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The Most Dangerous Animals on Earth By Dumebi Tokpe

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What’s the difference between a house cat and a lion? The number of humans it kills each year. If you weren’t expecting that answer, then buckle up. We’re interested in learning about the world’s deadliest animals. These creatures come in all shapes and sizes. Who knew something as small as a rock could wipe out a group of adults?

We’re ranking the most dangerous animals based on how many human attacks or deaths per year they cause. We want to know what features make the animal so dangerous: Is it a venomous poison? A sharp sting? Or piercing fangs? Here are the 35 deadliest animals on the planet. 

And watch out: Humans encounter these creatures more often than they think!

35. Moray Eel

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Humans Killed Per Year: 0

Where They Can Be Found: Warm waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans

Notable Features: Long bodies without scales  

Note: Some of the animals on this list are dangerous for attacking humans, not necessarily killing them. While that information is difficult to find for each animal, we included the number of attacks or deaths per year that each individual animal caused when we could find that information.

What Makes Them So Dangerous

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The moray eel tends to hang out in tropical seas. They have thick, scaleless skin and sharp teeth that enable them to inflict serious wounds on their prey, including humans, when disturbed. People eat Moray eels in some areas of the world, but their flesh can be toxic and cause illness or death if not prepared properly.  

Its cousin, the electric eel, discharges 300 to 650 volts when it feels threatened. Human deaths by both eels are extremely rare but can happen.

34. Golden Poison Frog

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Humans Killed Per Year: Unclear

Where They Can Be Found: Colombia

Notable Features: Bright yellow coloring

What Makes Them So Dangerous

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The golden poison frog is considered one of the most toxic animals on Earth. To put it in perspective, it packs enough venom to kill 10 adults. It’s unclear how many humans have died from an encounter with a poison dart frog. But its venomous characteristics make it one of the world’s deadliest animals. 

It gets its name from the indigenous people of Colombia who tipped their darts and blowguns with its venom before hunting. For an animal to be considered poisonous, it must be toxic to eat. The golden poison frog keeps its toxins in glands beneath its skin, so any human or animal that takes a bite would be in serious trouble.

33. Stonefish

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Humans Killed Per Year: 

Where They Can Be Found: Coastal waters of Australia, Indonesia and India as well as a few species in the Caribbean and Florida Keys

Notable Features: Have similar looks to a rock or part of a reef

What Makes Them So Dangerous

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Stonefish are the world’s most venomous fish. They fool their prey (humans included) by camouflage as they blend in with reefs and the bottom of the ocean floor. They have 13 spines along their back, and each spine has a gland that holds venom. 

If a person steps on or kicks a stonefish, the venom is released, and the person (or other aquatic enemies) is up for a painful and sometimes fatal ride. Stonefish are particularly dangerous to divers and swimmers in Australia. These days, there is a stonefish anti-venom, so there haven’t been many deaths per se by stonefish in recent years.

32. Blue-Ringed Octopus

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Humans Killed: 3 people (in total that have ever been recorded)

Where They Can Be Found: Australia, Japan, Philippines and India 

Notable Features: Blue rings on its body

What Makes Them So Dangerous

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While most octopus squirt ink as their line of defense, the blue-ringed octopusdispenses a deadly poison — enough to kill 26 humans within minutes. Despite its power, this marine creature is only the size of a pencil and can be spotted by the noticeable blue rings on its body. 

If you were to hold it in the palm of your hand (please don’t!), it would bite you and inject tetrodotoxin, a deadly toxin also found in pufferfish. It’s unlikely that you’ll encounter these killers as they tend to hide in dark crevices about 165 feet underwater.

31. Komodo Dragon

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Humans Killed: 4 people (in total that have ever been recorded)

Where They Can Be Found: Komodo Island and Lesser Sunda Islands of Indonesia

Notable Features: Shark-like teeth, clawed feet, 10 feet in length

What Makes Them So Dangerous

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Komodo dragons are the world’s largest lizards, growing 10-feet long and weighing about 150 pounds. In recent years, komodo dragons have become somewhat of a tourist attraction in Indonesia. Komodo National Park invites tourists to see this large lizard in its natural habitat. But these prehistoric monsters look as vicious as they are — komodo dragons have killed four people over the past 33 years. The last fatal attack occurred in 2009. 

