Mississippi is a southern state known for playing a vital role in the United States Civil War. This history makes it home to various historical museums and monuments, such as the Vicksburg National Military Park.
It is also popular among visitors for southern charm, bluegrass music, catfish, and magnolias, earning it the nickname, “The Magnolia State.”
Aside from these, Mississippi is also home to different wildlife that you can find in natural settings, such as during a walk around the Natchez Trace Parkway or Buccaneer State Park.
You can also find some species at multiple zoos, such as the Jackson Zoo and Hattiesburg Zoo. An interesting point to note is that you can find the world’s largest shrimp in this state at the Old Spanish Fort Museum in Pascagoula.
Although the nature in Mississippi presents stunning vistas, it can also pose a danger to you because of the animals living in it.
This may make you wonder, what are some dangerous animals living in Mississippi?
Here is a list of 14 animals you can spot (while keeping a safe distance!) during your trip to this charming state.
Table of Contents
- 1. Alligators
- 2. Black bears
- 3. Wild hogs
- 4. Coyotes
- 5. Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes
- 6. Timber rattlesnakes
- 7. Copperheads
- 8. Cottonmouths
- 9. Eastern coral snakes
- 10. Southern black widows
- 11. Brown recluses
- 12. Yellow sac spiders
- 13. Sharks
- 14. Jellyfish
- Where to see wildlife in Mississippi
- Frequently Asked Questions
You can find two crocodilians native to the state, the Mississippian alligator and the American alligator.
Even though the alligators mostly reside in the Mississippi River and its major tributaries and creeks, you can also find them in small ponds, swamps, and lakes.
It is ok to maintain a distance from these sizeable predators and take photos from safe locations.
Large alligators can kill or injure cats, dogs, and livestock, meaning you want to pay extra attention when journeying with a pet or small child.
Because of its size, you may think alligators are slow, but this reptile is sneaky and can move remarkably fast on land and water.
You also want to be cautious when visiting a site home to alligators because they often remain almost entirely submerged and are difficult to spot.
2. Black bears
Although black bears once freely roamed in the Magnolia State, urbanization has reduced their population to around 250.
You can find them living primarily along the Pearl River, Mississippi River, and Pascagoula River within the mixed hardwood and bottomland forests.
Most bear sightings occur in the southeast, southwest, and Delta areas of Mississippi.
A fun fact is that “Teddy Bears,” children’s cuddly toys, originated from Mississippi. President Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt was on a hunting expedition in 1902 near Onward and refused to shoot a tied-up bear when encouraged by his companions.
The event inspired a Brooklyn candy store owner to design a stuffed toy called “Teddy’s Bear,” which has since become a popular toy around the world.
3. Wild hogs
Wild hogs are a species of wild boar commonly found in rural locations and prairie agriculture.
For this reason, they can cause significant damage to the sector, such as crop damage and feeding on nuts, grain, birds’ eggs, waterfowl nestlings, acorns, and salamanders.
They can consume an entire barley field in a single night, and rowdy eating habits can injure unsuspecting people on the farm.
Wild hogs can reach up to 190 pounds and have razor-sharp tusks. They have few natural predators and enjoy a long lifespan of up to 10 years.
Notably, parasites and diseases often infect these animals, which can threaten pets, livestock, humans, and other wildlife in their habitat.
Coyotes are a common species found across all Mississippi counties, and you can mostly see them at dusk and dawn. They are often in the open around July when they prey on the fawn deer.
Thus, summer also presents the best coyote hunting time for locals and residents, which simultaneously helps protect whitetail populations.
Authorities categorize these animals as nuisance species for the damages they cause to pets, food sources, and property.
They will also attack humans on rare occasions when threatened and are most aggressive during breeding season from around January to April.
For instance, the Vicksburg National Military Park recently warned hikers and runners about aggressive coyotes at the site.
5. Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes
This snake is the largest recognized rattlesnake and has an average length of three to six feet, with some records reaching eight feet. It has a vast head with a massive body build.
The diamond-shaped markings covering much of the tan or brown coat contribute to its name.
In addition, one row of light-colored scales borders every diamond, with the coloration turning to a golden hue towards its tail.
It can be a beautiful experience to encounter an adult eastern diamondback snake in a safe setting since the species features lovely hues all over its body.
You can spot this snake coiled around an uprooted stump, a log, or a gopher tortoise burrow. The grasses and low shrubs enable these snakes to blend in well and avoid attracting attention.
The eastern diamondback rattlesnake typically loudly rattles when threatened before biting within its striking range. Its bite is painful and can be deadly to humans because its venom contains hemotoxin.
