SAN ANTONIO – During the spring and summer, you may start to see a lot of animals, insects, and reptiles out and about.
There are some, more so than others, you want to stay away from because they can be dangerous and or even deadly.
Here’s a list of some of the dangerous critters that can be found in South Texas:
Feral Hogs: They can be found all over the state and can weigh anywhere from 100 to over 400 pounds. According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, there are currently 1.5 million feral hogs in the state. While there aren’t many reported attacks on humans, their sharp tusks and quick speed can cause serious injury.
Snakes: South Texas is home to many different species of snakes but three of them can be deadly: water moccasins, coral snakes, and rattlesnakes. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services on average, 1 to 2 people in Texas die each year from venomous snake bites, but roughly half of all venomous snake bites are “dry" which means they don’t inject the venom into their victim. If you are bitten by a snake stay calm, remove jewelry or constricting clothing before swelling begins, lift the bitten limb so that it’s level with the heart, limit movement, gently wash the bite with soap and water and call 911 to seek medical attention. Do NOT attempt to suck the venom from the wound, make cuts over the snake bite, apply a tourniquet, apply a cold pack, take a pain reliever or other medications, or drink alcoholic beverages.
Flannel Moth: This is best known as the stinging caterpillar and is also known as the puss moth caterpillar or an asp. They can be found on trees and shrubbery around homes and other buildings or in parks. These caterpillars can cause a severe sting when they rub up against or are pressed against the skin. Their hair is venomous and causes a severe burning sensation and rash. Other symptoms according to the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension are headaches, vomiting, and sometimes respiratory stress. The pain usually goes away in about an hour. If you get stung apply an ice pack and take an oral antihistamine.
Spiders: All spider bites can be painful but very few are as dangerous as the bite from a black widow or brown recluse. Both can be found indoors and outdoors. Antivenom is generally not prescribed for black widow bites and there is no effective antivenom for a brown recluse bite. All spider bites should be washed with soap and water and an ice pack can be applied to alleviate pain and swelling. According to Texas Health and Human Services first aid is limited so you will need to contact the Texas Poison Control Network at 1-800-POISON or your doctor.
Brain-eating amoebas: You can’t see it but it lives in freshwater throughout the state. The infection is rare but almost always leads to death, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Only 34 infections were reported in the U.S. between 2009 and 2018. In 2019, a 10-year-old Texas girl died after contracting the brain-eating amoeba from swimming in the Brazos River. This single-celled organism lurks in warm water and enters your body through your nose. According to a Texas Monthly article, experts advise keeping your head dry when wading in a stream or lake where water temperatures are warm.
Flesh-eating bacteria: This is another unseen danger and it lurks in oceans. Also called vibrio, it can get under your skin through wounds like cuts or scrapes, and then it spreads to the soft tissue of your body. Symptoms include painful swelling, blisters, ulcers, vomiting, and fever. According to the CDC, there have been an estimated 80,000 illnesses and 100 deaths annually in the U.S. If it’s not treated within 72 hours there is a likelihood of death.
Kissing Bugs: These nocturnal bugs are most often seen during warmer months in woodpiles, cracks, decks, under tree bark, and in outdoor sheds. There are 11 different species of these bugs and they can pass on Chagas disease with their bite. According to Texas A&M Agriculture and Life Sciences department, there are an estimated 300,000 to over one million human cases of Chagas disease, with particular concern for those living in the US/Mexico border. There are two phases of Chagas disease when a human gets it, acute and chronic. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, body aches, fever, rash, and vomiting. If you develop chronic Chagas disease the symptoms are more severe - like heart failure and/or cardiac arrest.
Scorpions: They can be found all over the state and their stings are painful. The most common species you may see is the striped bark scorpion. According to Texas A&M Agrilife Extension, most people who get stung in the state only see moderate reactions with little effect to the nervous system. Apply an ice pack to the affected area and if swelling or pain persists seek medical attention.
Centipedes: These creeper crawlers can be found in soil, under rocks or wood, and piles of leaves. According to Texas A&M Agrilife Extension, they do not transmit disease but their claws can inject poison. Although most are small, they can grow over 9 inches. The bite isn’t typically dangerous or fatal, but its best to leave these centipedes alone.
Bees & Wasps: These can be found in a lot of places and there are a lot of different species. Their stings can be painful and not too dangerous unless you are allergic or get stung by multiples. Some allergic reactions lead to difficulty breathing, severe swelling, vomiting, stomach cramps, fast heart rate, dizziness, confusion, drop in blood pressure, and difficulty swallowing.
Fire Ants: The red imported fire ant is usually medium-sized and red and black. This species is exotic according to Texas A&M Agrilife Extension and in many areas, has displaced other species of fire ants native to the state. The fire ant reacts to motion, for instance when you step in a pile and you jerk away it triggers them to sting. Only 1% of the population is hypersensitive to their venom, but some may experience anaphylactic shock if they are stung multiple times.
Ticks: They can be found throughout the state and their bite doesn’t just affect pets but also humans. If you are bitten by a tick you could be transmitted with a tickborne illness. The most common symptoms according to the CDC are fever chills, aches and pains, and a rash. Severe infections can result in hospitalization although they can be treated with antibiotics. There is also the possibility of tick paralysis but it is considered rare and within 24 hours of the tick being removed the paralysis typically subsides.