Komodo dragons have a powerful bite packed with venom that delivers toxins that inhibit blood clotting. Trauma from the bite, bacteria from the komodo dragon’s mouth and rapid blood loss contribute to their ability to kill prey (humans included).   

30. Cone Snail

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Humans Killed: About 36 people (in total that have every been recorded)

Where They Can Be Found: Tropical, warm waters

Notable Features: A cone-shaped shell with blotchy orange coloring

What Makes Them So Dangerous

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The cone snail may look harmless, but it is a deadly marine mollusk to humans and fish. It has a fatal venom that’s not intended to harm humans, but when it does, it starts with paralysis, then induces a coma and eventually leads to death. 

Deep-sea divers know of the hazards of an innocent-looking cone snail, as their habitats are the tropical and colorful waters of the Red Sea, Caribbean Sea and the Indian Ocean. The cone snail has killed about 36 people over the years.

29. Alligator

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Humans Killed Per Year: 0-1 

Where They Can Be Found: Florida 

Notable Features: A long body with thick scales and bony plates

What Makes Them So Dangerous

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Alligators look feisty, yes, but they don’t kill as many humans as you may think. While Florida averages about seven unprovoked alligator attacks per year, there have been only 25 fatal alligator attacks since 1948, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission

If you see an alligator, don’t feed it. Not only is it illegal, but it teaches them to associate people with food. We don’t want that!

28. Hyena

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Humans Killed Per Year: 0-2

Where They Can Be Found: Africa

Notable Features: High-pitched laugh

What Makes Them So Dangerous

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No one wants to encounter a hyena, and they generally avoid humans. But in certain parts of Africa, hyenas have been known to attack villages

Hyenas are scavengers known for their high-pitched laugh and dog-like features. They’re vicious mammals that invoke a mixture of fear and aversion in some folks (likely thanks to “The Lion King”).

27. Bear

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Humans Killed Per Year: About 1-3 

Where They Can Be Found: Every continent except Australia

Notable Features: Extra-large, furry animals that walk on all fours

What Makes Them So Dangerous

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Bears are not as scary as they may seem. OK, they are scary-ish (come on, they’re kinda cute), but not as deadly as other animals. In fact, many are skittish and have been compared to giant squirrels.

The polar bear is one of the more aggressive bear species, while the black bear and grizzly bear take the crown for most human attacks. Bears get a terrible rep for attacking humans in forests or national parks, which is understandable because we are intruding on their natural habitat. It’s important to keep in mind that bears are surprisingly fast and very curious. 

26. Pufferfish

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Humans Killed Per Year: 2-3 (although this number is decreasing due to increased regulations on eating pufferfish)

Where They Can Be Found: Warm waters of the Indian, Pacific and the Atlantic oceans

Notable Features: A body that inflates with spikes when agitated

What Makes Them So Dangerous

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Pufferfish, blowfish and fugu fall under the same category of a fish that puffs up with spikes and stings you. But let’s talk about fugu, a particular kind of pufferfish in Japan that contains a toxin more poisonous than cyanide

But in Japan, pufferfish is a delicacy to eat. Most human deaths by pufferfish are due to the fact that its meat was not prepared properly. According to the Japanese Health Ministry, incorrectly prepared fugu is one of the most frequent causes of food poisoning in the country. 

25. Spider

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Humans Killed Per Year: About 6 (in the U.S.) 

Where They Can Be Found: Worldwide

Notable Features: 8 legs

What Makes Them So Dangerous

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Snakes and spiders seem to compete for fear in humans. Both have species that bite and inject a deadly venom. And both are silent killers. 

There are more than 43,000 species of spiders around the world, but less than 30 species are known to kill humans. Spider venom is typically only lethal against small animals, not humans. And when it does kill a human, it’s usually the result of an allergic reaction. There are about six spider deaths each year in the United States.

24. Shark

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Humans Killed Per Year: 6

Where They Can Be Found: Every ocean on the planet 

Notable Features: Sharp teeth and a tall dorsal fin

What Makes Them So Dangerous

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Shocked that sharks are only at No. 24 on this list? While “Jaws” instilled an understandable fear of sharks in humans, fatal shark attacks are pretty rare. 

Only about 12 species are considered dangerous to humans. Great white sharksare the deadliest of all the sharks in the ocean, with 300 sharp teeth that can rip right through you. 