This toxin kills your red blood cells and damages your tissues.
6. Timber rattlesnakes
The timber rattlesnake is also sizeable, extending between two-and-a-half to five feet. It typically has a gray shade and may include a pink hue, with a yellow, pinkish, brown, or orange stripe running the length of its back.
The timber rattlesnake is primarily active above ground around late spring, enabling you to see it periodically until the onset of cold conditions in late fall.
A timber rattlesnake’s bite is rarely fatal but is a painful experience. Its venom damages your tissue and destroys blood cells just like a diamondback’s venom does.
As a result, you can experience complications in your circulatory system or bleed internally.
The copperhead has a somewhat pinkish hue featuring several dark and wide bands that look like hourglasses. It has a triangular head with a stout body similar to most other pit vipers.
Unlike cottonmouths and rattlesnakes that feature undeniable threat displays, a copperhead does not present any warning before striking.
A copperhead also has hemotoxin venom, meaning its bite leads to temporary tissue damage in the immediate area.
Notably, you want to stay alert concerning this snake since it often lives near humans and is the most likely snake in Mississippi to bite.
The cottonmouth gets its name from the cottony-white lining of its mouth typically displayed when confronted. Also called water moccasin, you can find it primarily in wet areas due to its semi-aquatic nature.
Although the snake can reside in damp habitats, it often prefers cypress swamps, floodplains, and wetlands thick with lush foliage.
Young cottonmouths incorporate bold and somewhat colorful patterns onto their scales. However, these patterns fade to nearly solid in adulthood, making it easier for you to recognize between a juvenile and a fully-grown cottonmouth.
A water moccasin’s bite is painful, and its hemotoxin venom is potent and can have deadly consequences.
Within five minutes, the toxin causes swelling on the bitten part, breaking down blood cells and stopping your blood from coagulating.
It is necessary to get immediate medical care after the bite to prevent irreversible damage.
The good news is that you can identify when a cottonmouth is defensive since it coils its body before opening its mouth wide.
Its mouth’s white coloration contrasts with the cottonmouth’s dark body, creating a startling display that functions as a warning to potential predators.
Interestingly, it can also shake its tail and produce a vibrating sound similar to a rattlesnake, even though it does not have an actual rattle.
9. Eastern coral snakes
The eastern coral snake is the only species not belonging to the pit viper family in Mississippi. It is a member of the cobra family, features fixed fangs, and can reach up to two feet in length.
You can recognize an eastern coral snake via its vivid and colorful displays that distinguish it from other venomous subspecies and species.
This snake has bright black, red, and yellow patterns, although many often confuse it with the similarly colored and non-venomous scarlet king snake.
Hence, you can learn the safe rhyme created to help differentiate the two, stating, “Red on yellow, kill a fellow; red on black, venom lack.”
The rhyme refers to the snakes’ color patterns. While a king snake’s red sections have black borders, a coral snake’s red and black bands have a yellow outline.
Aside from this, an eastern coral snake features a black nose, while a king snake has a red one.
10. Southern black widows
Mississippi is home to the black widow and the brown widow spiders.
Even though many people may first think of the movie when they initially hear the term “black widow,” the southern spider holds its own as the most recognizable species worldwide.
It has a shiny black color with a distinctive red hourglass-shaped mark.
A black widow is not an aggressive species and only bites when you disturb its web. It releases highly toxic venom, approximately fifteen times more potent than a rattlesnake’s.
Most people with the spider bite exhibit a severe response, with the venom affecting the nervous system.
The black widow does not like moisture, meaning you can locate it in dry areas such as close to entrances of abandoned rodent burrows or in overhanging ledges, garages, and barns.
11. Brown recluses
A brown recluse is another spider you can identify during your Mississippi adventure via its yellowish to grayish-brown appearance.
Its head typically features a darker shade with distinct or faint violin-shaped patterns. These marks give the species its other name, the violin spider.
These spiders reside indoors and outdoors and are commonly found in buildings and homes in dimly lit spots like a closet, a basement, or cluttered places.
You want to keep an eye out during your trip since they can also get inside your bed or shoe.
Additionally, the brown recluse looks similar to many other common house spiders, making it difficult to realize that you are encountering a dangerous species.
12. Yellow sac spiders
The yellow sac spider has a pale yellow-beige hue with dark brown markings on its jaws, palps, and the end of its feet. You can also recognize it by an orange-brown stripe running down the top center of the spider’s abdomen.
