The 9 Most Frightening & Dangerous Animals in Jamaica

dangerous animals Jamaica
Credit Charles J Sharp Wikimedia
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Considering that their national animal is a Red-Billed Streamertail, a tiny, jewel-bright bird of the hummingbird family, it might not come as a surprise that the list of dangerous animals in Jamaica is not huge. Jamaica is generally a safe country to travel and enjoy, and your risk of attack by a deadly beast is not very big. 

Hopefully, you’ll spend your vacation spotting some of this beautiful country’s more harmless creatures like the slow-moving manatee, elegant patoo, or endangered sea turtle. But just in case you do come across one of the more risky creatures, it’s best to be prepared.

So here’s our list of the nine most dangerous animals to watch out for in Jamaica. We’ve got some big ones and some small, some land dwellers, insects, marine animals, and even a shellfish for you to keep a wary eye out for! 

American Crocodile

the American Crocodile is found around Black River in southern Jamaica.
Credit Tomascastelazo Wikimedia

The most fearsome reptile in Jamaica is the American Crocodile. It is one of the biggest species of crocodile in Jamaica, capable of growing up to 20ft long and weighing an incredible 2000lbs. 

Despite their fearsome size, however, these reptiles are less aggressive than other, more dangerous types of croc. Their main prey is small reptiles such as frogs and turtles, as well as birds and rodents. They like to live in the brackish water of river mouths and mangrove swamps. In Jamaica, they are found along the south coast and most often around Black River. Instances of them attacking humans are rare. Unfortunately, though, attacks do happen and given the size of these beasts are often fatal when they do. The most recent report of an attack by a croc in Jamaica was in 2018 and resulted in a man’s death.

Sharks

five species of shark live in the waters around jamaica
Credit Albert Kok Wikimedia

Five species of shark live in the waters around Jamaica. Reef sharks and Nurse sharks are the most commonly sighted but cause little concern because they pose very little danger to humans. Reef sharks because they rarely grow over 5ft long and tend to be timid around humans. While nurse sharks can be much larger, around 10ft long, they are docile in nature and non-aggressive. 

Endangered Hammerhead sharks have also been spotted, and these are slightly more of a concern. While they do not target humans, they can be huge (up to 20ft), are aggressive hunters towards their prey (octopus, fish, and squid), and there have been rare incidents of unprovoked attacks on humans.

Then there are the Bull Sharks and Tiger Sharks, and these are the ones you really need to watch out for. Both species like warm, shallow waters close to coastlines, bringing them into contact with divers and swimmers. Both species are large, aggressive, will attack without provocation, and are two of the top three most dangerous sharks for fatal attacks on humans. The top sport goes to the Great White, which is not found in Jamaica. 

Now that you’re suitably frightened, we should tell you that shark attacks in Jamaica are incredibly rare. There have been only 24 documented shark attacks since 1827. And recently, one unconfirmed but presumed death by a shark in 2018. That’s only 25 shark attacks in 200 years! So your chances of encountering one of these dangerous marine animals while swimming in Jamaica is extremely low.

Sea Urchins

sea urchins can be dangerous if stepped on or handled incorrectly.
Credit Rordinus Wikimedia

We come now to a much more peaceful creature, the sea urchin. These round, spiny creatures sit on the ocean floor, clinging to rocks and reefs, and spend their time eating algae. Completely non-aggressive, sea urchins will never chase or attack you; their danger comes from accidental contact with their spines. If humans accidentally stand on, kick, bump against or grab a sea urchin, these brittle spines can puncture the skin. They tend to break on contact leaving fragments inside the wound. 

The severity of a sea urchin injury depends on the species, but most commonly in Jamaica, they will cause pain, swelling, redness, and irritation at the injury site. If spiked, you should remove all spines and fragments from the affected area because if they remain in the skin, they can break down, releasing toxins that cause infection and blood poisoning. 

Very rarely, if many puncture wounds occur or if a person is allergic to the urchin, more severe symptoms such as respiratory trouble and shock can occur. In this case, the person affected should seek immediate medical attention. 

Scorpionfish

the scorpionfish is a master of camouflage
Credit Anna Barnett Wikimedia

What these fish lack in beauty, they make up for in venom. The Scorpionfish, a close relative of the stonefish, is one of the most venomous fish in the world. Their dorsal fin contains spikes capable of impaling and injecting toxins into any attacker. 

The danger to humans comes because this fish is a master of camouflage. Its mottles pinkish-grey appearance makes it almost impossible to see as it lies motionless amongst the stones and crags of a reef. As a result, injuries occur when swimmers accidentally stand on an unseen scorpionfish. If this happens and the venomous spines puncture the skin, the victim may experience severe pain spreading through the stung limb. Other symptoms include bleeding, swelling, trouble breathing, nausea, and shock. Scorpionfish venom can be deadly if left untreated, so if you have the misfortune to step on one of these hidden fish, seek medical help immediately. 

Lionfish

the lionfish has beautiful but deadly spines
Credit Sujitkumar Wikimedia

Should you be lucky enough to see one of these stripy, beautiful fish while diving or swimming, keep your distance! The long fronds of fins and spines that swish around this fish don’t just look pretty; they serve a dangerous purpose. The dorsal fins of this fish – like the stonefish – are capable of injecting venom into attackers. This venom is strong enough to incapacitate marine predators and cause pain to humans. This pain can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, respiratory problems, headaches, fever, and shock. The symptoms can worsen if the person stung is allergic to the venom, in which case they should seek medical assistance.

