The Truth About Deadly Animals in Australia

by Brooke Schoenman on August 13, 2012 · 16 comments

Jellyfish warning sign on a Queensland beach.

Jellyfish warning sign on a Queensland beach.

I moved to Australia in March of 2009. As hard as it is to believe, I’ve been here for about 3.5 years, and guess what – I’m still alive!

With all the hype on Australia having one of the harshest climates and being home to the world’s deadliest creatures, you know… not very many people have actually died from them.

Still, it is one of the first things I hear about from family and friends back home. “Oh, I couldn’t go there! They have so many snakes and spiders that can kill you!”

True. There are plenty of things that could kill you (and it’s probably a good idea to have comprehensive travel insurance), but the facts point to driving and even horseback riding to being deadlier in nature.

Here are the facts about Australia’s deadly animals!

Funnelweb spider

The funnel web spider is not a pretty sight. (photo by brenda-starr)

Spiders

In the past 3.5 years, I’ve been face-to-face with several arachnids – most of them being simple orb spiders or the ugly, ugly huntsman. Those, luckily, are not dangerous to humans in the least.

On the dangerous end of the scale, I’ve heard of a friend finding a Sydney funnel-web in his basement (not too far from my home) and my flatmates finding a Redback Spider out on our front porch.

Yes, both of these spiders are considered to be some of the deadliest in the world because of their potential, but the fact is they rarely kill. The Redback Spider, a relation to the black widow, bite actually only affects about 10% of people who have an adverse reaction to the venom.

You’ll be happy to know that no person has died from a spider-related bite since 1979, as antivenom is now available for all native species.

The Great White shark

The Great White shark – not to be messed with. (photo by hermanusbackpackers)

Sharks

Australia is an island country, with close to 60,000 kilometers of coastline and deep ocean on its surrounds. These oceans are home to Great White sharks, Tiger sharks and Bull sharks.

Okay, so it’s been a bad year for shark attacks, especially off the coast of Western Australia, but hear me out.

According to this article from Australian Geographic, of the 877 shark attacks that have happened in Australia since 1791, that’s over 221 years, only 216 have been fatal. That works out to be about 1 fatality per year.

When considering more recent years, since 2000, the number has been a little more at just 2 fatalities per year.

Eastern Brown Snake

The eastern brown snake – deadly. (photo by Justin Otter)

Snakes

The world’s deadliest land snake, the taipan, calls Western Australia home. Besides that, you can find the brown snake, the death adder, and the tiger snake – all of which are considered to be the world’s deadliest.

Sure, snakes are scary business in Australia, but how scary?

It turns out that up to 3000 Australians get bit by snakes each year, but just an average of 2 a year are fatal. Of those, the majority are caused by the brown snake.

Crocodiles

Crocodiles (photo by HooLengSiong)

Crocodiles

I must admit, it is a little off-putting when you reach the most spectacular and gorgeous beach in the tropical north of Australia just to be met with a sign that reminds you that there may be crocodiles in the vicinity.

Recent studies that point to the crocs being able to travel long distances by “catching waves” are also a little disturbing.

Last thing you want to see while catching some rays is a crocodile rocking up on the beach next to a surfer!

Still, those pesky crocs actually cause fewer than 2 fatalities per year in Australia.

Jellyfish

Jellyfish – but not box jellyfish; couldn’t find a CC photo. (photo by NBphotostream)

Box Jellyfish

The Box Jellyfish is tiny, but deadly. I remember seeing one on display in a jar at a caravan park in the tropical north of Queensland to warn visitors, and to think that little thing – almost clear in color – could be so ruthless was shocking.

With the box jellyfish, a person can go into cardiac arrest within minutes. This depends on the amount of tentacle that touches the body. To deactivate the stinging cells of the tentacles, vinegar has to be poured over them for at least 30 seconds.

Luckily, these jellyfish only populate the waters of the tropical north during the months of October through April. Another plus is that these little jellyfish don’t cause more than 1 death per year on average.

Do you still think Australia is a scary place?

__________

This post was written by Brooke, and brought to you by Globelink International.

About the Author:

is the author of 40 posts on Go Backpacking.

Brooke lives a thrifty lifestyle so that she can travel the world at every possible opportunity. She shares her travel tales, including everything from sleeping in a yurt in Kyrgyzstan to becoming an expat in Australia, on her personal travel blog, Brooke vs. the World. Female travelers might enjoy the stories and tips of her monthly Female Travel Underground newsletter. Join her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter and Google+.

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Categories: Australia, Features
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16 Comments

Lily August 13, 2012 at 8:30 am

Well it’s really scary ! :((

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Jeremy Branham August 13, 2012 at 11:02 am

I have to admit these do freak me out. We have black widow spiders here in California and shark attacks occur on our coast as well. Living where I do, bears are also a concern but attacks are rare. These are definitely on my mind when I do to certain places but I don’t get freaked out about them. It’s probably the same in Australia as well. The fears are much bigger until you get a dose of reality once you get there. Still scary to think about if you let your mind ponder on these creatures.

