The 9 Most Dangerous Animals Found in Cuba

Photo by Simon Berger on Unsplash
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Visiting Cuba is an absolute must. This Caribbean island lies between the Gulf of Mexico and the Sargasso Sea, sharing waters with Northern South America, Jamaica, and the Bahamas. Its ecosystem is incredibly diverse, full of endemic flora and fauna across the shorelines, mangroves, and forests. And yet, despite having more species of animals than any other Caribbean destination, there are not that many dangerous animals in Cuba. However, those animals included on Cuba’s danger list can be deadly!

German scientist Alexander von Humboldt famously described Cuba as “a kind of Caribbean Galápagos where contradictory curiosities exist side by side.” The diverse landscapes of Cuba allow for this. From tropical island shorelines to dense forests, crocodile-infested swamps to a rugged mountainous interior. Just imagine what creatures and dangerous animals could be tucked away!

So get off the beaten track. Stray from the tourists’ trails and get off the picturesque beaches and turquoise waters. Seek out the curiosities of Cuba and discover the indefinable magic of the island. Expect the unexpected and be prepared in knowing what dangerous animals in Cuba to keep a distance from.

Mosquitoes

mosquitoes are the most dangerous animals in cuba
Image by WikiImages from Pixabay 
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

Small, but significantly deadly. The mosquito is the most dangerous animal in Cuba, and most of the world, for the simple reason that tourists often underestimate their bite. Not every mosquito is dangerous. But it just takes one bite from the wrong one.

Mosquitoes carry many dangerous diseases that can cause serious discomfort, fever, and even death in extreme cases. Some diseases these tiny and silent insects carry are:

  • Dengue fever
  • Malaria
  • Zika virus
  • Yellow fever

These diseases all have similar side effects: fever, delusion, loss of appetite, and a painful rash. If you experience any of these symptoms after mosquito bites, seek urgent medical attention from a doctor. Treatment is necessary and even hospitalization in extreme cases.

Prevention is the best cure though. Make sure you use a DEET-based insect repellent. If you are venturing into the depths of the forests or mangrove areas, try to cover your skin by wearing loose-fitting clothes. But remember, mosquitos can be anywhere – even your hotel room or landmarks while exploring the Cuban colonial heritage.

Box Jellyfish

Photo by Billy Huynh on Unsplash
Latin NameCubozoa
Fatal WeaponsLong tentacles with a poisonous sting
TreatmentRemove tentacle, apply vinegar solution and hot water, medical assistance if severe reaction
Where to Find ThemOceanic waters and reefs
Conservation Status No risk IUCN

The box jellyfish has one of the most dangerous and poisonous stings in the world. These Medusa-type creatures are found across the globe and are a common feature of the Caribbean Sea. The toxin’s in the box jellyfish sting attack the heart and nervous system of the victim.

These stings are often described as explosions hitting the skin. Trust us, you’ll know if you’ve accidentally brushed one while swimming. They are translucent in color and extremely difficult to spot in the water.

When box jellyfish sting, often its tentacles are left behind. As long as this is in contact with the skin, the sting will continue to worsen. If you are unlucky while enjoying the crystal clear Cuban waters, make sure you remove the tentacle by lifting it off, not rubbing it as this will spread the pain even more.

June through to September is referred to as “jellyfish season” in Cuba. However, high winds in winter months can often blow swarms into the waters around Cuba. Always listen to the locals and take their advice if box jellyfish swarms have been reported.

Caribbean Reef Shark

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash
Latin NameCarcharhinus perezii
Fatal WeaponsSharp teeth and powerful jaws
TreatmentMedical attention for wounds and antibiotics to avoid infection
Where to Find ThemOceanic waters and reefs
Conservation StatusNear threatened (population decreasing) IUCN

While the Caribbean reef shark may look dangerous with all those teeth, it isn’t as aggressive as most people would think. Sharks often get a bad reputation because the movies love to villainize them as ferocious beasts. However, as long as you respect their space, they should leave you well alone.

The Caribbean reef shark is the most common in Cuban waters. There have also been rare sightings of tiger sharks and bull sharks, with a questionable great white shark encounter many years ago. The bigger and more deadly sharks prefer deeper and colder water, particularly the African and Australian coastlines.

