The 10 Most Dangerous Animals in New Zealand

Photo by Ömer Faruk Bekdemir on Unsplash
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New Zealand is a land of mystery and wonder. It’s no secret as to why this dreamy destination was chosen to be the set for Lord of the Rings. From insane coastlines to snowcapped mountain tops, these two islands make up one of the most complex and diverse realms on the planet.

The unique wildlife in New Zealand sets this nation apart from the rest. Mammals were last to set foot, toe, and hoof on the islands; birds, insects, and reptiles rule the ecosystem on land, while incredible marine life dominates the sea. So, are there dangerous animals in New Zealand?

Unlike neighboring Australia, which is full of deadly creepy crawlies, New Zealand is relatively safe in comparison. Yes, there are some spiders and other unpleasant creatures, however, nothing packs a strong enough venom to take down a human!

New Zealand stocks many of the classic animals that are more of a nuisance, like wasps – dangerous if you have an allergy. However, some can cause slightly more injury or harm if you have an unfortunate run-in somewhere around various places in New Zealand.

In no particular order, here are ten of the most dangerous animals in New Zealand!

Katipo Spider

Katipo spider is the most dangerous animal in New Zealand
Photo from Wiki Commons by Don Horne
Latin NameLatrodectus katipo
Fatal WeaponsVenomous bite
TreatmentAntivenom from medical professional
Where to Find ThemSand dunes around beach areas
Conservation StatusEndangered IUCN

The katipo spider is one of only two poisonous spider species found in New Zealand. So out of 2,500 different species, the chances of running into this little fella are quite low! And if those odds aren’t good enough for you, be rest assured that it’s only the adult female katipo spider that’s capable to bite humans.

Identification:

  • Black with a red stripe (similar to a black widow)
  • Smaller than a pea

If you are unfortunate to encounter a katipo spider, like the 22-year old Canadian tourist who was bitten while skinny dipping, then you will experience a series of symptoms. These include swelling around the spider bite area, high blood pressure and an increased heart rate. You may also have chest pains if left untreated by antivenom.

While most New Zealanders have never seen one, these little spiders are about. They are mostly found in the sand dune areas but will only attack if threatened. So, if you’re intending to following suit with our fellow Canadian tourist and ditching your clothes for a dip, be sure to shake off your pants off before getting dressed!

White-Tailed Spider

White tailed spider on desk
Photo from Wiki Commons by David McClenaghan
Latin NameLampona murina and Lampona cylindrata
Fatal WeaponsPowerful bite that causes burning and swelling
TreatmentWash with clean water, symptoms should subside
Where to Find ThemResidential houses
Conservation StatusNot listed IUCN

The white tailed spider is a more commonly seen spider species in New Zealand. This is because its habitat coincides with residential homes, often found on walls and ceilings across the nation. Attacks from a white tailed spider only occur when they are provoked.

Identification:

  • Cigar shaped body, dark color
  • Orange-brown bands on the legs
  • Two white spots along the abdomen and a white rear

In most cases, the bite causes little harm. However, it can be uncomfortable at first with swelling, itchiness, and a slight burning sensation. These symptoms should quickly subside.

Redback Spider

Photo from Wiki Commons by Don Horne
Latin NameLatrodectus hasselti
Fatal WeaponsVenomous bite
TreatmentAntivenom from a medical professional
Where to Find ThemNorth island
Conservation StatusNo concern IUCN

The redback spider is very similar to the katipo’s in looks and venom. These guys are notorious in neighboring Australia and are culprits for around 2000 spider bites per year.

Identification:

  • Black-brown body
  • Red hourglass stripe down back
  • 10mm in diameter

However, over here in NZ, these spiders don’t thrive that well. Turns out, they can’t hack the colder climates. So if you’re going to see a redback spider, it’ll be up on the north island. Just do the sensible thing and steer clear of it!

Wild Boar

Photo from Wiki Commons by Sander van der Wel
Latin NameSus scrofa
Fatal WeaponsLarge tusks, powerful body, unpredictable nature
TreatmentSeek medical attention if you are struck down by a boar
Where to Find ThemThroughout New Zealand
Conservation StatusLeast concern IUCN

Never underestimate how dangerous the wild boar can be. They may look cute from a distance or as piglets. But when fully grown, these pigs can grow up to 440+ lbs (200+ kg) and reach 6 ft in length. That is a lot of power and muscle behind some hefty sized tusks!

