The man-of-war are commonly mistaken for a jellyfish, when in reality there is no “it” there is only a “they.” The Portuguese man-of-wars are a siphonophore, an animal that is made up of a collective group of organisms working together.
They live in warm ocean waters, and travel in groups of up to 1,000. Their presence in North Carolina has been noted to be the result of strong easterly winds.
Their thin, long tendrils are covered with a venom-filled nematocysts used to paralyze fish and other small creatures. These tendrils average around 30ft. but can reach to 175ft.
Just one single sting from a man-o-war is exctuatingly painful to a human. So, try to imagine 1,000 stings all at once. Swarms of man-o-wars are clearly whats to be most feared of these creatures. And also, quite possibly how they got their rep as one of the scariest ‘not jellyfish’ in the sea.
After reading this article, I began to wonder….what other, pretty dangerous animals can be found in North Carolina? With the various landscape, climate, and mountains to coast there is some pretty diverse wildlife!
Pushed to the brink of NC eradication in the early 20th century, alligators have slowly made their comeback along the coast. Frequently found in canals, streams, and rivers in the eastern region of the sate, alligators are a silent force to be feared. Reasonably unassuming, alligators can become aggressive and defensive upon approach and are known to attack humans. To an alligator, meat is meat, meaning, your leg could be considered for dinner, or dessert.
The timber rattlesnake, eastern diamond back, and pigmy are the three types of rattlesnake found in North Carolina. All are found throughout the state except for the pigmy which is only found in the southeastern region. The eastern diamondback is the most dangerous rattlesnake in all of North America. All three are not naturally aggressive, but their potent venom plus elusive habitat are good reason to 'look' before stepping. Half of rattlesnake bites occur out of accident, mainly someone stepping on the snake. A rattlesnake will only strike in defense, with the 'young' being said to have more dangerous venom. It is important to keep your eye out for rattlesnakes while hiking in the early-mid spring.
Several species of shark are found off the coast of North Carolina. Sharks will sometimes wander into sounds and estuaries, but mainly just to feed or migrate. The coastal waters of North Carolina make up a popular, frequently used migration corridor for several ocean species. Most shark species that inhabit the Atlantic Ocean, will, at some point swim past the North Carolina coast, usually when waters are a bit warm. Of course, shark attacks are nothing new to us, being made especially popular through television and film. The 'terrifying' viewpoint of the shark takes on a dismal reality when the number of shark attacks is still somewhat low, but this does not mean that bites are not reported. The most common species of shark found are blacknose sharks, sand tiger and sandbar sharks, scalloped hammerheads, and the tiger shark...which is the largest and most potentially dangerous.
Copperheads are found throughout the state. This venomous snake prefers its home to be in wooden areas surrounded by rocks or by a stream. A bite from one of these is to be most feared during the summer, as they will take to hiding during the day in sheds, wood piles, debris and stumps. While bites are not typically fatal, they are extremely painful and need immediate medical attention.
5. Black Bears
Black bears are a tad bit friendlier than say, a brown bear, but they still should not be 'messed' with. Black bears tend to keep to themselves and prefer a large, unihabited wooded landscape. You can find black bears in the mountain region of western NC and the coastal swamplands of eastern, NC. Black bears might stumble upon your camp site, but rarely do they attack without warrant. Typically more of a sight to see than a sight to be feared, black bears are a special, wild treasure to this state.
6. Cottonmouth or Water Moccassin
North Carolina has a lot of snakes, six of those being venemous, but the cottonmouth is the one to fear the most. The venom is more dangerous than a copperhead and can be fatal. Cottonmouths are found primarily in the eastern region of the state, in swamps, lakes, rivers, and bodies of water. They swim with their heads above water, and are distinguished by a stripe along the side of their head. Commonly mistaken with other water-dweilling snakes, if you see one slithering near you in the water...swim away, and swim FAST!
7. Southern Black Widow
Black widows are found throughout the state, but more notably in the eastern region. The female spider prefers to create her web in dark corners, tree stumps, woodpiles, and overgrown areas. While not one to just up and 'bite,' accidental bites, such as putting on a shoe where one is hiding, or accidental contact, can lead to a fatal situation. The female hangs upside down from her web. If you see one, there might be likely to be others, or even future black widow babies. Take immediate care of the problem. It is also not uncommon to find them in dark areas such as a garages.
8. Brown Recluse
Speaking of spiders, you should be way more fearful of the brown recluse. Luckily, they are not too common in the state, but you should still not be careful. Brown recluses make their homes in shoes, old boxes, and in dark corners. They are easily identified by their eye pattern, six eyes in three pairs, and a marking that resembles a fiddle or violin on the top of the spider. If bitten, medical attention must be sought immediately. As one of the only spider species whose venom is considered 'medically significant,' antibiotics and anti-venoms lose their affect as time passes. The poison also causes a necrotic, or dead layer of skin, that can require surgery. It is advised to seek immediate medical attention.
9. The mysterious 'black panther'
Pictured above, this photo began to circulate around North Carolina as an actual black panther/cougar sighting throughout the state. Western cougars, known as mountain lions, panthers, and pumas rarely expand their breeding habitats close to North Carolina. Yet, it still doesn't disperse the 'big cat mystery' that has been witnessed, and photographed throughout the state. Eastern cougars once readily inhabitated the state and have made their mark on several landmarks. Throughout the 18th century, due to hunting, persecution, and loss of habitat, the eastern cougar was all but eradicated in North Carolina. 'Sightings,' like pictured above are still reported.
Have you ever encountered any of these dangerous animals, or have your own personal stories to share? Share below in the comments!