Yellow sac spiders mostly reside on the foliage of shrubs and trees.
These spiders are venomous and have a bite that starts with a bit of pain before itching and swelling occur.
Their bite’s severity is not as potent as a black widow or brown recluse’s, with the venom causing swelling rather than tissue decay. Symptoms from its bite generally disappear within seven to ten days, taking a chunk out of your itinerary.
Fortunately, these species are nocturnal and come out only at nighttime to mate and feed. Consequently, it is uncommon to meet and see one unless you actively look for one.
Mississippi has a history of sharks coming up the Mississippi River and the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. The sharks found in the Mississippi are bull sharks, which can thrive in fresh and saltwater.
They get their name from their broad and flat snout, stocky shape, and unpredictable, aggressive behavior.
You can spot sharks during a beach visit or cruise ride around the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. In addition, you want to be keen during early morning or night late beach visits since they occasionally appear near the shore to feed at dusk or dawn.
Jellyfish are another species you need to mind during a tour around the Mississippi Gulf Coast. You can find them in multiple areas around the Gulf Coast, meaning you always need to take extra care when swimming or diving.
A jellyfish sting varies in severity, with most attacks resulting in instant pain and red irritation marks on your skin.
Some people can experience whole-body illness, including vomiting, stomach pain, drowsiness, weakness, fainting, difficulty breathing, and heart issues.
Your reaction’s severity generally depends on the size and type of jellyfish you encounter, your health, size, and age, exposure time to the stingers, and the amount of skin affected.
Where to see wildlife in Mississippi
After learning about the dangerous animals you can encounter during a Mississippi tour, you may wonder where to see wildlife in the state.
Some popular recommendations for wildlife sightseeing, ranging from birds to forest animals, include the following:
Holly Springs National Forest
This site offers excellent trails for short and pleasant hikes surrounded by beautiful, natural vistas featuring a rustic, country landscape with lush hardwoods and pine forests.
It also presents interesting wildlife such as beavers, otters, muskrats, raccoons, and opossum.
The forest is home to the Tippah River and several lakes like Chewalla Lake and Puskus Lake, where you can spend your day catching different fish species.
Fish types in these spots include sauger, bass, crappie, perch, walleye, bream, and trout. You can also look at rare local species of the alligator gar at Puskus Lake.
Mississippi Sandhill Crane Refuge
Bird lovers can drop by the Mississippi Sandhill Crane Refuge to take in the sandhill crane, considered critically endangered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
The White Oak Conservation restored 68 Mississippi sandhill cranes since 1995 into the Mississippi Refuge near Gautier. This refuge aims to protect the last breeding populations and prevent the extinction of this magnificent crane.
Besides the cranes, you can enjoy an educational visit with kids and learn about the different plants at the site.
You can find a variety of orchids, sundews, and pitcher plants throughout the area during a colorful spring tour at the nature trails.
Gulf Islands National Seashore
A voyage to the Gulf Islands National Seashore lets you look at several land and sea mammals, including whales and manatees.
You can stroll at the beaches and spot bottlenose dolphins or see reptiles, such as the loggerhead sea turtle, gopher tortoise, lizards, and snake species.
Furthermore, you can take quality pictures of the squirrels, armadillos, nutrias, raccoons, river otters, and black rats in the Davis Bayou Area.
You can also experience close encounters with the Atlantic bottlenose dolphins when riding the passenger ferry from Gulfport to West Ship Island.
The Gulf Islands National Seashore is a National Watchable Wildlife Area and home to various species, including amphibians, shorebirds, and reptiles.
You can find common amphibians like the narrow-mouthed frogs, cricket frogs, and squirrel tree frogs at the site. Shorebirds that nest at this location include black skimmers and least terns.
Great River Road State Park
The Great River Road State Park sits along the Historic Scenic Byway. Even though it officially closed in 2011, the park re-opens on a limited day-use only basis, providing quality access to the Mississippi River.
The site has a 75-ft observation tower, where you can appreciate sweeping vistas of the river and surrounding nature.
You can also unwind and fish at the Perry Martin Lake, a spot known for yielding impressive white perch, bass, and catfish.
The park is ideal for family or group trips since it also has a picnic area with tables and seats.
Clark Creek State Park
This location offers the only spot in the Magnolia State where you can view waterfalls amid a colorful scene featuring mixed pine and hardwood forests.
Clark Creek State Park is open throughout the year, and you can encounter plenty of uncommon trees such as the umbrella tree, chinquapin oak, pyramid magnolia, and silverbell.
