Home Europe Malta The 9 Most Terrifying & Dangerous Animals In Malta

The 9 Most Terrifying & Dangerous Animals In Malta

Pufferfish in a coral reef
Photo by Vlad Tchompalov on Unsplash

So you’re thinking about going to Malta. Countless days of sunshine and glorious landscapes are sure to capture any traveler’s heart. But what about the wildlife? What dangerous animals in Malta do you need to know about before jumping on a plane?

Believe it or not, this tiny island has a whole array of creepy crawlies and creatures that are best avoided. The island is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea, which depths provide a home to some of the weirdest, and most dangerous, animals in Malta. Both the caves and coves on the coastline and the rocky interior provide excellent hiding spots for deadly animals!

So while you’re exploring the tenth smallest country in the world, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for these nine most dangerous animals in Malta! You never know when you may run into one.

Cat Snake

Close up of the cat snake with vertical pupil and forked tongue
Photo by Benny Trapp from WikiCommons
Latin NameTelescopus fallax
Key FeaturesCat-like eye with a vertical pupil and ash-grey bands along the body
TreatmentSeek medical attention if you are unfortunate to receive a bite
Where To Find ThemSeen after dusk in rocky habitats
Conservation StatusLeast concern

There are several species of snakes on the island, however, the cat snake is the only venomous snake in Malta. Luckily for us, this snake’s venom isn’t majorly dangerous for humans. They tend to stick to a small mammal diet!

Cat snakes are aptly named due to the cat-like eye. Identified with a vertical pupil and ash-grey bands along the 1-meter long body, these snakes are commonly seen after dusk. Like most snakes, the cat snake lives in rocky habitats.

Other common non-dangerous snake species include:

  • Leopard snake
  • Western whip snake
  • Algerian whip snake

Recluse Spider

Photo by Br-recluse-guy from WikiCommons
Latin NameLoxosceles reclusa
Key FeaturesSmall brown body with long legs and strong jaws
TreatmentSeek medical attention if you are unfortunate to receive a bite
Where To Find ThemSeen around the Maltese countryside under rocks and in shady spaces
Conservation StatusLeast concern

Malta has 157 recorded species of spiders. Most of these are venomous, however, only one packs a strong enough toxin to cause harm to humans. The recluse spider, also known as the convict spider, is only 1cm and yet packs a powerful bite.

Recluse spiders are typically found in the countryside, but they have been known to venture into buildings and apartments across the island. While an encounter is unlikely, it’s highly advised by the Maltese to avoid trying to pick up any spider.

If bitten, side effects could include:

  • Localized swelling
  • Severe pain
  • Rash and numbness
  • Infection of the wound
  • Tissue damage

Mediterranean Yellow Scorpion

Photo by Mohamed Chedli Ben Yaghlane from WikiCommons
Latin NameLeiurus quinquestriatus
Key FeaturesYellow or light brown body, between 2-4cm in length
TreatmentSeek medical attention if you are unfortunate to receive a sting
Where To Find ThemSeen around the Maltese countryside under rocks and in shady spaces
Conservation StatusLeast concern

Closely related to the recluse spider, in terms of danger, is the Mediterranean yellow scorpion. This is a relatively small species of scorpion, however, the tail can inflict plenty of pain to an unfortunate victim!

Most encounters with these dangerous critters happen on hiking trails. You are extremely unlikely to see one in a busy resort area.

While these scorpions won’t go out of their way to attack humans, they will protect themselves. So if you are out hiking, avoid picking up rocks or disturb crevices. You never know what you may upset!

Scorpionfish

Scorpionfish on the seabed
by Dein Freund der Baum from WikiCommons
Latin NameScorpaenidae
Key FeaturesSpines along body and fins, red and brown in color camouflaging in coral and rocks
TreatmentSeek medical attention if you are unfortunate to receive a sting
Where To Find ThemSeen around the Maltese ocean on coral and rock sea beds
Conservation StatusLeast concern

As a nation surrounded by water, it’s unsurprising to find out there are so many dangers living in the sea. The well-camouflaged scorpionfish is just one of them.

These fish blend into the coral reefs superbly, often being mistaken for rocks or sand. Scorpionfish, as the name suggests, are venomous. They have spines along the back and fins that inject a powerful venom into predators and unwanted feet of swimmers!

A sting from a scorpionfish is extremely painful. You will experience intense pain and swelling, potentially affecting the following:

  • Respiratory system
  • Cardiovascular system
  • Urinary system
  • Nervous system

Sea Urchin

Purple sea urchin exposed on a rock
Photo by Rorolinus from WikiCommons
Latin NameEchinoidea
Key FeaturesSpines all over and vary in color, camouflaging in coral and rocks
TreatmentCarefully remove spikes, seek medical attention if you are unfortunate to encounter
Where To Find ThemSeen around the Maltese ocean on coral and rock sea beds
Conservation StatusLeast concern

Sea urchins are also excellent at hiding among the rocks and on the seafloor. Stepping on a sea urchin is a common occurrence for tourists and fishermen. These marine creatures can be found in a range of colors. Black is the most common, however, you can get brown, dark green, red, purple, and blue sea urchins.

The spines can be loaded with a toxin and could cause an adverse reaction. If stood on, the spines break off and lodge into the unfortunate victim. This is generally painful and the spines should be carefully removed with tweezers. Be very careful when removing the spines as they shatter and crumble easily, which could lead to further complications.