When diving, chances are you will encounter these sharks gracefully surveying the reef. The best spot to dive with the sharks is Parque Nacional Jardines de la Reina. This national park will also offer a chance to discover the incredible marine life around Cuba.

It’s only when you start heading into the Gulf of Mexico, between Cuba and Florida, that you run the risk of encountering more dangerous sharks. If you are unfortunate and have a run-in with a shark, go to the hospital to treat any form of wounds and get antibiotics to avoid infection.

Crocodiles

Image by czu_czu_PL from Pixabay 
Latin NameCrocodylus rhombifer
Fatal WeaponsSharp teeth and extremely powerful jaw
TreatmentUrgent medical attention
Where to Find ThemMangrove and swampy areas
Conservation StatusCritically endangered IUCN

The Cuban crocodile is an endemic species only found in Cuba. It’s critically endangered with population numbers decreasing dramatically. These small-medium crocodiles are typically 2.1–2.3 m (6.9–7.5 feet) and weigh up to 70–80 kg (150–180 lbs). That is still big if you were to accidentally encounter one in the wild!

Unlike other crocodile species, those found in Cuba display pack-hunting behavior. They are considered the most aggressive of the species and also the most intelligent. This makes the crocodile Cuba’s most dangerous animal.

The Cuban crocodile can be found in the Zapata swamp region and the Isle of Youth. Look out for its slide marks into the murky waters from banks and sandy beaches. Always be cautious when walking close to the water and never choose to swim in the swamps! There is also the speculated caiman in Cuba which is part of the alligator family.

Bark Scorpion

Photo from Wiki Commons
Latin NameCentruroides gracilis
Fatal WeaponsVenomous sting in tail
TreatmentAntivenim from a doctor
Where to Find ThemDark forest undergrowths
Conservation StatusLeast concern IUCN

Bark scorpions are commonly referred to as dusky or blue scorpions in Cuba. Females typically grow up to 10cm in length, while the males can reach up to 15cm. Colors vary between red, brown, black, and sandy yellow.

As with most scorpions, the bark scorpion won’t go out of its way to cause humans harm. Most encounters are accidental. Its preferred habitat is in forest undergrowth, in dark and shaded places. However, they sometimes chose to take up residence in walls of buildings and under trash in yards.

These scorpions pack a powerful venom in their tail and they aren’t afraid to use it if they feel threatened. The venom is neurotoxic and cardiotoxic. Immediate reactions include pain, redness, swelling, and itchiness. If left untreated, a sting could lead to a severe reaction of nausea, vomiting, fever, diarrhea, blackouts, or even death – albeit extremely unlikely.

However, it’s not all bad. There are new scientific studies being carried out on the venom of the blue scorpion as a possible treatment for cancer! There really is magic in nature and the dangerous animals in Cuba.

Cuban Boa Snake

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay 

Typically found in dry forest scrub, the Cuban boa is the largest snake on the island growing up to 4.5 meters in length. This snake does not have a lethal bite. In fact, there are no poisonous snakes in Cuba.

Instead, the Cuban boa uses suffocation through constriction to trap and debilitate its prey. They mostly eat small mammals and rodents. Again, the Cuban boa has to live with the bad reputation that often looms over snake species. These snakes actually help humans by keeping rodent populations down.

Nocturnal and solitary, sightings of these snakes in the Cuban wildlife are extremely rare. However, if you do spot one, be sure to give it space and leave it alone. Even though they aren’t venomous, snakes are still one of the most dangerous animals in Cuba.

Latin NameChilabothrus angulifer
Fatal WeaponsConstricting and suffocation
TreatmentMedical assistance
Where to Find ThemDry forest and scrub forest
Conservation StatusNear threatened IUCN

Centipede

Giant centipede has a powerful bite dangerous animals in cuba
Image from Wiki Commons
Latin NameScolopendra gigantea
Fatal WeaponsVenomous bite
TreatmentMedical assistance and antivenom
Where to Find ThemForests and damp, dark spaces
Conservation StatusLeast concern IUCN

The Amazonian giant centipede is naturally distributed across South America and Caribbean islands. It is the largest species of centipede in the world reaching up to a whopping 30 cm in length. This creature of nightmares preys on other insects, small mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles.

