Animals In Australia That Can Kill You

 

Now that I’ve safely left Australia I feel I can write this post …. it would’ve been bad luck if I’d done it earlier.

While I was traveling through the land down under, I was constantly paranoid about running into a large animal with a ferocious bite or small one with enough venom to kill a village. The saying “All animals in Australia can and will kill you” kept running through my head.

The truth is less dramatic than that. The odds of you getting killed by an animal is smaller than being hit by lightning. Here are some statistics for perspective:

  • Snakes: Deaths from snakes in Australia average out at less than two per year.
  • Spiders: Nobody in Australia has died from a spider bite since 1979 after the successful introduction of anti-venom for all native species.
  • Sharks: There were 25 deaths between 2000 and (March) 2012 in Australia, about 2 a year.
  • Crocodiles: Historically, crocodiles account for less than one death per year in Australia.
  • Blue Ringed Octopus: There were just 3 recorded deaths in the last century attributed to Blue Ringed Octopus.
  • Killer Jellyfish: Between the box jellyfish and the Irukandji they’re responsible for one death per year in Australia.

You’d have to be one unlucky bastard to be killed by an animal in Australia. Still, Australia has some scary animals that deserve our respect. Here is my list of the most dangerous animals in Australia.

 

Sharks

Lets start with grand daddy of all boogy monsters we fear in Australia. Ever since Jaws, we have had an unchecked fear of all sharks. The good news, most sharks aren’t dangerous to humans. The bad news, three of the most deadly and aggressive sharks exist in Australian waters. They have the Tiger, Bull and Great White sharks. Each one is deadly in its own way.

The Tiger Shark is known as the garbage can of the sea. It will literally eat anything with a heart beat, and stuff without one. The Bull Shark is an aggressive and persistent predator. Once it engages with a prey, it will keep doggedly attacking until the prey is dead. What needs to be said about the Great White. One bite from this fearsome animal can tear you to shreds. Here is a story from a recent Great White Shark attack survivor.

The one thing you don't want to see when you're in the water. A Great White Shark.
The one thing you don’t want to see when you’re in the water. A Great White Shark.

 

Snakes

Australia is home to an estimated 100 venomous snakes, it’s the only place on Earth where there are more venomous snakes than non-venomous. Think about that for a second.

Australia (again) has three of the most venomous snakes in the planet: the Coastal Taipan, Eastern Brown and the Tiger snake.

  • The Coastal Taipan’s bite (the most venomous in the world) can kill a human in 45 minutes.
  • The Eastern Brown (the second most venomous snake in the world) is fast moving, aggressive and bad tempered. It’s responsible for more deaths in Australia than any other group of snake.
  • The Tiger Snake is responsible for the second-highest number of bites in Australia. Bites are fatal if untreated, causing pain in the feet and neck, tingling, numbness and sweating, followed by breathing difficulties and paralysis.

The good news? Australia has anti-venom for most of their deadly snakes.  Most.

Remember, snakes use their venom to subdue their prey. Most snakes can’t eat a human, don’t consider us prey and would rather slither away than attack. So if you come across one: leave it alone, back away slowly and let it escape.  If you really want to know more about the deadliest snakes in Australia check out this link.

The Coastal Taipan's bite can kill a adult in 45 minutes if left untreated.
The Coastal Taipan’s bite can kill a adult in 45 minutes if left untreated.

Jellyfish

Of all the animals on the list, this was the one I was most afraid off. Throughout my tour of North Queensland, the beaches were either closed or netted off to protect people from the jellyfish. I visited during the stinger (jellyfish) season. So that meant that everytime we dove into the water we had to wear a stinger suit that made us look like ninjas. This made this fear very real to me. Every time I went into the water I imagined it filled with unseen jellyfish ready to sting.

The two jellyfish that everyone worries about are the Irukandji and the Box Jellyfish.