Great White Shark

Great white shark swimming with a school of fish
Photo by Pterantula from WikiCommons
Latin NameCarcharodon carcharias
Key FeaturesExtremely large torpedo-shaped body, grey body, and white underbelly
TreatmentSeek urgent medical attention if you are attacked
Where To Find ThemSeen around the Maltese ocean in deep waters
Conservation StatusVulnerable

Malta is in the middle of the Med. Are there sharks in the Mediterranean Sea? Yes, there are.

And one of the most dangerous and frightening cold-blooded creatures found in the waters is the iconic great white shark. These sharks have a bad reputation across the globe and are responsible for the majority of unprovoked shark attacks.

The ‘man-in-grey’ that swims through the Maltese waters can grow up to 20 feet in length and weigh up to 2 tonnes. Identifying these beasts is fairly easy for the average person. Despite the presumed threat, these sharks tend to keep themselves to themselves and shouldn’t be feared.

When you’re in Malta, it’s important to listen to the locals and take shark sightings seriously. Great whites don’t make a habit of coming close to shore, but it’s a good idea to keep an ear out for the alarm just in case!

Barracuda

Lone barracuda in deep clear water
Photo by Rickard Zerpe from WikiCommons
Latin NameSphyraena
Key FeaturesLong, straight body, silver in color with large eyes and sharp teeth
TreatmentSeek urgent medical attention if you are attacked
Where To Find ThemSeen around the Maltese ocean in deep waters
Conservation StatusLeast concern

Barracuda are commonly seen around the reefs surrounding Malta. They have a lot of similarities to piranhas, including the aggressive temperament, however, they average around 6 feet in length. These large fish have razor-sharp teeth that are capable of causing severe damage to humans.

While attacks on humans are rare, they can happen. Barracudas are scavengers and often mistake swimmers as large prey. Unlike other predators in the ocean, these fish often hunt fish of a similar size and have been known to attack animals that are even larger than themselves. These fish consume prey by tearing off chunks at each attack.

Divers are often victims of these attacks when barracudas begin a feeding frenzy, so never be tempted to try feeding them!

Pufferfish

Close up of a pufferfish looking at the camera
Photo by Brocken Inaglory from WikiCommons
Latin NameTetraodontidae
Key FeaturesSmall and rounded fish with frilly fins and typically bright colors (a sign of the poison)
TreatmentSeek urgent medical attention if you touch or ingest the fish
Where To Find ThemSeen around the Maltese ocean and reefs
Conservation StatusLeast concern

The pufferfish is the second most poisonous creature in the world after the Golden Poison Frog. These fish have a powerful tetrodotoxin in their tissue, making them dangerous to even touch. This is a strong neurotoxin that can cause severe problems for the nervous system, urinary system, and cardiovascular system if ingested.

There is enough toxin in a single pufferfish to kill 30 adult humans. The tetrodotoxin found in pufferfish is 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide.

If you are unfortunate to experience the effect of the pufferfish, then you must seek urgent medical attention to receive respiratory treatment. There is no known antidote for the sting.

Some high-end Japanese restaurants serve fugu sushi. This requires an expertly trained chef to prepare the pufferfish. 60% of poisonings result in death, so this is a risky meal to try!

Portuguese Man’O War

Portuguese Man'O War
Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region from WikiCommons
Latin NamePhysalia physalis
Key FeaturesBright blue jelly-like body with long trailing tendrils, normally connected in a string
TreatmentCarefully remove the tendrils and wash with vinegar
Where To Find ThemSeen around the Maltese ocean and reefs, and washed up on the beach
Conservation StatusLeast concern

Last but not least, we have the Portuguese man’o war. The sea around Malta is on the flight path for swarms of these stinging clouds. Contrary to popular belief, the Portuguese man’o war is not a jellyfish. They are specialized gelatinous organisms with long trailing tendrils.

The tendrils are what make these small organisms dangerous. Packed full of a neurotoxin, a sting from these can be lethal. The sting is incredibly painful, comparable to a red-hot wire being pressed against the skin.

Home treatment of the sting is possible (however, medical attention may be required in some scenarios.) You need to carefully remove the tendril by lifting it off, not brushing, and then proceed to douse the area with vinegar or urine. This will neutralize the sting and reduce the pain.

These dangerous animals in Malta are not only in the water but are often seen washed up on the beach. So be sure to keep an eye on the sand when enjoying a sunset beach stroll.

a flag
Photo by Max Kobus on Unsplash

What is the most dangerous animal in Malta?

The most dangerous animals in Malta are the Portuguese Man’O War or Pufferfish. Both pack a powerful toxin that can result in excruciating pain, nausea, and potentially even death.

Are there sharks in Malta?

The sea around Malta is home to several shark species. Great whites and blue sharks are commonly seen in the area, however, attacks are extremely rare. Don’t be surprised if you catch a glimpse of a fin on the horizon. Scuba divers can explore the abundance of the Maltese waters and swim with sharks in Malta.

Are there sea snakes in Malta?

Sea snakes are a common sighting in Malta. However, these snakes don’t pose an immediate threat to humans as they cannot actually bite us with their small jaws and weak teeth. If you see a sea snake in the Maltese waters, allow them to continue swimming and give them a wide berth.

Are there any dangerous spiders in Malta?

There are many species of spiders in Malta, one of which is extremely poisonous and can be dangerous to humans if bitten. The brown recluse spider bite can lead to extreme agony, swelling around the wound, and infection leading to further complications. This spider is one of the most dangerous animals in Malta.