"Everything's bigger in Texas," right?
Sometimes that's true, and sometimes that's good ... and sometimes it's certainly not!
Texas is home to a variety of fascinating wildlife, including some not-so-friendly creepy critters. Whether you're a resident or planning a visit, it's important to be aware of the creatures that might give you a "WOAH, that's big!" or "What is that?!"
In this quick guide, we'll touch on Texas' creepy critters and highlight the regions where they are commonly found and also pepper in some personal anecdotes, from the time I held a copperhead to when a scorpion stung me amid actively excreting a human from my body.
When you stay informed and prepared, you can navigate Texan terrain, such as beautiful Hill County where we're rooted, with confidence and respect for its inhabitants that might otherwise demand respect.
Texas is known for its venomous snakes, including the infamous Western Diamondback Rattlesnake, Copperhead, and Cottonmouth (or Water Moccasin). . . .
Keep an eye out for these snakes in the central, western, and southern regions of the state, particularly in grasslands, forests, and near water sources.
In my personal experience, since moving deep into the countryside, within the space of a year, I see approximately a dozen rattlesnakes on my property. Most significantly, one was near my dogs' food bowls; thankfully, everyone was alright. You'll meet people in Texas who advocate simply moving the snakes, and you'll meet others who 'send them to Heaven.'
Anecdotal tangent: I remember catching a copperhead when I was about seven years old. Always unafraid of snakes, I respected them but didn't fully grasp their potential dangerous side. My grandma didn't recognize the copperhead; she called my dad to check in and casually mentioned the snake I was holding. My dad asked for a photo and immediately flipped a switch. He didn't let my grandma take us to the creek without a parent present after that!
Among the many creepy crawlies in Texas, the Red-Headed Centipede absolutely commands attention with its dark body accented with a reddish-orange head and a pair of seriously intimidating venomous fangs. Their venom can cause painful bites. You might find them in gardens, wooded areas, and even indoors.
Texas is home to several other centipede species that warrant caution, too: The Texas Giant Redheaded Centipede is a larger and even more formidable cousin, growing up to six inches in length. With potent venom, their bites can cause more intense pain and possible allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. I've encountered two total in the last five years in my current house and dozens outdoors:
I'll never forget the first time I saw one.
Having lived outside Dallas prior, i had yet to ever ponder these creatures; when I moved to Hill Country, ironically an exterminator was over when I heard a scream from my then-six-year-old; as a mom, this type of scream makes you nearly fly to your child. Despite being in the backyard with him and close by, I ran faster than a speeding bullet (I'm convinced), and found my kiddo being chased--yes, chased--by one of these demonic-looking centipedes on a down Oak tree.
To boot, we didn't even get the nasty creature:
When I scooped my son off the fallen tree he loved to sit on, read on, play on, never be on again . . . the giant centipede quickly retreated to a hole in the tree. For this reason, the exterminator who was there advised we fill the hole with foam spray.
The next of these that we found was in our kitchen.
Indeed, I'll always remember the initial encounter we had with these intimidating creatures and how the exterminator said he's known them to send small dogs and animals--and even children--to the hospital. Also, prior to getting my real estate license, I remember reading a blog wherein another real estate agent mentioned finding one of these in his daughter's bed!
To minimize the risk of bites from these formidable creatures, absolutely wear the right footwear and protective clothing when exploring outdoors, especially in areas with dense vegetation or under rocks and logs (or atop them, as was the case with my kiddo!) where centipedes often hide.
While most centipedes prefer to avoid human interaction, their venomous bites can be painful and potentially harmful; be aware of their presence and exert caution when exploring Texas. If bitten by a centipede, do seek medical attention, especially if experiencing severe pain or allergic reactions.
UPDATE: Upon publishing this--and I kid you not, as I'm no kidder and not that funny--my son, the same kiddo who encountered one as mentioned in this article--said, "Mom! Dad just had to kill a Red Headed Centipede!" and, as if that wasn't enough to make my blood curdle, he finished it with, "in your bedroom!"
Texas is home to a variety of spiders, some of which can be intimidating, to put it lightly. The venomous Black Widow and Brown Recluse are found throughout the state, with the Brown Recluse being more prevalent in the central and southern regions. Be mindful when exploring dark and undisturbed areas such as woodpiles, sheds, or outdoor structures.
Personally, I've found them in stumps, nestled in the middle of outdoor tables, and I was even bitten on my leg after simply setting a pillow on my lap indoors; it was an intimidating (let's stick with that word for now...) bite but didn't get to the much-dreaded necrosis stage as recluse bites can do.
I've also come into contact with multiple black widows in one setting when simply moving rocks around our Hill Country property. I swear one that was in defensive position toward me was a record-breaking size, and I was thanking my lucky stars I didn't grab at the rock it was on.
Be vigilant! Wear gloves and boots and other gear when outside and when applicable!
