This tiny little animal looks so soft and fuzzy that you may be tempted to stroke it -- don't. It's a puss moth caterpillar, and it's the most toxic caterpillar in North America. Only about an inch long, its hairy spines pack a venomous punch, delivering a painful "sting" when they break off and lodge in human skin.

Seven-year-old Wyatt McCaskill was playing in his front yard in Horn Lake, Miss., throwing leaves, when he picked up one of the caterpillars and almost immediately felt its sting. "It felt like very bad pain," he told WMC Action News 5 in August 2015. The pain spread quickly from his hand to his chest, and his mother, Kelli McCaskill, rushed him to a hospital. 

Puss moth caterpillars are tree dwellers, usually found in the southeastern United States and are most prevalent July through November. The American Association for Clinical Chemistry reports that an unusual outbreak of the caterpillars in 1924 closed public schools in San Antonio. The association also indicates that reports of puss moth poisonings are on the rise, and that there is risk of multiple exposure when the caterpillar falls from a tree into someone's clothing.

If you feel pain after handling one of these creatures, doctors advise first using some kind of tape on the skin to pull out any remaining spines. Then remove any remaining venom by washing the area with soap and water. Treat pain and swelling with an ice pack or baking soda, according to the clinical chemistry association.

"He is in the most pain I've ever seen him in," notes McCaskill, who warns others to be careful. "Their sting can be more painful than a jellyfish, or any type of scorpion or bee," she said.