Like most dangerous animals, wild boars can attack humans but normally only when they feel threatened. Our presence can be intimidating for the boars when we encounter them in their territory without us even realizing it.

Wild boars are widespread across New Zealand found in forestry areas. So if you are out hiking just have your wits about you and try not to get too close if you do spot a boar in the distance.

Mosquitos

A common dangerous animal across the world, mosquito
Photo from Evanto Elements by twenty20photos
Latin NameStegomyia albopicta and Aedes aegypti
Fatal WeaponsInfectious bite
TreatmentMonitor for severe side affects, seek medical attention if feverish
Where to Find ThemAround water supply, rainforests, and most outdoor areas
Conservation StatusLeast concern IUCN

Mosquitos are the underestimated killers across the globe. These dangerous little buzzers can carry some nasty diseases and virus-borne illnesses. Mosquito-borne diseases have increased over the years in New Zealand:

  • Chikungunya
  • Dengue fever
  • Ross River virus
  • Zika
  • Malaria

Being in New Zealand has the advantage of a better healthcare system when compared to Southeast Asia destinations, like Malaysia. However, prevention against mosquito bites is always the best way to travel wherever your journey takes you.

Top Tips To Avoid Mosquito Bites:

  1. Use strong insect repellant that contains DEET
  2. Wear long sleeves and full pants if exploring forest areas
  3. Sleep with a mosquito net around the bed
  4. Avoid stagnant water
  5. Add garlic to your diet – a natural remedy!

The likelihood of contracting one of the mosquito-borne viruses in New Zealand is low, however, it’s still a possibility. It just takes one bite from a mosquito that is carrying the disease!

Magpies

Magpies are one of the most dangerous animals in New Zealand
Photo from Wiki Commons by Mark Gunn
Latin NameGymnorhina tibicen
Fatal WeaponsStrong beak, territorial behavior most of the year
TreatmentSeek medical attention if you are struck by a magpie and need stitches
Where to Find ThemThroughout New Zealand
Conservation StatusLeast concern IUCN

Unlike those found in the western parts of the globe, Australia and New Zealand’s magpies are extremely territorial and are known for their aggressive behavior. Trust us when we say, you need to be cautious around these birds! Magpies are pests in New Zealand.

July to December is magpie breeding season and when attacks are most prevalent. The birds defend their territory and nests by swooping from above, attacking any animal that poses a threat, including humans.

Magpies can cause serious injury to your head or eyes in these swooping attacks. Not to mention they can be extremely terrifying as well! There have been two recorded deaths by magpie attacks in neighboring Australia: one resulted in tetanus and another when an elderly cyclist crashed while trying to avoid the dive-bombing birds.

The best thing you can do is simply have your wits about you when walking out and about in New Zealand. If you have an unfortunate encounter, try to cover your head with a jacket, bag, or shirt, and leave the area you’re in.

Grey Side-Gilled Sea Slug

Photo from Wiki Commons by Ryan Boerema
Latin NamePleurobranchaea maculata
Fatal WeaponsNeurotoxin eggs and larvae to paralysis muscles and diaphragm
TreatmentNo cure
Where to Find ThemThroughout New Zealand waters
Conservation StatusLeast concern IUCN

Who knew slugs could be so dangerous? The grey side-gilled sea slug is found across New Zealand and Australia, with occasional sightings in Japan and Sri Lanka. This slugs eggs and larvae are highly toxic and can cause lethal harm to people and other animals, such as dogs.

Back in 2009, there was an alarming amount of dog deaths in Auckland beaches. Man’s best furry friends were coming into close contact with the TTX poison excreted by the grey side-gilled sea slug. TTX (tetrodotoxin) is a neurotoxin which causes paralysis of muscles, affecting the diaphragm and breathing.

TTX is also found in other marine animals, like the pufferfish and blue-ringed octopus. Just a small dose is enough to be lethal to humans when consumed: 1-2mg of TTX, around half a teaspoon of sea slug, is enough to kill an average sized human. There is currently no antidote for this neurotoxin!

These slugs can be found across most marine environments: from silty harbors to open coasts, estuaries and deep waters. So whatever you do while traveling New Zealand, don’t be tempted to Bear Grylls a meal up from these slugs – even for a dare. There is no coming back from this toxin!