The most common scorpion species here in Texas is the Striped Bark Scorpion, but you can also find the Texas Cave Scorpion. They can be found in a range of Texas settings such as desert areas, grasslands, and rocky terrains. Exercise caution when handling rocks or debris in scorpion-prone areas. . . .
We, as a family, have found dozens in our house over the years and, for some reason or another, our cats love to 'play' with them and seem to not have ever gotten stung. We humans in the family have been less fortunate:
My son got stung when putting a shirt on; my husband got stung when working outside; and I got stung--get this--amid the throes of active labor in my third [carefully approved, Texas-legal] midwife-assisted home-birth.
Texas is home to a range of stinging insects, including aggressive species like Africanized Honey Bees (known as "killer bees") and various types of wasps. Be cautious around nests and hives, and take precautions when participating in outdoor activities, especially in rural and wooded areas.
I'm especially vigilant around the barn, shed, or even under low-hanging roofs or tables. Just this summer I've found two wasps' nests under outdoor tables. Fortunately, my kids and myself have never been stung, and I don't want to bee (sorry--I had to!).
As someone who holds a real estate license in both Missouri and Texas and with an affinity for a homestead lifestyle, we've come across properties that have active or had active bee populations. In fact, our 'homestead' in Hill County has an amazing area dedicated to keeping bees, but it wasn't kept active when we bought it. Still, I see bees gather there and mull over when to get into beekeeping. Perhaps that's for a later article and help of another local expert. (Reach out if you're a Hill Country, Texas, beekeeper--I'd love to hear from you!)
Fire ants . . . their mere name usually elicits a certain expression on the faces of us here in Hill Country, an expression often a hybrid of annoyance, disdain, and, well, for some of us, pepper in a bit of horror. They might fall under the above category, but let's give the little things their own section since they're so ubiquitous in Hill Country:
These tiny--yet seriously formidable--creatures have made a significant impact on both the ecosystem and daily life of Texans. Originally from South America, fire ants arrived in the United States in the early 20th century and have since spread rapidly, establishing themselves as unwelcome guests across the state. The pesky boogers are renowned for their aggressive behavior and their painful stings. They form large colonies, often creating anthills in lawns, gardens, and even playgrounds.
When disturbed, they aggressively defend their territory by delivering multiple painful stings, leaving an unforgettable burning sensation that will very often make kids cry (and adults? Just kidding. Or am I?). Most Texas residents, Hill Country and state-wide, have had their fair share of encounters with these fiery pests, and dealing with their presence has become a part of daily life for many.
The invasion of fire ants has not only affected Texans but also the local environment, as these voracious little nasties are opportunistic predators, preying on small insects, birds, and even small mammals. That's right--small mammals!
Their presence has led to a decline in native insect populations and, in some cases, has endangered local wildlife.
As if that's not enough downside, these little creatures have the potential to inflict serious damage on crops and agricultural lands, posing a challenge to farmers and gardeners across the state. Managing and controlling fire ant populations has become a critical task for both authorities and individuals alike. My family had taken to 'organic' garlic sprays and the like, but when they don't do the trick, we've resorted to zeroscaping to help mitigate the terrain on which they thrive (but the seem to be able to take over anywhere--be cautious) and use various remedies that get sprinkled around the ant hills. Do you have any amazing [non-toxic, as we have many animals on our land] ant-deterring methods? Please share!
We're lumping alligators into this section as well as the larger predator article; maybe they're not 'creepy' to all, but they qualify as such to many, and, in Texas, they're one to look out for. In certain regions, particularly along the Gulf Coast, alligators can be found in freshwater lakes, rivers, and marshes. While alligator encounters--let alone true issues or fatalities--are quite rare, it's important to sustain distance and avoid feeding, provoking, or otherwise disturbing these large, formidable reptiles.
Caveats and Safety Tips
Maintain a respectful distance and avoid provoking or approaching any wildlife you encounter. Remember, they are an essential part of Texas' ecosystems.
Learn to identify the different species of creepy critters and their habitats. This knowledge will help you make informed decisions and take appropriate precautions.
When venturing into areas known for creepy critters, wear protective clothing, including long pants, closed-toe shoes, and gloves. This reduces your exposure and minimizes the risk of bites or stings.
Caution at Night
Many creepy critters are more active during the evening and nighttime hours. Take extra caution and use a flashlight to navigate dark areas.
If you encounter a potentially dangerous creature or if you're unsure of its species, contact local wildlife authorities or pest control professionals for assistance.
By keeping these caveats and safety tips in mind, you can appreciate the diverse wildlife of Texas while minimizing the risk of negative encounters with creepy critters. Enjoy exploring the Lone Star State and its natural wonders with awareness and respect! You can read more about Texas predators, such as mountain lions, here, and please email us if we can help with anything-pool or -backyard as well as real estate!