While it can be thrilling to see cool new animals on your travel adventures, the animals themselves are probably less excited to see you. In some cases, they may even try to fight (or kill!) you. So let’s take a look at some of the most dangerous animals you might encounter on your next trip before it’s too late:
25. Cape Buffalo
If you make your way down to Sub-Saharan Africa, you will probably run across this big boy. Cape Buffalo tend to be pretty relaxed, but if you threaten them or their young, be prepared to see why they have the nickname “Black Death”. Famous for killing more hunters than any other animal on the continent, Cape Buffalo weigh close to a ton, are nearly six feet tall and charge at a speed of up to 35 mph. They won’t stop if they are injured and will even charge moving vehicles. So think twice before messing with those horns.
24. Cone Snail
Found in the tropics, these creatures are instantly recognizable thanks to their colorful shells. But think twice before trying to take one home. If they feel threatened, these gastropods will fire out a harpoonlike tooth laced with a powerful toxin. If you are unlucky enough to get hit with this venom, expect paralysis within a few minutes and possibly death shortly after. There is no antivenom.
23. Golden Poison Dart Frog
If you find yourself in the jungles of Colombia’s pacific coast, your first thought probably won’t be, “Some tiny frog might kill me today”. But it should be. The Golden Poison Dart Frog is as cool as it is deadly, and it’s very deadly. It’s poison, called batrachotoxin, is so potent that the venom from one frog is enough to kill ten men. But what makes this little guy even more deadly, is that his poison is transmitted by touch, and given that two micrograms of the stuff is enough to put you 6 feet under, this is a wonderful example of the “Look, but don’t touch” mantra.
22. Box Jellyfish
Usually found floating off the coast of Northern Australia, this little guy probably doesn’t look like much. But beware, the Box Jellyfish is the most venomous marine animal in the world. Each of the Box Jellyfish’s 15 tentacles contain toxins that simultaneously attack the heart, nervous system, and skin cells. While an antivenom does exist, you are likely to go into shock and drown or die of heart failure before reaching shore. If you are lucky enough to survive, expect burning pain for weeks after the fact and scarring from the tentacles.
Found in the waters around Japan, China, and the Philippines, the Pufferfish is a weird little creature. While it looks like a normal fish from a distance, if scared, it blows up like a balloon and spikes extend from its body. But the real danger is it’s venom, tetrodotoxin. Tetrodotoxin is up to 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide and can cause deadening of the tongue and lips, dizziness, vomiting, arrhythmia, difficulty breathing, muscle paralysis and, if left untreated, death. So what do we do with pufferfish? Eat them, of course. Highly trained chefs are the only ones licensed to serve these blowfish in Tokyo. A single mistake in preparing this fish could result in death. So if you are in Japan and see fugu on the menu, think twice before ordering.
20. Black Mamba
The Black Mamba might not be the most poisonous snake in the world, but it is one of the fastest. Found in the rocky savannahs of southern and eastern Africa, these snakes can grow up to 14 feet long and charge their prey at speeds up to 13 mph. Generally, the snake will only attack if threatened, but if you are bitten, go ahead and say your last words, because one bite has enough venom to kill ten people. And they don’t bite you just once, they keep biting until you die. An antivenom does exist, but if you fail to get treated in the first 20 minutes, the bites are usually fatal.
19. Saltwater Crocodile
While most animals on this list will only attack when provoked, there is one glaring exception, and that is the Saltwater Crocodile. Ranging from India and Vietnam all the way to northern Australia, these guys make the American alligator look cuddly by comparison. Saltwater Crocodiles weigh up to a ton, grow up to 23 feet long and are responsible for hundreds of deaths a year. Saltwater Crocodiles attack quickly and bite with the strength of a T-Rex (3,700 psi). If that number means nothing to you, bite as hard as you can right now. I’ll wait. That was roughly 200 psi. 5% of what you will be hit with if a Saltwater Crocodile grabs you.
18. Tsetse Fly
In Sub-Saharan Africa lives a tiny fly, about the size of the average housefly, with a silly sounding name, the Tsetse Fly. And while this fly is a blood-sucking nuisance to anyone it set its eyes on, the true danger lies in the Trypanosome parasite it spreads. These parasites are the cause of the African Sleeping Sickness, which was responsible for 3,500 deaths in 2015. There’s no vaccine or medication to prevent infection, but you can lower your risk by not wearing blue. No joke, the Tsetse Fly loves blue.