23. Wolf

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Humans Killed Per Year: 10

Where They Can Be Found: North America, Europe, Asia and North Africa

Notable Features: Resembles a dog, minus the puppy-dog eyes

What Makes Them So Dangerous

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The strength of the wolf lies in the pack. These cliquey animals are ferocious, fast and territorial. They’re most common in the woods of North America. 

It’s unlikely that you will actually ever confront a wolf, as they don’t usually roam on walking trails. In fact, they’re scared of humans!

22. Horse

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Humans Killed Per Year: 20

Where They Can Be Found: Worldwide

Notable Features: A long mane of hair on top of the neck

What Makes Them So Dangerous

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People love riding horses, but unfortunately, there are about 20 horse-related deaths each year. 

It’s usually from people falling off the massive animal. Horses and cows killed about 77 people from 2008 to 2017 in Australia alone.

21. Cow

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Humans Killed Per Year: 22

Where They Can Be Found: Worldwide

Notable Features: Black and white coloring

What Makes Them So Dangerous

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Cows kill more people than sharks. There. We said it.

Cows kill about 22 people each year by kicking or trampling, which makes sense for those who have ever worked with cows on a cattle farm.

20. Ant

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Humans Killed Per Year: About 20-50 

Where They Can Be Found: Around the world but most commonly found in the southeastern United States

Notable Features: Fire ants are usually a light brownish-red, but their aggressiveness is their most striking difference to regular ants.

What Makes Them So Dangerous

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Don’t underestimate ants. There are about 12,000 species, and they all come with personality. There are 280 fire ant species around the world, and a sting from one of these killers may cause fatal anaphylaxisto people who have an allergic reaction. But most people won’t react that way.

fire ant bite is noticeable as it starts to itch immediately and then turns into a red welt.

19. Hornet

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Humans Killed Per Year: About 30-50

Where They Can Be Found: Europe, Africa and North America, but the giant hornet is in Asia

Notable Features: The Asian giant hornet is about 1.5 inches in length. 

What Makes Them So Dangerous

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Deaths from a hornet sting are usually grouped with wasp and bee stings. But in China and Japan, something called an Asian giant hornet is a killer. As its name implies, giant hornets are, well, giant. They’re roughly the size of a human thumb and usually invade schools or farm workers. 

There are an estimated 30 to 50 deaths each year in Japan from hornet attacks. Most deaths are due to an allergic reaction to the sting.

18. Tiger

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Humans Killed Per Year: About 40-50 

Where They Can Be Found: Asia 

Notable Features: Orange and black stripes

What Makes Them So Dangerous

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If we learned anything from “Tiger King,” it’s that there are about 3,900 tigers left in the wild. (There are more than 5,000 tigers in captivity within the United States!) 

Most of the wild tigers live in India. Tiger attacks are rare as they don’t deliberately kill humans. Yet they kill about 40 to 50 people each year. Tiger attacks are a problem in India as a large population impedes on their natural habitat.

17. Jellyfish

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Humans Killed Per Year: 40+

Where They Can Be Found: Every ocean

Notable Features: Long tentacles

What Makes Them So Dangerous

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Jellyfish may not have brains, but they can kill. There are about 2,000 different types of jellyfish, about 70 of which can hurt you. For instance, the box jellyfish is a vicious killer lurking in tropical seas. It strikes with a harmful venom that causes headaches, vomiting, rapid heartbeat and pulmonary edema. 

It’s estimated that the box jellyfish account for 20 to 40 deaths each year in the Philippines alone.

16. Scorpion

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Humans Killed Per Year: Anywhere from 10 to 1,000 

Where They Can Be Found: Every continent except Antarctica

Notable Features: Two pinchers and a long tail that curls over its body

What Makes Them So Dangerous

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You don’t need to tell us to fear scorpions. The thought of their curled tails and pinchers makes us shutter. Scorpions are technically arachnids, like spiders, with eight legs and two central body regions. There are about 30 to 40 scorpion species that can kill you. 

Scorpions are usually found in deserts but have been spotted in rainforests and the Himalayas. While all scorpions are dangerous, the one you need to look out for is the yellow deathstalker (um, what?). This killer is the most venomous scorpion and lives in the deserts of the Middle East. Scorpions are survivors, as they’ve been around for millions of years. We’ll give them that.

