Dangerous animals in Virginia's lakes and rivers

Margaret Minnicks

snapping turtlePhoto byDonna YarbroughonUnsplash

Virginia has a wide range of ecosystems and habitats in it. More than 3,180 square miles of the state consist of water, with a large number of aquatic and semi-aquatic animals living there. Many of the creatures are harmless, but there are a few which can be very dangerous.

1. Common snapping turtle (pictured above)

Snapping turtles are found in Virginia’s waters, including lakes, rivers, swamps, streams, ponds, and even some brackish water. Common snapping turtles can weigh up to 35 pounds. Common snapping turtles are not usually a threat to people while they are in the water. However, they can be defensive while they are on the land, especially during the breeding season is from April to November.

2. Bull shark

Bull SharkPhoto byDavid ClodeonUnsplash

Bull sharks have been spotted miles upstream in the James River in Virginia, but that's rare. Bull sharks caused the deadly 1916 Jersey Shore attacks. It is interesting to know that they were the sharks that inspired the 1975 thriller Jaws. Bull sharks are typically around 11 feet long and are incredibly powerful apex predators.

2. Catfish

CatfishPhoto byMilos PreleviconUnsplash

Catfish are common in Virginia. Some of the best places to find them are in the James and Rappahannock Rivers.

Species of catfish in Virginia include blue, channel, flathead, and white catfish. Blue catfish are the largest fish ever caught in the state. They weigh about 143 pounds. Most catfish have spines on their dorsal and pectoral fins that can be used for defense because they are sharp and point outwards. They can inject a type of protein that causes an extreme stinging sensation.

4. Longnose gar

Longnose garPhoto byGraceHues PhotographyonUnsplash

Longnose gar are long, slender fish that can reach approximately three to four feet long. They mainly inhabit slow-moving rivers and streams where they prey on a variety of fish, amphibians, and insects. Longnose gar are found in popular fishing spots in the Chickahominy, James, Pamunkey, and Rappahannock Rivers. Because they have such sharp teeth, they can be dangerous. Don't eat their eggs because they are poisonous.

5. Pickerel frog

Pickerel FrogPhoto byJulien MussardonUnsplash

Pickerel frogs usually inhabit lakes, streams, rivers, and ditches in Virginia. They can sometimes be seen far from water. They produce secretions in the skin, which can be an irritant to humans if they are touched. They do not typically cause serious problems. However, they are toxic to some of their predators.

6. Northern cottonmouth

The northern cottonmouth is a venomous snake found in swamps, streams, rivers, and lakes in the far southeastern corner of Virginia. Their most distinguishing feature is the bright white lining inside their mouth. Cottonmouths often expose this when they coil their bodies and open their mouth wide in a defensive posture.

Cottonmouths possess cytotoxic venom which causes severe tissue damage that leads to extensive scarring and can even result in amputation of the affected limb. Cottonmouths will typically flee back into the water when they are disturbed. However, they may strike out if they are cornered.

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I love pop culture, movies, television, and entertainment. I keep up to date on the latest movies and television shows. I like sharing news about them. I also like sharing information about different foods and their health benefits. I have been a high school teacher and a college professor for over 50 years and an online writer for over 30 years. I have three degrees: BA in English and Literature, MA in Christian Education, and MDiv in Theology. Get to know me through my writing.

Richmond, VA

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