You are standing in a hallway. To either side of you are two rooms; one, with a black bear, the other, with a moose. Where do you go? Never choose the room with a moose. As Anchorage-area state wildlife biologist Jessy Coltrane says, “Assume every moose is a serial killer standing in the middle of the trail with a loaded gun.” Every year more people are attacked by moose than bears, which is a hard statistic to believe after many years of watching Rocky and Bullwinkle.
Sharks get a bad rap. While it is true sharks kill about 8 people per year, that’s nothing in comparison to the Hippo. As the 3rd largest land animal in the world, you wouldn’t be the first to underestimate the roly-poly hippo, but the truth is in the statistics. Hippos kill around 3,000 people a year in Africa. They are famously unpredictable and aggressive. So if you find yourself in Hippo territory, keep your defenses up.
By now we all know that Dinosaurs eventually became birds, and when you look at the Cassowary, you will immediately see the resemblance. The Cassowary looks like what you’d get if you tarred and feathered a velociraptor during Mardi Gras. (Yes, the real velociraptor was the size of a chicken. I’m talking about the Jurassic Park version. Just bear with me here.) These large birds are one of the few that have a confirmed human kill on their record. (Along with ostriches, and surprisingly, chickens.) They charge at up to 30 mph, can jump up to 3 feet in the air and have massive talons that disembowel their targets. Clever Girl, indeed.
14. Brown Recluse
The brown recluse is famous for being one of the deadliest spiders in the American South. Unfortunately, that reputation isn’t super well deserved. In the past 10 years, the recluse has been responsible for just one confirmed death. (Compare that to the 300 lightning related deaths in the same time period.) So if the recluse isn’t as deadly as it’s reputation would lead us to believe, why is it on the list? Well, because while death is rare, the recluse is unusual in that its venom breaks down cell walls, causing necrosis of the skin. So don’t get cuddly with them just because they won’t kill you, the bite still is a bad deal.
13. Black Widow
Like the brown recluse before it, the black widow’s reputation is a lot scarier than the truth. The last confirmed death due to a widow bite was way back in 2003. Though the black widow is highly unlikely to bite humans, the best way to avoid their bites is quite simple. Check your shoes. So why have them on the list? Well, although you probably won’t die, you may still suffer days of pain, muscle cramping, incoherence, pouring night sweats, and delirium, which is a pretty bad way to spend a week.
I feel like now is a good time to debunk the myth surrounding the dreadfully terrifying scorpion. Of the 1,500 different species of scorpions, only about 25 are actually dangerous to humans. And even then, most won’t kill you. But if you find yourself face to face with a Deathstalker or an Arizona bark scorpion, you would be better off avoiding them. Even the non-deadly scorpions can cause convulsions and shortness of breath, so it’s always a good idea to give them the respect they deserve.
It’s a scene out of a horror film: a swarm of rats come out of nowhere and, in minutes, there’s a skeleton where a man once stood. While that “could” happen, the real danger with rats is the diseases they carry. Bubonic plague, rat bite fever, leptospirosis, hantavirus, trichinosis, infectious jaundice, rat mite dermatitis, salmonellosis, pulmonary fever, and typhus, are just some to keep in mind. You should always be on high alert. Remember, rats exist everywhere humans can be found.
10. Komodo Dragons
While Komodo dragons cannot breathe fire like their mythical namesake, they do have a deadly bite. Komodo dragons have large, curved and serrated teeth that tear through flesh with ease. Komodo dragon’s do not floss, and, as such, have rotting meat in their teeth. This creates a perfectly disgusting breeding ground for bacteria. Infections from dragon bites are more deadly than the venom they produce, and once a dragon has confirmed the kill, they are known to eat their prey to the bone.
9. Bot Fly
I’m not gonna sugarcoat this one for you, if you are squeamish, just go ahead and skip this entry. Still here? Just remember I warned you. The Bot fly. If you didn’t know better you would think these little furry bees were kinda cute. But they aren’t cute. They are terror incarnate. Bot flies have one job, lay eggs and keep the species alive. They do this by mating, then injecting their eggs into mosquitos or ticks. The mosquitoes and ticks fly around and bite warm blooded creatures (like humans) and the Bot fly eggs get injected into the new host. Now it gets gross. When the eggs hatch, the Bot fly larvae will grow inside the host, eating their flesh and carving out a nest just under the skin. There is a story of a man who had 5 larvae in his head and he would be kept up at night as he heard them eating the flesh around his skull. Good luck sleeping again.