15. Bee

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Humans Killed Per Year: About 100

Where They Can Be Found: Worldwide

Notable Features: Black-and-yellow-striped body with a stinger in its anterior

What Makes Them So Dangerous

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We often tense up when we see or hear a bee buzzing around. Rather than swat at it, let it go away on its own. Bees are responsible for killing about 100 people each year, with bee sting deaths in the U.S. rising every year. 

Death is often due to an allergic reaction to the bee sting. About 80 percent of those who die of a bee, wasp or hornet sting are men, according to the CDC.

14. Deer

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Humans Killed Per Year: 100+

Where They Can Be Found: North America

Notable Features: Antlers

What Makes Them So Dangerous

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Now, you may be wondering why Bambi is so dangerous. Well, he’s responsible for more than 100 human deaths per year due to car accidents. While it’s not a vicious attack, it still makes deer dangerous, especially to drivers at night. 

So, why do deer freeze in the middle of the road when a car is coming at them? Photoreceptors in their retinas make them freeze when looking directly at headlights. If you’re about to hit a deerhonk, don’t swerve, brake and stay in your lane. 

13. African Cape Buffalo

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Humans Killed Per Year: 200

Where They Can Be Found: Africa

Notable Features: Long thick horns

What Makes Them So Dangerous

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The African Cape Buffalo may have horns that look like an 18th-century British wig, but that’s what makes them so dangerous. Because of their luxurious horns and being part of the African Big Five, they’re subject to hunters. 

Cape Buffalos are called “Black Death” because they’re an aggressive animal when wounded. In the instance of being hunted, the herd turns into a mob and charges at speeds of 35 miles per hour.

12. Lion

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Humans Killed Per Year: About 250

Where They Can Be Found: Africa and India

Notable Features: Sharp teeth and a big mane of hair

What Makes Them So Dangerous

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The king of the jungle is a lazy predator, yet they’re responsible for about 250 human deaths per year (although this number varies). Lions sleep about 20 hours each day, but if a human encounters a lion, it’s game over. The worst thing you can do is run or faint. 

The lion’s biggest weapons are their speed, sharp teeth and the pack. FYI, never turn your back on a lion, or they’ll pounce. 

11. Elephant

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Humans Killed Per Year: 500

Where They Can Be Found: Africa and Asia

Notable Features: A long trunk, big floppy ears and is 10 feet in height

What Makes Them So Dangerous

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As with most animals, elephants attack when provoked. They’re usually gentle giants trying to enjoy green leaves and bananas, so just don’t bother these guys when they’re eating! 

While elephants kill about 500 humans each year, about 100 elephants are killed each day by poachers.

10. Hippopotamus

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Humans Killed Per Year: 500 

Where They Can Be Found: Africa

Notable Features: Other than a large barrel body, it has a big mouth with large teeth and tusks.

What Makes Them So Dangerous

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Hippos are extremely aggressive and territorial animals. If threatened on land, hippos can match a human’s speed and kill them. They spend about 16 hours a day in the water and only leave the water to eat. 

Hippos consume about 80 pounds of grass a day and weigh about 3,000 to 8,000 pounds!

9. Tapeworm

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Humans Killed Per Year: 700

Where They Can Be Found: Worldwide, although risk factors include exposure to livestock, travel to developing countries and living in endemic areas

Notable Features: You won’t see it if ingested, but the parasite is flat like a ribbon and can grow to be about 30-feet long.

What Makes Them So Dangerous

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This small but mighty parasite is one of the world’s deadliest animals because it transmits infections called cysticercosis or taeniasis. Humans get tapeworm by eating raw or undercooked beef or pork. 

Tapeworms are a silent killer, as the symptoms are usually mild or nonexistent. Eventually, this parasite causes organ function disruption, seizures, nervous system impairment and digestive block.  

8. Crocodile

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Humans Killed Per Year: 1,000 

Where They Can Be Found: Australia, Asia, Africa and the Americas

Notable Features: A long body with thick scales and bony plates

What Makes Them So Dangerous

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Crocodiles look as vicious as they are. These dinosaur-like reptiles are the eighth-deadliest animal in the world, killing about 1,000 humans each year. Of the 27 crocodile species, seven are extremely dangerous to humans. 

Crocodiles are native to tropical areas of Australia, Africa, Asia and the Americas, but most human deaths occur in remote regions of Africa. The Nile Crocodile takes the crown for being the most dangerous, as it’s responsible for more than 300 fatal attacks on people each year.

