Surburban Secrets – Dangers Lurking In Your Back Yard By Paul Denikin

Your home is a sanctuary for you and your family. But it’s also home for scores of wild animals and insects that don’t see a fence as a boundary. So, what kinds of creatures are lurking on your lawn? Read on to find out.


Raccoons, opossums, and skunks. These small and subjectively adorable mammals often come out at night to dig through the buffet that is your trashcan. While their natural instinct is to turn and run, raccoons, opossums, and skunks can and will defend themselves. Skunks, obviously, engage in chemical warfare enough to send even the most daring home defender running in the other direction. But any of these small creatures can scratch and bite, which may result in an infection or, worse, rabies.

Foxes. Both gray and red foxes are a common site in suburban neighborhoods across the country. Fortunately, they are typically not a danger to humans and will  flee at the thought of confrontation, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

Snakes. There are hundreds of serpentine species throughout the United States. Fortunately, only a handful – 21 to be exact – are considered potentially harmful to humans. Most snakebites are not lethal to adults but all attacks require immediate medical attention. Reptiles Magazine’s Top 10 Venomous North American Snakes offers more information on how to identify dangerous belly sliders.

Ticks. Disease-spreading ticks are a problem in 49 out of 50 states, with Alaska the only exclusion. Ticks can spread Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme disease, Heartland virus, and a host of other systemic infections. The CDC reports that the brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus) is the most common variety.

Poisonous plants. Not all dangers look as threatening as snakes and raccoons. Poisonous plants (and the pesticides used to kill them), including unripe tomatoes, azaleas, and Wisteria, may cause intestinal disturbances, slowed heart rate, and even seizures, especially in children, when ingested. Since plants are stationary, the best way to avoid them is to remove them from the yard. However, it’s virtually impossible to eliminate all dangers so children should be taught from an early age never to touch or taste anything without their parents’ permission.

Feral cats. Feral cats are a widespread issue in suburban communities where there is not enough emphasis placed on population control. Like foxes, unsocialized cats tend to tuck tail and run at the sight of humans, but they can scratch and bite when cornered.

Deer. Deer are beautiful and domestic creatures that are quickly having their natural habitats replaced by land development. One of the most common issues with deer, as reported by The Nature Conservancy of Cornell University, is vehicle collisions. Like other animals, deer can become aggressive when threatened, especially females in care of young.

Alligators. Thankfully, fatal attacks between humans and alligators are rare. However, as CBS News points out, the frequency of unprovoked bites continues to grow in Florida as the state’s population booms. Statistically, there is one alligator for every 20 people in the Sunshine State, meaning the chances of a meeting are great. Alligators are found in both brackish and freshwater.


If you are unlucky enough to come across any of the creatures on this list, your first course of action should be to back away slowly until you are a safe distance. Bites should be washed with soap and warm water and covered with sterile gauze and antibiotic ointment. Contact your doctor or seek emergency care for any wound that results in broken skin. asserts that your doctor will need to know the type of animal (or plant ingested) in order to provide the most effective treatment.


For more information about animal bites, visit the US National Library of Medicine at and the World Health Organization at

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