Besides these, you can discover colorful resident and migrating birds, snake species, and invertebrates. You can also spot the state-endangered fish, federally endangered Carolina magnolia vine, and the Southern redbelly dace.
The forest is also home to the black bear, another threatened species in the state.
Panther Swamp Wildlife Refuge
Panther Swamp Wildlife Refuge incorporates resident species among the sloughs, woodlands, and reforested sections.
For instance, you can find wildlife at these sites, including the swamp rabbit, whitetail deer, squirrel, raccoon, mink, wild turkey, and otter.
The American alligator is visible on banks and logs during warm springs and floats motionless in water on hot summer days.
Moreover, you can fish for sunfish, catfish, crappie, carp, largemouth bass, bowfin, and gar at the water spots at Panther Creek, Lake George, Deep Bayou, Wade Bayous.
You can see neo-tropical birds that seasonally migrate through the refuge and the wintering waterfowl during the colder season.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are deer dangerous in Mississippi?
Deer can be dangerous during your stay in Mississippi, depending on your encounter. Generally, they are innocent, and spotting them randomly during a stroll through the wild poses no threats.
However, a deer can pose a threat if you suddenly encounter one that runs on the road when driving.
In this case, you can easily get into an accident by hitting the animal or hitting something or someone else while trying to swerve it.
Hence, you want to keep an eye out throughout your stay in the state and be especially attentive when driving through forest roads.
Can you legally hunt in Mississippi?
Yes, you can. Apart from minors below 16 years old, the state requires all non-resident hunters to get a hunting license.
You can legally hunt animals such as skunks, coyotes, foxes, beavers, wild hogs, and nutria. Mississippi also classifies them as nuisance species, enabling you to hunt them at any time of the year.
Additionally, you can hunt foxes, raccoons, bobcats, and beavers at night with or without light and accompanied by dogs, except during the spring turkey season.
The state’s legal shooting hours for migratory birds are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset. You can legally shoot for a resident game from one-half hour before sunrise and one-half hour after sunset.
How can you differentiate between a cottonmouth and a non-venomous water snake?
Many people kill non-venomous snakes out of fear that it is the venomous cottonmouth.
Knowing their differences can help you boost your survival skills when in a dangerous situation while simultaneously saving a harmless snake’s life.
Besides, trying to kill a snake significantly increases your chances of getting bitten.
One difference is that cottonmouths are typically heavier and thicker, whereas the water snakes are slender. A cottonmouth features a blocky, thick, and noticeably wider head than water snakes.
In contrast, a water snake has a head similar in width to its neck, with a longer and thinner tail.
Another difference lies in their eyes; a cottonmouth’s pupils are vertical and cat-like while a water snake’s pupils are round.
Moreover, the latter does not have the facial pits typically found in pit vipers like the cottonmouth.
Notably, non-venomous snakes like the water snake often attempt to seem bigger than they are when threatened by flattening their heads and bodies.
This posture can make a water snake appear more like a cottonmouth, with its flattened head looking triangular.
Despite this, the head is not blocky and thick like a cottonmouth, meaning you can identify it since the head maintains a similar width to its neck, even when flattened.
Does the Gulf Coast of Mississippi feature deadly animals?
Yes, you can encounter dangerous marine life during a trip along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. For instance, the lionfish is a venomous fish common in the area, although most stings on humans are accidental.
The fish has multiple protruding spines that increase your risk of infection after a sting. It also exposes you to body-wide symptoms, including sweating, changes in heart rate, abdominal pain, and fainting.
Even though deaths from a lionfish sting are rare, the symptoms can last between 8 hours to a month, depending on the sting’s severity.
As a result, it can completely kill the rest of your tour and leave you with an extremely uncomfortable return home from your Mississippi trip.
You can also encounter some unintentionally dangerous species, such as the Black Tip shark. This shark generally is harmless to humans with its timid nature, causing it to stay at a distance from humans.
However, meeting an aggressive type can pose a threat, and thus it is best to respect their space.
Are there wolves in Mississippi?
You can find some wolves in zoos and wolf sanctuaries, such as the Sanctuary of the Wolf in Etta. The state has also introduced a few red wolves into the wild.
Mississippi categorizes these wolves as Critically Endangered, undertaking several conservation efforts for these rare species.
The red wolf is native to Mississippi and a little smaller than the ones at Wolf Howl. Although they were common in the past, continuous killing into the 1950s almost led to these wolves’ extinction.
Their limited population in the wild explains why deer overrun many spots in the states because there is no predator to moderate them.