Reddish-brown in color, they are well camouflaged in the tropical forest undergrowth and ground. Unlike other species of centipede, the Amazonian giant centipede has a strong venom in its bite. However, this has only been linked to a human death one time in records – a four-year-old child in Venezuela.

The larger centipedes have adapted a specialized technique to catch some of their larger prey, such as bats. They’ve been known to climb cave ceilings and keep some legs gripping the rocks while the front end holds onto the bat. Cubans do their best to avoid this creepy-crawly. Tourists are recommended to do the same.

Cuban Bronze Tarantula

Cuban Bronze Tarantula dangerous animals in Cuba
Image from Wiki Commons
Latin NamePhormictopus auratus
Fatal WeaponsFangs, poison is not dangerous to human
TreatmentClean wound and avoid infection
Where to Find ThemTropical forestry areas
Conservation StatusLeast concern IUCN

Commonly known as the Cuban bronze tarantula, this species of spider is endemic to Cuba. It’s found throughout the country but mostly in the Camagüey, Las Tunas, and Holguín regions in the south. The preferred habitats are tropical forest spaces.

Despite the classic arachnid and terrifying appearance, the Cuban bronze tarantula poses very little threat. The venom does not affect humans. But still, avoiding a bite from this spider is still advised. The fangs can leave you with a nasty hole that can always get infected.

These spiders have thick legs and heavy bodies. They are hairy in a way that gives them a bronze glow. Typically they grow between 5-7 cm across the body so should be relatively easy to spot in the wild if they make themselves visible.

Cuban Tree Frog

Photo from Wiki Commons
Latin NameOsteopilus septentrionalis
Fatal WeaponsMild toxic secretion through skin
TreatmentWash area thoroughly
Where to Find ThemHumid areas like waterways
Conservation StatusNot listed IUCN

The Cuban tree frog is another endemic species to Cuba that has dangerous properties but is not the most dangerous animal in Cuba. It varies in color but is typically dark green with a pale great underbelly. They can slightly change their color to match the environment, but not in such a theatrical manner as the chameleon.

Female tree frogs tend to grow bigger than the male, 12.7 cm and 5.1 to 6.3 cm respectively. They prefer areas with high humidity and so are often found close to Cuba’s waterways. Interestingly, these frogs are notorious for cannibalism – they have a reputation in the forest for eating other frogs!

While the Cuban tree frog is not directly poisonous to humans, the secretions from their skin can be irritating if you come in contact. There are local myths and folklore of Cuban tree frogs spitting their toxin into eyes and faces, causing blindness and discomfort. While this may just be a tale to tell the kids, there is still an element of a wary truth in there.

Photo from Wiki Commons

FAQ

Are there sharks in Cuba?

Cuba is in the Caribbean which means there is the occasional shark swimming the waters. However, the types of sharks found in Cuba are not considered dangerous. As the water is warmer and shallow over the reefs, Cuba only tends to see reef sharks and smaller varieties.

The bigger and more aggressive species of sharks prefer deeper and colder water. Bull sharks are found in the Gulf of Mexico between Cuba and Florida. Great white sightings are very rare.

While shark attacks are infrequent, they are not unheard of. Swimming in Cuba’s waters at night, early morning, and dusk is not advised. These lower light hours are when sharks are most active and considered more dangerous animals in Cuba waters.

Are there any venomous snakes in Cuba?

Cuba does not have any venomous snakes on the island. That being said, there are many species of snakes in Cuba that can still bite and leave a wound. Avoidance of snakes in Cuba is always recommended.

Most types of snakes in Cuba are constrictor varieties. These snakes use the length of their body to crush their prey, reducing the air, and ultimately suffocating it. Despite this, snakes are not the most dangerous animals in Cuba for humans.

Does Cuba have alligators?

There are three crocodilian species in Cuba: native Cuban crocodile, American crocodile, and the spectacled caiman (part of the alligator family). The caiman is a non-native species that was introduced by pet traders. Local Cuban’s have an interesting idea of what makes a good pet, including some dangerous animals in Cuba that most tourists would do their best to avoid at all costs!

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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!