8. Kissing Bug
The kissing bug. Sounds romantic, no? It is also known as Walapai tiger, chinche mala and bloodsucker. Though often not fatal, I wouldn’t let this bug kiss you. The only known creature that transmits the Chagas parasite, which can cause cardiac complications and/or intestinal complications, sometimes decades after the initial infection. Beginning with fever, fatigue, body aches, headache, rash, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and vomiting, the kissing bug is no dream. Still think it sounds romantic?
The most venomous fish in the world, the stonefish is the definition of unassuming. Found in the Indo-Pacific oceans, the stonefish is incredibly difficult to notice, which adds to it’s danger. Fortunately, the stonefish won’t go out of it’s way to attack you. Unfortunately, you will probably step on it. Stonefish venom can cause severe pain, heart failure and even death. Interestingly, the stonefish can survive for up to 24 hours out of the water, so nowhere is safe.
6. Common Death Adder
You don’t get a name like “Common Death Adder” for nothing. And sure enough, this Australian (of course) snake lives up to the hype. Found along the coast of Australia, the Common Death Adder is a highly venomous snake with up to 60% of their bites being fatal. But what makes the Death Adder really scary is you will never see it coming. They like to lay under leaves and ambush anything that approaches them.
Chimps are cute and funny. But they are also terrifying killing machines. Interestingly, this is one case where the more familiar the animal is with humans, the more dangerous they are. In the wild, chimps are afraid of humans, but in captivity, they quickly learn they are stronger than humans and will frequently bite off fingers, scratch at eyes and beat their human captors. Chimps have 5 times the strength of human males, so even Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson couldn’t win a fight with a chimp.
4. Bullet Ant
Named so because a sting from one feels like getting shot, the Bullet Ant is no joke. On the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, (an index that categorizes the levels of pain when stung) the bullet ant reigns supreme. For 12 hours, a bullet ant sting will hit you over and over again with waves of excruciating pain. Found in Brazil, these ants are actually used in puberty rites by Amazonian tribes, where young men stick their hands into gloves filled with the ants and dance. And you thought your childhood was rough.
Australia wins another one with the Platypus. I’m not gonna lie, if I didn’t know better, I’d want to cuddle these cute little guys. They have thick fur, funny webbed feet, a weird duck bill, and massive venom injecting talons… Wait… What? Yeah, the male platypus has a spur on the heel of each rear foot that, if you are unlucky enough to get stabbed with, injects venom that gives “long lasting excruciating pain that cannot be relieved with conventional painkillers”. They won’t kill you, but you will become nauseated, suffer from cold sweats, and watch as your muscles, at the source of injection, waste away. And these symptoms could last for months. Honestly though, might still be worth it for the Platypus cuddles.
2. White-Tailed Deer
No, not like Bambi. (He was a mule deer.) The white-tailed deer is one of the deadliest creatures in North America. Bears kill about 3 people a year, dogs kill an average of 26, Mountain Lions? 14 total in the entire 20th century. Deer? 130 a year. The issue is the “Deer in the headlights” effect. Every year there are about 1.5 million deer/vehicle collisions, which result in 29,000 injuries and upwards of 200 deaths. (On top of all of this, deer carry ticks that transmit lyme disease, which further effects 13,000 people per year. So the next time you see a white-tailed deer gently grazing on the side of the road, remember, their not as cute as they look.
The deadliest creature on our list by far, and you probably have some outside your house right now. It’s the Mosquito. These bloodsucking pests are everywhere and they transmit all kinds of nasty diseases. Malaria, Chikungunya, Encephalitis, Elephantiasis, Yellow Fever, Dengue Fever, West Nile virus, and the Zika virus collectively afflict an estimated 700 million and kill roughly 725,000 people each year. How do you avoid these creatures? Well, two options, move to Antarctica, or never go outside again. If neither of those work for you, using insect repellant high in DEET will make them avoid you.