Not native to the waters around Jamaica, lionfish first appeared in the 1990s after escaping (or being released) from captivity in the US. Regardless of how they got there, they soon made their presence felt in the Caribbean. This highly invasive species bred quickly and decimated the population of native fish. The Jamaicans, who initially avoided the fish because of its venomous spines, then discovered that it was delicious (and safe to eat). Once this discovery occurred and people figured out how to handle the fish without being injured, it was open season on lionfish. These days their numbers are kept low by this excessive fishing, which has allowed the depleted numbers of native species to increase once more. 

Recluse Spider

the recluse spider is the most dangerous animal in Jamaica.
Credit Valdez-Mondragon Wikimeadia

The Recluse Spider is probably the most dangerous of all the animals in Jamaica. Not because it is particularly aggressive but because of the effect of its bite, which is hemotoxic – causing soft tissue death. 

This spider is quite reserved and likes to live in quiet, dark corners in storage rooms and boxes or seldom worn clothes and shoes. The spider is quite timid and only bites when provoked, most often when trapped against someone’s skin inside their clothing. Or in the case of one unlucky woman, in between the sheets of her bed. When this spider does bite, it injects a highly toxic venom. Bites are not initially painful and may go unnoticed at first. Then victim may begin to feel itching and swelling around the bite as the soft tissue begins to decay. 

Recluse bites that go untreated can spread quickly, leaving large, deep lesions that take a long time to heal. Although rare, some cases of Recluse bites have led to limb amputation and death. It’s essential, therefore, to get any spider bite looked at by a medical professional.

Widow Spiders

black and brown widow spiders are found in jamaica
Credit Darklick 14 Wikimeadia

Both Black and Brown Widow spiders live in Jamaica. Both are highly venomous and are capable of giving a dangerous bite. 

Both widows are instantly recognizable for their markings, the black widow for the distinctive red hourglass markings on their otherwise black torso. And the brown widow whose hourglass is an orange or yellow color and whose legs are striped tan and dark brown. Both spiders make their homes in quiet places such as outhouses and garages or disused containers. The brown widow is more prevalent in Jamaica but is also less stealthy, spinning its web more out in the open, which may be one reason it is seen more often. 

While both spiders contain a neurotoxic venom of equal strength, the black widow’s bite is more severe than the brown because it can inject more venom per bite than its smaller relative. A bite by either spider can lead to symptoms such as pain, vomiting, sweating, stiffness, or spasms in the bitten limb. 

While these symptoms are generally not severe brown widow bites, black widow bites can be deadly in humans, especially if the person bitten is a child, elderly or frail. Therefore, if you or any of your party are bitten by one of these dangerous animals while in Jamaica, you should seek immediate medical attention. 

Giant Centipede

The giant centipede or 'forty leg' can give a nasty venomous bite
Credit Canley Wikimedia

The extremely creepy Scolopendra Gigantea, most often known as a Fortyleg in Jamaica, is the largest centipede species in the world. It can grow to a foot long and has a nasty bite that can cause great pain. 

This carnivorous creature lives on a diet of insects, scorpions, frogs, lizards, rodents, and any other animal it can get its teeth into. This crawly creature overpowers its prey by seizing it with two claw-like appendages located behind its head. These ‘forcipules’ clamp down on the victim and inject a venom that can incapacitate and kill. 

In humans, the venom is most likely to cause pain, swelling, chills, fever, and excessive sweating. It is rarely fatal, but there have been cases, so keep your distance from this critter, and if you are bitten, get yourself to a doctor to be safe. 

Wild Boar

Wild board are found in the mountains on the east of Jamaica
Credit Magda Ehlers Pexels.

These hairy, squealing animals may look fearsome, but their long, curving tusks are usually used for rooting around the forest floors. They turn over dirt and logs looking for roots and tubers and rarely to attack or fight. However, As is the case in most places where wild boar live, people like to hunt them, both for the sport and for their meat. And it is this act of hunting them that leads to injuries and occasional fatalities. When chased, hunted, provoked, or injured, boars will defend themselves, and when they do, those tusks can cause massive injury, blood loss, and death. 

You might see a wild boar if you go hiking through their habitat in the mountains of St Thomas and Portland. But since they’ve learned to be wary of humans, you’ll probably only see it go crashing away through the undergrowth. Never try to chase, corner, or provoke one and should not have any problems. 

Jamaica is a beautiful country with just a few dangerous to watch out for.
Credit Pexels Pixabay

What is the most dangerous animal in Jamaica?

The Brown Recluse Spider is the most dangerous animal in Jamaica. Its bite contains a hemotoxic venom can that can cause large painful wounds and even death if left untreated. Anyone coming into contact with this spider should be wary and if bitten should seek medical help immediately.

Are there any poisonous snakes in Jamaica?

No. There are several species of snake in Jamaica; however, none of them are venomous or poisonous. 

Are there Jaguars in Jamaica?

No, there are no jaguars in Jamaica. 

What is the most dangerous spider in Jamaica?

The Recluse spider is the most dangerous; it has a highly venomous bite that can lead to severe wounds and even death if left untreated. 

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Anita is from Wales and has been a travel addict since her first trip to Australia ten years ago. Since then she's lived and worked in Oz, New Zealand and Canada, worked many ski seasons and travelled widely through South East Asia, Morocco, India and Europe. She's a nomad, freelance writer, foodie, compulsive reader, tea addict and animal lover.