  • The Irukandji is only 5mm, it’s so small you won’t see it coming. They’re practically invisible, that’s scary. It’s one of the smallest members of the Box Jellyfish family. The venom is 100 times more powerful than a cobra’s. The good news is, if treated in time the sting is not fatal. The bad news, its sting is not painful (or is that good news?). So you might know you were stung right away. The symptoms may take some time to appear but include muscle cramps, back pain and increased heart rate.
  • The Box Jellyfish is something out my nightmares. It’s the deadliest of all jellyfish responsible for 5,568 deaths since 1954 (worldwide). It has 15 tentacles reaching up to 3 metres and covered with half a million venom infused, microscopic darts. It’s estimated each animal has enough venom to kill 60 adults. The venom acts fast and can kill within minutes causing cardiovascular collapse. It also attacks the nervous system and skin cells.  Its actual sting is compared with being branded with red hot irons and can leave permanent scarring resembling whip marks.
Think you could spot this Irukandji in the water?
Think you could spot this Irukandji in the water?
Stinger Season means dressing up as ninjas to avoid jellyfish stings
Stinger Season means dressing up as ninjas to avoid jellyfish stings

 

Crocodiles

While in Cairns (North Queensland) I was surprised to find that certain beaches were off limits due to risk of crocodiles. Especially around National Parks or near Cape Tribulation. Crocodiles swimming in the SEA and on the BEACH! I didn’t think they existed outside of rivers and lakes.

These are ambush predators, so when they attack you won’t know what hit you. This is a very real risk in North Australia and there are signage around indicating which water bodies have a crocodile risk. So better make sure you pay attention to all the signs and follow posted warnings. Otherwise you could be coming face-to-snout with a nasty croc.

This is an old story that I read a while back that stuck with me. The tour group with this poor victim went into a waterhole that had signs saying there are crocodiles in the water. They ignored it with a tragic end.

Make sure you avoid water bodies with crocodile warning signs. Otherwise you can get upclose view of these teeth.
Make sure you avoid water bodies with crocodile signs. Otherwise you might get an up close view of these teeth.

Spiders

Even the spiders in Australia are scary. I’ll mention only one here, the Funnel Web Spider. It has a highly toxic venom which it produces in large amounts; even scarier it has large fangs to inject them with. I mean really LARGE fangs. Bigger than a brown snake’s fangs and powerful enough to pierce through toe nails. So make sure you pay attention to where you step.

Its venom has a compound that attacks the human nervous system and alters the functioning of all organs that can kill a human. The good news? there has been no fatalities since anti-venom has been made available.

If you want to learn more about Australia’s deadly spiders click here.

Just look at the fangs on that Funnel Web Spider.
Just look at the fangs on that Funnel Web Spider.

 

Octopus

This next deadly creature may look cute, but you better make sure that you keep your distance. It’s bite is extremely venomous containing tetrodotoxin (a potent neurotoxin) and can kill an adult human in minutes. Want to hear the kicker. There’s NO antidote for its venom. 

The ironic thing about this small octopus is that it gives off the blue circles as a warning to others to stay away. But to someone ignorant of its dangers, they may be attracted to its beautiful markings. After being bitten the victim will feel numbness, weakness, have breathing problems and may experience paralysis.

The Blue Ring Octopus is both cute and deadly.
The Blue Ring Octopus is both cute and deadly.

 

Cassowary

Think birds can’t hurt you? Wrong … very wrong.

The cassowary is the third largest bird in the world and is classified as the world’s most dangerous bird.

This striking looking animal looks like it stepped out of the movie Jurassic Park. It has a large casque (a horn like crest which indicates age and dominance) on its forehead giving it a dinosaur’s look.

What makes this bird so dangerous? It has razor sharp claws that it uses when it kicks. It can slice a human open who’s foolish enough to get too close. Even though the last casualty was in 1926, plenty of people have been badly injured by this bird.

Need further proof? Check out the below video of Cassowary trying to attack its handler.


Drop Bear

Which brings us to the last and deadliest animal that isn’t known outside of Australia.  The drop bear is a meat eating Koala that lives in North Australia and hides in the trees waiting for its victims to pass beneath it so that it can ambush them.

It’s a deadly predator, you should fear and pray you never see ……. or is it?

Given Australia’s reputation for deadly animals, crazy stories have been made up and people readily believe them. And why not?

As we’ve seen in this list, deadly comes in different shapes and sizes. Deadly can hide behind cute facade. Insects and birds can kill you. There are jellyfish that are smaller than your fingernail that carry deadly poison. So why couldn’t there be a meat eating Koala roaming the bushes.

Until it’s proven that it doesn’t exist, make sure to keep an eye open for the deadly Drop Bear.

Until proven that it doesn't exist, watch out for the deadly Drop Bear.
Until proven that it doesn’t exist, watch out for the deadly Drop Bear.