South Dakota’s Flying Terrors: The 3 Most Dangerous Animals in the State’s Skies

Important Points

Although there are many harmful animals in South Dakota, some of them are potentially fatal. These are the state’s flying terrors.

These aerial adversaries represent serious hazards to both humans and pets.

Many individuals are drawn to South Dakota by its natural beauty and choose to live or travel there. However, everyone who travels needs to know what risks are there and how to prevent them!

You could be surprised by the flying terrors of South Dakota! South Dakota offers breathtaking beauty with its glacial lakes, towering mountains, and vast grasslands. Based just on the images, it appears to be a somewhat safe area to visit and reside. But there are deadly creatures in the state!

South Dakota has warm, occasionally humid summers and freezing, dry winters. Its magnificent natural beauty is often visible to travelers for extended periods of time thanks to the weather. There is a lot to see and do, including the famous Mount Rushmore and the Badlands National Park.

Furthermore, the state is home to a wide range of animal species. Hundreds of rare species call South Dakota home, making it a photographer’s and birdwatcher’s dream destination. Some pose a risk to both people and animals. South Dakota is home to wolves, coyotes, bears, and cougars. These terrestrial predators are among the state’s most hazardous creatures. Even though some predators stay firmly planted on the ground, there are still some flying species that can be dangerous. In order of least to most deadly, let’s examine the top flying terrors in South Dakota!

1: Owl Attacks in South Dakota – Flying Terrors in the Night

In South Dakota, owls can be terrifying avian predators. There are countless accounts of them assaulting people and animals on the internet and in local newspapers.

Owls are stealthy, nocturnal predators that mostly feed on rodents and small mammals. A huge owl, on the other hand, could easily carry off a small dog or pet cat for its next meal. The owl’s strong talons and beak can serious harm even if it doesn’t bring the animal away and devour it. This can result in severe infections, such as potentially fatal sepsis, an infection that enters the bloodstream.

One of the biggest owl species in the state is the great gray owl. This enormous owl species, with wingspans of five feet and body lengths of up to 33 inches, weighs just two or three pounds. They can lift up to 1.4 times their own weight in prey. This includes toy-bred dogs (think teacup Yorkshire Terriers and Chihuahuas) and young/small cats. They occasionally target farm animals as well, such as ducks and hens.

The largest owl species in South Dakota is the great horned owl, which is also resident there. These owls are more frequently mentioned in attack reports and have a tendency to be more aggressive. They can carry prey up to nine pounds in weight, on average. They weigh about four pounds. This comprises various dog breeds as well as a few adult cats. If they are in the open, they may also harm pet bunnies and farm birds.

A Crazy Slew of Owl Attacks

In September 2022, there was a report of a great horned owl threatening locals and visitors at Lake Okobojo. Wildlife officers tried to frighten the owl away after receiving reports from multiple persons about the attacks. Their endeavors were a complete failure.

Residents eventually grabbed the creature in a fishing net after it used its talons to cling onto a woman’s leg. Despite being seriously hurt, the attacked woman clung tightly to the owl’s legs and waited for assistance. The offending owl was turned over to wildlife officers by the residents. In the hopes that it wouldn’t come back, they intended to release it far from the town.

There have been other reports of owl assaults across the country. Despite what is commonly believed, not all owl attacks aim to capture a simple meal. In fact, most of them are the consequence of the owl trying to frighten off intruders or dangers to their nest. To assist assure the survival of their young, owl couples ferociously guard their nest together.

2: Bats – Rabid Flying Terrors in South Dakota

Ten different kinds of bats can be found in South Dakota, which will shock you if you believed that owls were the state’s only avian predators. The long-legged bat, eastern red bat, and huge brown bat are a few kinds. These organisms are carriers of numerous pathogens, including bacterial and viral illnesses. Certain things are zoonotic, or able to flow from an animal to a human and back again. The most dangerous illness that bats can transmit to almost any warm-blooded mammal is rabies.


The fact that only approximately 6% of bats tested in the United States were positive for rabies may alleviate your worry. However, there is still a very substantial risk. Since brain tissue is used in rabies testing, the tested animal does not survive. Still, it would have been a nicer finish than dying of rabies.

Rabies is a virus that infects animals and spreads to people and other animals through bites and scratches. A virtually 100% fatality rate from rabies infections means that practically every animal infected with the disease ends up dead. Although dog bites account for the majority of human rabies cases, any animal that is sick can spread the illness. However, since 1970, rabies-related mortality in humans have been continuously declining, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Fever, profuse salivation (drooling or foaming at the mouth), paralysis, muscle spasms or convulsions, and mental confusion are some signs and symptoms of rabies. The two types of rabies are encephalitic (also known as angry rabies) and paralytic (also known as dumb rabies).

Furious Rabies – Encephalitic Type

The signs of furious rabies typically appear unexpectedly and spread swiftly. This kind of rabies makes both humans and other animals hostile and waterphobic. This phrase means “afraid of water” when translated literally. It is believed that there is a greater chance of the disease spreading under either of these circumstances. This is due to the fact that animals that are hostile are more likely to bite, and animals that are dehydrated are less likely to wash the virus from their mouths before biting.

Dumb Rabies – Paralytic type

The most common way that dumb rabies is contracted is through a bat bite (or in those who are not fully vaccinated). This kind of infection usually manifests as paralysis that gradually spreads to the respiratory system, suffocating the sick person. In humans, they also experience fever and excessive perspiration.

3: Mosquitos – The Easily-Forgotten South Dakota Flying Terrors

Tiny, vexing insects, mosquitoes feed on blood and leave behind red, itching pimples that disappear after a few days. The majority of us don’t think highly of them. However, over 700,000 people lose their lives to mosquito bites every year. They transmit diseases that are lethal to both people and animals.