Sea Lions

Photo by Jaddy Liu on Unsplash
Latin NamePhocarctos hookeri
Fatal WeaponsTerritorial behavior around breeding time, powerful jaws
TreatmentSeek medical attention if you are attacked
Where to Find ThemSouth island, Stewart Island and Otago
Conservation StatusEndangered IUCN

The New Zealand sea lion is the rarest sea lion species in the world and is only found in NZ. The small colonies can be seen around Stewart Island and along the southeast coast of Otago. Fur seals (Arctocephalus forsteri) are also found on New Zealand’s south island.

Both sea lions and seals can be considered dangerous animals in New Zealand. Even though they look harmless and cute, they have incredibly sharp teeth and powerful jaws. They can inflict serious injuries to people and dogs.

Recommendations are to keep 50 yards (150 feet) between you and a seal pup. They can become curious and try to approach you by themselves. However, the mother is always close by and will show aggression if you get too close. So put the camera away, no seal selfies here!

Tiger Shark

Photo from Pixabay
Latin NameGaleocerdo cuvier
Fatal WeaponsTerritorial and aggressive behavior, powerful jaws
TreatmentSeek medical attention if you are attacked
Where to Find ThemContinental shelf and warmer warmers around New Zealand
Conservation StatusNear threatened IUCN

The oceans around New Zealand are rich and diverse. With this comes sharks. It’s inevitable. There are over 70 species of sharks found in the waters around New Zealand, one of which is the tiger shark – one of the most aggressive and dangerous sharks in the world.

Encounters with tiger sharks in New Zealand are rare as they prefer warmer tropical waters. However, they are commonly seen around the continental shelf that surrounds New Zealand.

While shark attacks are rare in NZ, the last recorded shark attack fatality being in 2018, it’s still smart to keep a lookout while you’re in the water. Surfers do take on higher odds with the prolonged periods they are in the water. So remember to keep up with shark reports and never surf alone.

Bluebottle Jellyfish

Photo from Wiki Commons by Phil Whitehouse
Latin NamePhysalia physalis
Fatal WeaponsExtremely long toxic tentacles that cause severe stinging and anaphylactic shock
TreatmentSeek medical attention if you are stung and pain doesn’t subside
Where to Find ThemNew Zealands waters
Conservation StatusNo concern IUCN

Last but not least, the bluebottle jellyfish. This tiny and almost invisible ocean creature packs more punch than you would expect. Its sting is far worse than wasps and bee stings, so don’t underestimate this jelly!

Bluebottle’s, also known as Portuguese man o’war, have tentacles that typically reach up to 10 meters in length. They come in ‘clouds’ or swarms, the direction dictated by winds and ocean currents. Stings can occur without you even realizing the jellies’ are there.

If you are stung, never brush the tentacle off as this will only increase and spread the pain. Try to carefully lift the tentacle off your skin. There will be a burning sensation that is extremely painful that can result in shock, fever or respiratory distress for the elderly, children, or anyone with asthma.

These symptoms should fade after an hour or so. If you’re concerned for any reason, seek medical attention.

What is the most dangerous animal in New Zealand?
Photo by Michael on Unsplash

What is the most dangerous animal in New Zealand?

The most dangerous animal in New Zealand is the katipo spider. The poison in the katipo spider’s bite can cause severe discomfort and breathing difficulties if left untreated. The spider bite begins with swelling, redness, and itchiness, and then develops to increased blood pressure, heart rate, and chest pains.

What is the most dangerous snake in New Zealand?

New Zealand is a blessed country with next to no native snakes in the wildlife on land, unlike the Australian masses found next door. There are sea snakes that pack a strong venom. However, this snake’s jaw is too small and teeth too brittle to actually puncture human skin.

What is the most dangerous spider in New Zealand?

There are three dangerous spiders in New Zealand: katipo, white tailed, and redback. All three of these spiders haven’t got the punch to kill you, however, the bite is still very painful. If you are unlucky to experience one of these spiders bites, you will experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Itchiness
  • Burning sensation

These symptoms should naturally relieve after a few hours. But if you are in severe pain, do seek medical advice and attention. These dangerous animals in New Zealand can leave you with a nasty experience.

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Hi! I'm Abigail, a surfer, traveller, and nature lover. I'm from the UK but have been able to call Bali home for several years. I've backpacked across Australia on a shoestring budget, explored European coastlines, and taken in the sights across the pond and down into South America. My travel wishlist keeps growing the more I explore our perfect planet!