquitoes Dangerous In Canada?
Mosquitoes are the deadliest creatures on earth, killing by disease transmission. According to the World Health Organisation, they kill more than 1 million people worldwide every year.
In Canada, the main risk comes from the West Nile Virus. 80% of those who catch the virus won’t have any symptoms, but less than 1% will have serious symptoms, and some of these may die.
Cases vary wildly each year. The worst year in Canada saw over 2400 cases, with more recent numbers in the low 10s. These statistics make mosquitoes one of the most dangerous animals in Canada.
The only real defence against mosquitoes is to avoid being bitten; advice includes:
- Staying indoors at dawn & dusk
- Use window and door screens
- Cover up when outdoors (including socks – mosquitoes love feet!)
- Wear light-coloured clothing
- Cover infants with nets
- Use insect repellent
- Avoid standing water
Rattlesnakes – Does Canada Have Rattlesnakes?
Are You Planning A Move To Canada?
Are you wondering whether to make the move and have endless questions?
We have the answers to these and many more questions.
I was surprised when I first heard that Canada has rattlesnakes, three types. The good news is that they aren’t aggressive and won’t seek humans out. Rattlesnakes are most common in BC’s South Okanagan region.
If you hear their rattle, this is a warning. They will only attack as a last resort if they feel they can’t escape.
Most attacks are the result of people either attempting to handle them (apparently, some people do!!!) or stumbling across one. They can strike at a speed of 200 ms in the blink of an eye.
They inject venom through their fangs, but your chances of survival are good, with less than 1% of attacks proving fatal. There’s also a lot you can do to increase your survival chances.
How To Survive A Rattlesnake Bite
- Do seek medical attention (dial 911 if possible)
- Do remove tight clothing from the area
- Do stay calm and still (to minimize blood flow)
- Do let the wound bleed
- Don’t raise the area of the bite above the heart
- Don’t wash the wound
- Don’t cut into the wound
- Don’t try to suck the venom out
- Don’t use a tourniquet
Black Widow Spiders – How Dangerous Is A Black Widow Spider?
A black widow spider’s venom is 15 times more deadly than a rattlesnake’s. Luckily, the amount injected is so small that it’s unlikely to prove fatal to a human.
The site may be very painful, and severe muscle contractions can occur. Medical advice should always be sought.
Fortunately, they like dark areas close to the ground, so you are unlikely to find one in your home.
Moose – Will Moose Attack You?
Most moose-related deaths are due to vehicle collisions rather than actual attacks. Their height (up to 6.5ft) and weight (up to 700kg) mean that they can easily crush a car’s front and front passengers.
Moose are not normally aggressive but will attack if they feel harassed or threatened. If you see a moose,
Watch For These Warning Signs Of A Moose Attack
- Moose maintains eye contact
- Laid-back ears or dropped head
- Hairs on the neck and shoulders stand on end (the moose’s, not yours!)
- Licking lips
Moose kill by charging and stomping. If you are charged by a moose, you should try to hide behind something like a car or tree.
Elk – Are Elk Dangerous?
Another member of the deer family. Elk are around half the size of moose, with lighter colouring, pale rumps and slender snouts.
We are very familiar with elk; we see them on almost a daily basis at home. You are unlikely to be killed by one, but they can weigh in at over 300kg and may cause serious injury.
Our biggest issue with an elk is its unpredictability. Sometimes, they will flee as soon as they see a human. Other times they will charge without provocation or warning. There are certain seasons when they are more likely to be aggressive. Our advice is to steer well clear whatever the time of year.
How To Deal With An Elk Encounter
- Do act dominant, wave arms & coat to appear larger
- Do maintain eye contact and back away
- Do hide behind a tree or car
- Don’t play dead if knocked down
Cougar – What Is A Cougar (Mountain Lion)?
These are the second biggest cats after the jaguar and usually kill by biting the neck. Cougars have been known to stalk humans, and attacks are often deadly. They are definitely one of the most dangerous animals in Canada.
In our experience, park staff take cougar sightings very seriously, much more so than grizzly sightings.
Luckily cougar encounters are very rare. The last reference (that I could find) to death in Canada was in 2001, in Banff National Park.
How To Survive A Cougar Encounter
- Do stay calm & talk quietly.
- Do back off slowly
- Do stand tall, lift your arms, anything that makes you seem larger
- Do throw rocks/sticks if attacked
- Don’t turn your back and run
Wolves – Do Wolves Attack Humans?
You are far more likely to hear a wolf than see one. They are pretty elusive and normally avoid contact with humans.
To put things in perspective, you have more chance of being killed by a dog in wolf country than a wolf. However, they are natural predators and have been known to attack unprovoked.
How To Survive A Wolf Encounter
- Do make yourself appear tall and larger
- Do stay calm
- Do maintain eye contact
- Do back off
- Do fight back if they attack
- Don’t turn your back and run
Conclusion – What Are The Most Dangerous Animals in Canada?
The first prize in the battle of the most dangerous animals in Canada goes to the Moose. There are generally around 300 vehicle collisions with Moose per year.
Despite Canada’s reputation, the chances of a life-threatening encounter with an animal are very remote. The most important advice is to remain aware of your surroundings, don’t surprise/startle wildlife, and always keep your distance.