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Dave August 13, 2012 at 6:51 pm

When I was a teen, I use to worry about black widows hiding in the firewood pile at our house. I never did see one though.

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Brooke Schoenman August 13, 2012 at 8:53 pm

It is really easy to focus on the what-ifs in Australia… probably because of the caliber of deadly animals that we have. And when something goes wrong — everyone hears about it, which totally enhances the fear!

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Widism August 13, 2012 at 11:29 am

The pictures are stunning! As scary as they can be, these creatures are also part of the identity of a place, and that is sad to notice that some are amongst the most endangered species on Earth…

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Gina August 13, 2012 at 5:34 pm

Hmmm, it makes me feel a little better, but I still don’t want to run into a snake or spider while there! Interesting statistics, though – guess I should still move forward with my plan to visit Australia in the next couple years. ;)

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Brooke Schoenman August 13, 2012 at 8:55 pm

Well no one WANTS to run into a snake or spider… ever ;) I’ve had minimal encounters in my time here, and I think if you talk to others you will get the same response. So come on down!

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Sian August 13, 2012 at 5:50 pm

Hi everyone!

Being an Aussie, I loved this article; for once I found an article that wasn’t all “Oh NO! Australia is consumed by deadly animals”, and I found this really accurate and nicely unbiased!

Just a couple of things to add, death via crocodile is usually to people doing stupid things, ie. Camping next to a river with a “beware of croc” sign, or not listening to the “do not swim signs”. In my opinion, if you ignore those, well….. you know.

Sharks on the other hand is mostly caused by surfers who wear entirely black wetsuits, which makes them look like seals to a shark, one of their main food sources, but on the other hand, it’s really hard to get a wetsuit in any other colour.

The rest is just knowledge and using common sense really – which is why not that many people actually die from these things – and not panicking when they do. Loved this!

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Brooke Schoenman August 13, 2012 at 8:59 pm

Thanks, Sian! Glad you enjoyed it. I will agree that a lot of people do stupid things and find themselves in trouble.

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Alexa Hart August 14, 2012 at 1:56 pm

I think that if people are careful and use common sense (like Sian said), they will most-likely be fine. Being informed about your surrounding before you do anything is important.

Side note – My parents live in the canyons of Southern California. There are black widows, tarantulas, and scorpions that have made appearances in their garage. I always go in there wearing shoes.

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Andi of My Beautiful Adventures August 14, 2012 at 10:29 pm

I needed a warning for that spider pic…eeeeeeeek!

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Krys August 14, 2012 at 11:03 pm

Oh boy. I’ve just booked a holiday to Melbourne. Hope to do as many touristy things while there. Are there any of these scary animals specific to Victoria that I need to watch out for?

Also, I would like to go to Tasmania. I can check the internet for info but if you can help me with how I can do a reasonably good visit from Melbourne over say 3 days, what would you suggest? Thanks.

Oh, one more thing, can I just pull over on the side of the road and have like a picnic lunch on the grass? Planning on doing the Great Ocean Road thing to see the 12 Apostles and the, is it Phillip Island penguins? Awesome pics. thanks.

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Sally Stretton September 4, 2012 at 1:13 am

Hmmm….didn’t the Crocadile Hunter die from a stingray? Not sure if it happened in Australia, but it looks like you definitely have to be aware of the dangerous animals in Australia. I might need to be especially careful in the waters becuase I have heard about a number of shark attacks in Australia.

Sally Stretton

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Kali September 10, 2012 at 9:27 pm

I don’t even like a little spider buddy to pop up in my shower in the morning let alone have to worry about whats around me as i walk down the beach or even in my home for that matter. Some of these scary creatures don’t just show up on your front door so you very easily could avoid them but a spider goes everywhere. With my luck I’d be the one fatality the year I traveled there. Thanks for sharing though!

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Karsten October 22, 2012 at 3:55 am

Correction to the jellyfish comment, box jellies are a decent size (easily spotted on a boat for example). The small jellyfish are irukandji which are tiny.

Krys, 3 days in Tassie can be done but you are probably best to stick to one region, south, north east or north west. Fly into Hobart or Launceston. Personally I suggest a weekend in Hobart, Salmanca markets on Saturday, cruise up to MONA (Museum of Old and New Art, closed Tuesday, costs $20 for non Tasmanians, return ferry is $15). Farmers market on Sunday morning, lunch at Garagities (only takes bookings on Sunday arvo, set menu), Ethos is also go and Mee Wah is the best restaurant in Tasmania and does a good yum cha.

The great ocean road has a few spots were one can stop for a picnic. As for scary creatures Victoria has quite a few snakes. One thing is be careful with ants, the jack jumper has an ancient wasp like sting that sends 3% of victims into anaphylactic shock and has caused more deaths in Tasmania than snakes, spiders and sharks combined.

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John November 26, 2012 at 5:17 pm

I found a Brown Snake in our house when I was a kid. We renovated after this.

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