15 Cute Animals That Could Kill You

Baby animal
Photo: Matthew Kang/flickr

They might look sweet and innocent, but many of nature's cutest creatures are a lot more than a cute little face: They can actually be deadly. As a reminder of that important principle, here's our list of the 15 cutest animals in the world that could kill you. From fish to frogs, big cats to cassowaries, you may be surprised at how lethal these adorable creatures can be.

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Pufferfish

Photo: Mila Zinkova/Wikimedia Commons

Few fish are cuter than a fully expanded, portly pufferfish — but don't be fooled. The pufferfish is the second most poisonous vertebrate on the planet. Fishermen recommend the use of thick gloves to avoid poisoning and the risk of getting bitten when removing the hook. The poison of a pufferfish, which has no antidote, kills by paralyzing the diaphragm, causing suffocation.

Nearly all pufferfish contain tetrodotoxin, a substance that makes them taste bad (and sometimes lethal) to fish. According to National Geographic, tetrodotoxin is deadly, up to 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide. One pufferfish has enough toxin to kill 30 adults.

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Slow loris

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This animal might look like a harmless, big-eyed baby ewok, but the slow loris is one of the only venomous mammals in the world. Its subtle nature makes it popular in the illegal pet trade, but this furry creature also carries a toxin that is released from the brachial gland on the sides of its elbows. If threatened, the loris can take the toxin into its mouth and mix it with saliva. The animal may also lick or rub its hair with this mixture to deter predators from attack. The toxin can cause death by anaphylactic shock in some people.

With the animal's bite, hiss-like noises, sinuous moves, and even the way it defensively raises its arms above its head, Smithsonian wonders whether the loris might have evolved to mimic the cobra. Researchers also suggest that the slow loris's markings resemble those of the snake.

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Moose

Photo: bcameron54/Wikimedia Commons

Don't let the cartoonish grin fool you; moose are among the most dangerous, regularly encountered animals in the world. They prefer to leave humans alone, but if disturbed or threatened they are known to respond by charging with aggression. They attack more people annually than bears do, and they are especially aggressive when defending a calf.

"The best practice around moose is to go away around a moose," Anchorage-area state wildlife biologist Jessy Coltrane, told CBS News. "Assume every moose is a serial killer standing in the middle of the trail with a loaded gun."

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Big cats

Photo: Tambako the Jaguar/flickr

They might look like an overgrown version of your pet, but don't forget that you're on the menu of almost all of the wild big cats. In North America, pumas are an occasional threat to lone hikers and small children. But all of the world's big cats — including tigers, lions, jaguars, leopards and cheetahs — can threaten lives if they are mishandled or provoked.

There are an estimated 15,000 big cats kept captive in the United States, and only a small percentage of them are in accredited zoos.

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Cassowary

Photo: Paul IJsendoorn/flickr

A cassowary looks like a flamboyant ostrich and can be found wandering the rain forests of Australia and New Guinea. It prefers to keep a low profile, but when disturbed this flightless bird can become extremely aggressive and territorial. Capable of running and leaping at high speeds, the cassowary attacks by thrusting its large claws forward with the aim of disemboweling its target.

The cassowary can charge up to 30 miles per hour and leap more than 3 feet in the air, reports Smithsonian. The birds' claws — one curved and two straight as daggers — are so sharp that New Guinea tribesmen put them over the tips of their spears to really make their weapons dangerous.

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Blue-ringed octopus

Photo: Steve Childs/flickr

The tiny blue-ringed octopus can pack a wallop. It is widely regarded as one of the world's most venomous animals. It lives in tidal regions ranging from Australia to Japan and is frequently encountered by people wading in tide pools. If provoked or stepped on, it will bite. Blue-ringed octopus poison has no antivenom and can kill an adult human within minutes.

The name comes from the bright iridescent blue rings that show up when the octopus becomes alarmed, reports MarineBio. The blue rings are a warning when threatened. If a predator doesn't leave, the octopus attacks by ejecting venom that causes paralysis, and then death. The more common blue-ringed octopus, Hapalochlaena maculosa, carries enough poison to kill 26 adults in just a few minutes.

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Bears

Photo: ArCaLu/Shutterstock

Bears are some of the most lovable large carnivores in the world, often the subject of childhood tales and treasured as teddy bears. It's a strange association, given that they are also on the shortlist of animals known to hunt and kill humans. Grizzlies and polar bears are the most feared, but all large species of bear can potentially be dangerous — even the vegetarian giant panda.

A recent study in the Journal of Wildlife Management documented the 59 fatal black bear attacks between 1900 and 2009 in the U.S. and Canada. Researchers found that solo, hungry males — not mothers with babies — are most often the ones that kill.

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Poison dart frog

Photo: Wilfried Berns/Wikimedia Commons

The charismatic colors might catch your eye, but such pizzazz is also nature's way of telling you to stay away. The poison dart frog is among the most poisonous creatures on Earth. The two-inch-long golden poison dart frog, for example, has enough venom to kill 10 adult men, reports National Geographic. Indigenous American Indians used the toxic secretions to poison the tips of blowgun darts. That's how the frog earned its common name.

