TAMPA, Fla. -- A Bay Area father is warning other parents to watch out for the venomous puss caterpillar that he saw crawling feet away from where dozens of kids were playing.
It may look cute.
"Like this little miniature shaggy dog," said Chis Dillinger.
But Dillinger says the furry creature crawling next to the playground at a local zoo made him a little leery.
"They were getting ready to touch it and I was like 'I probably wouldn't touch that.' I don't know what it is but it doesn't look good," said Dillinger.
USF biologist Deby Cassill says he was right.
"It is the single most toxic caterpillar in the United States," said Cassill.
She says don't let the cuteness fool you because the sting is very painful.
"The sting is like being stabbed with a burning knife, a hot knife," said Cassill.
Cassill says the furry puss caterpillar carries venom in its fine hairs that stick into the skin like porcupine quills and cause painful welts
"It doesn't really advertise how venomous it is. Most of them have bright coloration for that. This is just furry and it almost invites touch," said Cassill.
Cassill says to warn your kids of what the caterpillar looks like and admire from a distance.
She says if they do touch one, you will want to remove the hairs that carry the venom and apply ice or soothing skin ointments.
Dillenger says he let the zoo know about the caterpillar.
"Just always be aware of your surroundings," said Dillinger.
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