One of the best locations in the United States to get bitten by these flying terrors is South Dakota. Florida and Louisiana are ranked first and second respectively. In South Dakota, the mosquito problem is so severe that numerous news stories about repelling them have been released. They recommended growing foliage like marigold, mint, and lemongrass. A lot of the state’s communities announced intentions to start treating for the tiny pests on a seasonal basis.

By biting, mosquitoes spread disease. Did you know that mosquitoes only bite females? Additionally, they reserve their bite for egg-laying times. For them to consume the protein needed for the production of eggs, they need a blood meal.

How Do Mosquitos Spread Disease?

In order to keep the host from realizing they have been bitten, mosquito females inject a numbing substance into the skin as they enter their proboscis, the long, needle-like appendage on their faces. After some time, the numbing agent wears off and the skin starts to feel itchy and irritated.

When a mosquito bites, it regurgitates the numbing substance and some of the blood it has previously eaten. The illness spreads to the new host when the contaminated blood enters the bloodstream. After entering the bloodstream, the infection multiplies and leads to disease.

Let’s study a little bit about the deadliest illness that mosquitoes carry!


Malaria continues to be the most concerning illness carried by mosquitos. Fever, chills, headache, aches in the muscles, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are some of the symptoms. Additionally, it may result in anemia (the loss of red blood cells) and jaundice (yellowing of the skin).

According to health data from the World Health Organization for 2021, there will be an estimated 247 million cases globally. The World Health Organization reported that year that malaria killed almost 619,000 people, despite the fact that the illness is treatable with prompt and efficient care.

In all, 1,505 cases of malaria were reported in the United States in 2007 by the CDC. South Dakota had only one case. The fact that so many of these infections were acquired locally is the primary cause for concern. This indicates that the impacted individuals did not leave the nation. Public health experts note that although malaria is present in the United States, it is not a serious threat.

What Prevents Malaria?

Although humans can take certain treatments to prevent malaria, the greatest defense is to completely avoid mosquito bites.

Malaria is a very prevalent disease in Central Africa. In fact, it occurs so frequently that some people in Africa and those descended from Africans get sickle-cell anemia. Because of this illness, red blood cells become deformed, which stops malaria from proliferating inside the cells.

Although sick-cell anemia has its own set of complications, individuals who are heterozygous carriers—carrying only one copy of the disease in their DNA—do not get sick-cell anemia or malaria. One study stated that sickle-cell anemia is one of the most extensively researched illnesses in relation to malaria, despite the fact that this knowledge is generally regarded as hypothetical.


Dogs, cats, ferrets, and certain wild animals including wolves, coyotes, foxes, sea lions, and occasionally even humans can contract heartworm from infected mosquitos. While many dogs and cats can get heartworm preventive drugs, some animals cannot benefit from the same treatments.

According to heartworm incidence maps for 2022, these flying terrors will produce an average of 1-4 cases of heartworm per veterinarian facility in South Dakota. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that as of 2022, there were 160–460 veterinarians employed in the state. Based on the assumption that each clinic employs around two to three veterinarians, we may estimate that in South Dakota, between 80 and over 1,000 instances of heartworm disease were reported in 2022. How many cases of heartworms is that?

To save an animal afflicted with heartworm, prompt and intensive therapy is required. Only dogs can now receive heartworm therapy. Ferrets and cats should not take this medication. The course of treatment is costly, time-consuming, and incredibly unpleasant. For dogs to survive therapy, sedatives, prolonged pain medication, crate rest, and hospitalization are frequently necessary.

Heartworm Prevention

Gulfport, Mississippi-based veterinarian Dr. Shelly Wyatt stated to AZ Animals, “Sadly, heartworms are growing resistant to the drugs we are utilizing to prevent them. Heartworm larvae are killed by macrocyclic lactones like ivermectin and milbemycin before they may develop into adults. That is a simplified version of the method; it is a little more involved.

Therefore, the therapies we prescribe are actually retroactive ones—that is, they are administered after an illness has already developed. When the microfilaria (larvae) reach adulthood, more extreme actions are required.

The active component of Heartgard® and Heartgard® Plus is ivermectin. Many brands, including Sentinel®, Trifexis®, and Interceptor® Plus, use milbemycin. A veterinarian’s prescription is needed for each of these drugs. Although some brands, like Simparica® Trio, mix these medications with flea and tick preventatives, may raise the risk of seizures, these medications are usually thought to be safe for pets.

Where Are Heartworms a Problem?

Alaska and Hawaii are among the 50 states where heartworm has been confirmed to have spread, according to the American Heartworm Society. The Southeast sees a far higher number of instances than any other region. All year round, mosquitoes bite, and indoor-only pets are also vulnerable. Veterinarians advise owners to administer heartworm preventive every month, even in the winter, without missing any doses.

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West Nile Virus

The West Nile Virus is the most significant illness that these flying terrors can cause in South Dakota. Fever, meningitis (inflammation of the brain and spinal cord lining), and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) are caused by this condition. Thankfully, only 20–30% of those infected with the West Nile virus experience symptoms. They become asymptomatic carriers as a result. Sadly, mosquito bites can still transmit the disease from person to person even when no symptoms are present. Just 1% of infected individuals get serious symptoms and neurological disease.

The West Nile Virus has no known cure or preventative for humans. Horses can be vaccinated, and human research is still on to develop a vaccine that is equally effective. Given that West Nile infection is a virus, there is no complete prevention of the illness with the vaccination. If the horse gets diseased, it just lessens the impact.