Top 10 Most Dangerous Animals in Australia
Australia has a reputation for being home to some of the most dangerous animals in the world. It should be noted, however, that generally speaking, most wild animals do not attack people if left alone. Most will only strike out at humans if they are taunted, startled, threatened, close to starvation, or believe that their young might be harmed.
In fact, humans pose a much greater threat to animals than they do to us. Whether through hunting, accidental road-killings, or the degradation of natural habitats and food sources, humans cause the deaths of countless wild animals each year.
Putting together a list of dangerous animals is not as straightforward a task as it might seem, as there are a variety of criteria for measuring danger. For instance, a certain animal may seem very dangerous because it is highly venomous, but in practice, it may account for few human fatalities due to its shy and reclusive nature. Conversely, there are animals that don't seem particularly dangerous at first glance but kill many humans because they inhabit developed areas and are not timid. Below are what I have deemed to be the 10 most dangerous animals in Australia.
10 Australian Animals to Watch Out For
- Great White Shark
- Common Brown Snake
- Saltwater Crocodile
- Box Jellyfish
- Inland Taipan
- Tiger Snake
- Blue-Ringed Octopus
- Redback Spider
- Funnelweb Spider
1. Great White Shark
Great white sharks, the world's largest predatory fish, first entered the popular imagination with the release of the "Jaws" movies.
These sharks can be found off the coast of northern Australia and are responsible for the largest number of recorded shark attacks on humans worldwide. Their vicious bites are administered by rows of up to 300 sharp and serrated triangular teeth.
Despite their reputation for being man-eaters, great whites do not deliberately target humans. Most of the bites they inflict on people seem to be test bites. In fact, they don't appear to like the taste of humans. Generally, they prefer fattier, less bony prey.
2. Common Brown Snake
The common brown snake, also known as the eastern brown snake, is the second most venomous land-snake in the world. Only the inland taipan delivers stronger venom (see below).
Brown snakes are active during the daytime and can be very quick and aggressive. When riled, the snake holds its head up high and adopts an upright "S" shape.
A bite from a common brown can be fatal if medical treatment is not sought quickly. The venom can cause dizziness, diarrhea, collapse, convulsions, renal failure, paralysis, and cardiac arrest.
3. Saltwater Crocodile
Male saltwater crocodiles—the world's largest living reptile—can attain sizes up to 22 ft (6.7 m) and weigh up to an impressive 4,400 lbs (2,000 kg).
In addition to being formidable predators to animals that stray into their territory, saltwaters are also the most dangerous type of crocodile when it comes to humans. These ancient reptiles are far more dangerous than their cousin, the alligator.
Saltwater crocodiles should always be avoided. Their power and speed can easily overwhelm the average human, especially if the attack comes from an older or larger crocodile. These aggressive predators will willingly attack interlopers in order to defend their territory and have been known to treat humans as prey. If you are in Australia and you see a crocodile warning sign, you should take it very seriously.
4. Box Jellyfish
Also known as the sea-wasp or marine stinger, the box jellyfish is one of the most dangerous aquatic animals in the world. Their venom is highly toxic and is capable of inducing heart failure in humans. That said, there have only ever been a handful of human deaths attributed to this species.
Apart from their potent venom, box jellyfish differ from other jellyfish in a number of respects. For instance, they are more umbrella-shaped than dome-shaped and are one of only a few species that possess eyes. They have twenty-four of them in clusters around their body that help them to track down prey and escape predators.
5. Inland Taipan
The inland taipan has the most toxic venom of any snake in the world and is found in the semi-arid regions where Queensland and South Australia border meet. The snake's color varies according to the season: in the winter, they are dark brown, while in the summer, they shift toward a lighter, more olive tone.
The inland taipan will generally avoid human contact unless it is provoked or feels it can't escape. If it does strike, it is quick and accurate when delivering its bite. Typical symptoms/effects from a bite include localized pain, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, convulsions, collapse, and ultimately, death.
6. Tiger Snake
Tiger snakes are large, venomous serpents that can often be found in the coastal areas, wetlands, and creeks of southern Australia.
There are a number of different populations of tiger snake, each slightly different, with groups including the common tiger snake, western tiger snake, Chappell Island tiger snake, Peninsula tiger snake, King Island tiger snake, and Tasmanian tiger snake.
The venom from tiger snakes is highly toxic, and medical help should be immediately sought if bitten. The mortality rate for untreated bites is between 40 and 60%.
The stonefish is one of the most venomous fish species in the world. In certain circumstances, their stings can even be fatal. Stonefish have needle-like dorsal fin spines which stick up when they are disturbed or threatened. The spines inject neurotoxins that are secreted from glands at their bases.
Although the sting is often exceedingly painful, death is relatively rare. Vinegar is said to lessen the pain of a sting and is often kept on-hand near beaches where stonefish are found.
Unfortunately for humans, stonefish are very good at camouflaging themselves (as their name suggests, they can look a lot like stones). Swimmers often step on them by accident, inadvertently triggering painful stings.
8. Blue-Ringed Octopus
Often found in shallow coral and rock pools, the deceptively cute blue-ringed octopus should not be touched, as it is highly venomous.
There are two species of blue-ringed octopus that are native to Australia: the Hapalochlaena lunulata and the Hapalochlaena maculosa. The lunulata is larger, measuring up to 8" (20 cm) across including tentacles. The maculosa is much smaller (around the size of a golf ball) but more common.
The octopus' trademark blue rings can only be seen immediately before it strikes. Its venomous saliva is delivered via its beak and can cause nausea, vision loss, paralysis, and breathing problems.
9. The Redback Spider
The redback is one of the most venomous spiders in Australia. These spiders are commonly spotted living in close proximity to humans, inhabiting places like sheds, garages, and outdoor woodpiles. Unfortunately, this means bites are relatively common.
There are thought to be between 2,000 to 10,000 redback bites each year. That is why redback anti-venom is the commonest type of anti-venom administered to victims of snake and spider bites in Australia. The larger and more dangerous female of the species is responsible for nearly all reported bites.
10. Funnel Web Spider
The aggressive and highly venomous Australian funnel-web spider is considered to be one of the most dangerous arachnids in the world.
Found primarily in eastern and southern Australia, the spider will attack virtually anything that strays into its territory, delivering a powerful bite with its large fangs. The spider's fangs are purportedly capable of penetrating soft shoes and fingernails.
Atrax robustus is the most deadly of species of this spider. Luckily, modern first-aid techniques and antivenom have successfully reduced the number of fatalities suffered at the fangs of the funnel-web each year.
- Egerton, L. ed. 2005. Encyclopedia of Australian wildlife. Reader's Digest ISBN 1-876689-34-X
- Menkhorst, P. W.; Knight, F. 2004. A field guide to the mammals of Australia. Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-555037-4
- Strahan, R. ed. 1983. The Australian Museum Complete Book of Australian Mammals. Angus & Robertson ISBN 0-207-14454-0
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2015 Paul Goodman