7. Ascaris Roundworm

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Humans Killed Per Year: 2,500 

Where They Can Be Found: Worldwide, particularly in warm, humid climates

Notable Features: Looks like a noodle and is about 12 inches in length

What Makes Them So Dangerous

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Ascaris roundworms are parasitic worms that cause an infection of the small intestine. Humans can get infected with roundworms by ingesting infective eggs. Infection happens when contaminated hands are put in the mouth or by consuming raw produce that has not been washed, cooked or peeled. 

Deaths from Ascaris roundworm are more common in areas that have ineffective sewage disposal systems. 

6. Tsetse Fly

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Humans Killed Per Year: 10,000

Where They Can Be Found: Rural parts of Africa

Notable Features: Typical fly features with a yellowish-brown coloring

What Makes Them So Dangerous

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A bite from a tsetse fly (pronounced set-si fly) is, to put it simply, unpleasant. The fly saws into your skin, transmits a disease called African trypanosomiasis (or sleeping sickness) and continues on its way. 

Symptoms begin with a fever and headache and continue until the infected person becomes increasingly tired and eventually dies.

5. Assassin Bug

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Humans Killed Per Year: About 10,000 to 12,000

Where They Can Be Found: North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Africa

Notable Features: A flat body with red and orange markings

What Makes Them So Dangerous

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As the name implies, an assassin bug kills. It bites your skin, sucks your blood and transmits a disease called Chagas disease, which causes infection and inflammation of human tissues. 

The assassin bug is ruthless to other insects as well. After it sucks its prey dry, the bug attaches the entire corpse to its back and walks around with it as a protective shield. That’s some sinister stuff!

4. Freshwater Snail

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Humans Killed Per Year: Between 10,000 and 20,000

Where They Can Be Found: Africa, Asia and South America

Notable Features: While you might not see the little snail, it’s the size of a quarter with a pinkish brown shell.

What Makes Them So Dangerous

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Death by snail is no way to die. No, they won’t catch you or touch you, but they are responsible for transmitting Schistosomiasis, a disease that infects the urinary tract and intestines. 

The disease spreads by contact with freshwater that’s been contaminated with parasites released by the freshwater snails. The condition is most common in developing countries where people use unclean water for daily living.

3. Dog

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Humans Killed Per Year: About 25,000 to 30,000

Where They Can Be Found: Worldwide

Notable Features: Dogs with rabies are usually foaming at the mouth.

What Makes Them So Dangerous

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Think twice about cuddling with Spike, as he’s the third-deadliest animal in the world. Dogs infected with rabies are the ones who generally kill humans. 

The World Health Organization reportsthat dogs contribute to 99 percent of all rabies transmissions to humans. A vaccine prevents rabies, yet most of the deaths happen in rural areas of Asia, Africa or South America, where the vaccine is not always accessible. 
 

2. Snake

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Humans Killed Per Year: Different sources report anywhere from 25,000 to 100,000

Where They Can Be Found: Every continent except Antarctica

Notable Features: Each species has different features that mark them as poisonous, such as color patterns, head shape, rattle and pupil shape.

What Makes Them So Dangerous

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People either love snakes or hate them. There’s no in-between. Snakes kill about 100,000 humans every year, and they attack in a variety of ways. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 600 of the 3,000 species of snakes are venomous. 

Some of the most dangerous snakes live alongside people in areas where access to anti-venom and medical care is limited (such as India). Other snakes, such as pythons or anacondas, will simply squeeze and crush you to death. Oh, and all the cobra has to do is spit venom on your face to kill you.

1. Mosquito

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Humans Killed Per Year: Different sources report anywhere from 725,000 to 1 million

Where They Can Be Found: Any environment, except for extremely cold weather 

Notable Features: Small insects with long bodies, legs and antennae

What Makes Them So Dangerous

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You may want to douse yourself in bug repellent after reading this. Mosquitos are responsible for more than 830,000 deaths per year. And, unfortunately, that makes sense. Mosquitos not only leave an itchy bite, but they are also carriers of illnesses and diseases, including Zika, malaria, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, West Nile and yellow fever — all of which are fatal. 

But let’s lighten this up a little bit! The best thing you can do to avoid a mosquito bite? Wear the smelly mosquito repellent (DEET is the strongest) and decorate your home with citronella candles for a romantic, protective touch. 

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