Scientists aren't sure where the frogs' toxicity comes from. They may gather plant poisons carried by ants, termites, beetles and other prey they eat. Poison dart frogs that are raised in captivity and isolated from native insects don't develop venom.

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Giant anteater

Photo: Fernando Flores/Wikimedia Commons

You wouldn't know it by looking at it, but this large creature feeds only on ants and termites. Its size is part of what makes it such a dangerous animal, but the true weapons are the powerful, sharp claws. If threatened, an anteater can maul a human and do an incredible amount of damage with just one swipe.

Anteaters aren't aggressive, but will fight back fiercely if cornered, reports National Geographic. A threatened, cornered anteater will rear up on its hind legs, while using its large tail for balance. It will lash out with its claw which can be four inches long. The giant anteater is ferocious enough to fight off animals as aggressive as jaguars and pumas.

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Wolverine

Photo: Erik Mandre/Shutterstock

This is one weasel you don't want to mess with. Its aggressive nature is widely known, thanks to the popularity of the X-Men comics and movies. Armed with powerful jaws, sharp claws and a thick hide, the wolverine can take down prey as large as a moose and steal food from bears and wolves.

Wolverines are perhaps best known for their attitude, says PBS. "They don’t hesitate to fight with wolves and other predators over a meal, and given the right snow conditions are even capable of taking down a moose—a feat wolverine specialist Doug Chadwick likens to 'a house cat bringing down a deer.'”

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Pfeffer's flamboyant cuttlefish

Photo: Silke Baron/flickr

Don't try to cuddle this cuttlefish. Though charming and colorful, this aptly named fish's displays are meant as a warning. Like octopuses and some squid, cuttlefish are venomous. The muscles of the cuttlefish contain a highly toxic compound.

Although cuttlefish rarely encounter humans, their poison is considered extremely toxic and can be as lethal as the poison of the blue-ringed octopus, reports MarineBio.

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Leopard seal

Photo: meng/flickr

The leopard seal is at the top of the food chain in its home in the Antarctic, and this is one predator you don't want to swim with. It is bold, powerful and curious, and it has been known to hunt people, although it usually targets penguins.

In 1985, Scottish explorer Gareth Wood was bitten twice on the leg when a leopard seal tried to drag him off the ice and into the sea, and in 2003 a leopard seal dragged snorkeling biologist Kirsty Brown underwater to her death in Antarctica.

Ian Boyd, director of the Sea Mammal Research Unit in Scotland, said, "There may be a process going on in Antarctica where these animals, because of their growing exposure to man, are becoming a greater danger."

Leopard seals rank alongside killer whales as Antarctica's top predator, according to National Geographic.

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Gila monster

Photo: Jason/flickr

This chunky lizard with pink or orange spots is one of the few venomous lizards in the world and the largest lizard native to the United States. Though it is sluggish, the Gila monster is capable of delivering a painful* dose of venom when provoked or stepped on. The venom comes from glands in the lizard's lower jaw, reports the San Diego Zoo. The Gila monster has a strong bite and will often not loosen its grip for several seconds, even chewing to help spread the venom deeper into its victim. (*The gila monster's bite may not be fun, but it's rarely fatal. We've updated this slide to reflect that information.)

If you are bitten by Gila monster, the University of Adelaide Clinical Toxinology Resources group suggests you submerge the lizard in water to break free from its strong jaws.

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Elephant

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The elephant is often portrayed as a lovable giant, and animals domesticated by trainers and zookeepers can be quite peaceful. But if agitated, abused or if encountered in the wild, an elephant can be one of the most dangerous creatures in the world. Elephants experience unexpected bouts of rage and are known to be vindictive. In India, hundreds of people are killed by mistreated or rampaging elephants.

According to the National Geographic Channel documentary "Elephant Rage," some 500 people are killed by elephant attacks each year. "I do think that elephants are becoming more aggressive towards humans in very compressed areas where they are being shot at and harassed," said Caitlin O'Connell-Rodwell, a biologist at Stanford University.

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Monkeys and apes

Photo: Tambako the Jaguar/flickr

These animals are most similar to humans, creating a natural bond and some pitfalls as well. Some diseases carried by monkeys and apes can be easily transmitted to humans. Even a small monkey can bite, potentially transmitting a virus like hepatitis C. Larger apes, such as chimpanzees, orangutans and gorillas are powerful animals capable of mauling a human if they feel threatened.

Sometimes even chimps kept as pets have harmed their owners. It could be due to aggressive tendencies, illness or even frustration, say experts. In any case, the one thing that can't be underestimated is their brute strength.

"The chimpanzee has strength for a human that is utterly incomprehensible," Frans de Waal, lead biologist from the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, told Scientific American. "People watch pro wrestlers on TV and think they are strong. But a pro wrestler would not be able to hold a chimpanzee still if they wanted to."