As one of the most biodiverse countries on the planet, Venezuela is host to all manner of wildlife. It won’t come as a surprise that there are many dangerous animals in Venezuela.
From sharks to spiders, snakes to bullet ants, Venezuela is teeming with creepy crawlies and deadly predators known to sting, bite and strike. None are quite as magnificent as the jaguar, which exists in small populations to the north of the country. However, although pretty fearsome, it’s worth noting that most of the dangerous animals in Venezuela won’t attack humans unless provoked first. As long as you stay cautious, you should be able to avoid any unwanted encounters with these deadly predators.
So, what are the most dangerous animals in Venezuela? Read on for our list of the top seven species you should look out for.
Perhaps the most fabled of Venezuela’s native fauna, the jaguar has mystified us for millennia. It features heavily in the art and culture of the ancient Andean civilizations across South America. The jaguar’s name derives from the indigenous word ‘yaguar’, meaning ‘he who kills with one leap’, an apt description.
Possessing the most powerful bite of any big cat, the jaguar’s teeth are strong enough to pierce a crocodile’s skin or a turtle’s shell. Their short, stocky physique affords them great power and agility; they are natural swimmers and tree climbers. As opportunistic hunters and apex predators, jaguars are able to prey on pretty much anything they find in the wild. From capybaras to tortoises, iguanas to tapir, fish to birds; the jaguar can eat them all. Furthermore, the jaguars found in Venezuela are the biggest anywhere in the world, alongside Brazil. Fortunately for us, these fearsome animals do not tend to behave aggressively towards humans: interactions between jaguar and man usually take on a sort of peaceful coexistence. Just be sure not to threaten one by interfering with its territory or children if you see it in the wild.
If you’re going for a dip in the Caribbean, you’d best hope not to encounter a bull shark. These predators get their name from their short, blunt snout, as well their habit of head-butting their prey before an attack. Measuring 7 to 10 feet, and weighing in at 200-500 pounds, they are not as immediately scary as a great white, or as efficient a killer as a shortfin mako. The bull shark makes up for it, however, by being one of the most aggressive members of the shark family. Though shark attacks on humans are generally extremely rare, this species of shark has the greatest tendency to attack people.
Additionally, because of their ability to tolerate freshwater as well as saltwater, they are commonly known to travel many miles inland through rivers. Bear this in mind if you plan on swimming in the Orinoco, and avoid swimming near fishing boats as they attract sharks. It’s also important not to bleed or urinate in the water.
Venezuela coral snake
The first thing you may notice about a coral snake is its striking coloring – red, white and black bands cover its body. It would be ill-advised, however, to get in close for a better look, as this snake is highly venomous and one of the most dangerous animals in Venezuela. The good news for us humans is that coral snakes are reclusive by nature and will instinctively hide on human contact. Nevertheless, if the snake feels threatened, it will bite. The venom from one bite can be enough to kill a human if no antivenom is available. If a bite does occur, it is important to remove the snake as quickly as possible. A coral snake is capable of delivering far more venom if it is allowed to chew on the victim, so minimum contact time should help to ensure that the bite is non-lethal.
Another animal you’d do well to avoid is the infamous bullet ant. Known for having the world’s most painful sting, it can be widely found in Venezuela’s forested areas. The good news is that these ants are usually non-aggressive; however, if you manage to provoke one, it’ll let you know in an excruciating fashion. Bullet ants are very agile for their large size, and once delivered, a sting will cause waves of mind-bending pain lasting up to 24 hours. Justin Schmidt, the founder of the Schmidt pain index, described the sting as “pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch nail embedded in your heel”. Sounds fun, right?
Just be grateful you’re not a prospective Sateré-Mawé warrior. These indigenous Brazilian people use the bullet ant’s sting as part of an initiation ritual. Each Sateré-Mawé warrior must put on a glove full of bullet ants and wear it for five minutes. Apparently, it is common for the subject to hallucinate and shake uncontrollably for days. Other symptoms include vomiting, fever and cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat). If that wasn’t enough, each warrior must complete this ritual 20 times over the course of a few months. Despite the sting being so painful, it is not deadly: no one is known to have died from it. Moreover, it is unlikely that the victim of a sting will experience lasting symptoms. Still, I’m not sure I’d want to try it out! The guidance for avoiding these ants is quite simple. When traversing Venezuela’s rainforests, don’t put your hand on a vine or tree without checking it first.
Brazilian wandering spider
Possessing the most toxic spider venom known to man, these big creepy crawlies are known for their aggressive nature. They are known as the ‘wandering’ spider as they go out and search for their prey, rather than spinning a web and waiting. With a leg span of around six inches, they are incredibly fearsome-looking critters. They are known to raise their front legs when threatened, so if you see this display, don’t hang around to see what happens next.
During the day, they will usually try to find some cover to hide under, which can lead to some nasty accidents. Just make sure you give your shoes a good shake before you put them on! Similarly, when walking in the jungle during the day, don’t go sticking your hand into any crevices. At night time the spider comes out from its shelter to hunt. It’s at this time that you’re most likely to encounter one in the open, so keep your torches on and your eyes peeled!
Horned pit viper
Nicknamed the ‘eyelash’ pit viper because of the distinctive ridges above their eyes, these snakes usually measure up to 2.5 feet. Despite their diminutive size, these snakes certainly pack a punch. Their bite can deliver enough venom to kill an adult human if antivenom is not administered. Though not aggressive by nature, they will not hesitate to strike if provoked. Nocturnal animals, they will usually hide in dense vegetation during the day so be wary when treading through long grass. Horned pit vipers have also been known to hide in boxes and crates, leading to them sometimes turning up in unexpected places such as shipments of bananas.
Marbled cone snail
Do not be fooled by the marbled cone snail’s beauty; its toxic venom makes it as deadly as any animal on the list. It attacks by extending its needle-like proboscis to shoot out a poison-covered harpoon, launching with the same acceleration as a bullet fired from a pistol. Its venom acts instantaneously, paralyzing prey so the snail can reel it in with the harpoon. Indeed, it’s sometimes known as the ‘cigar snail’, as it is said that after being bitten, you might have time to smoke a cigar before succumbing to paralysis. Seeing as the snail’s proboscis is designed to puncture tough fish skin, it can even sting you through gloves – divers beware!
Worse still, its venom has analgesic, pain-killing properties. This means that you might not even feel a sting when it happens. To give an idea of how just how venomous the marbled cone snail is relative to its size, the longest venom duct ever measured was three feet long. This was extracted from a snail only five inches in size!
What is the most dangerous animal in Venezuela?
Jaguars are the most dangerous animals in Venezuela. There is nowhere to hide and nowhere to run from a jaguar due to its ability to climb and swim, and its bite is immensely powerful. Having said this, jaguars are endangered themselves, and do not exhibit naturally aggressive behavior towards humans. In order to provoke an attack, a human would need first to threaten the animal.
If you were an unassuming predator looking for a meal, the Poison Dart Frog might easily be the most dangerous animal in Venezuela. Though it has no venomous bite, its skin is highly toxic. It is thought that one frog’s skin contains enough toxin to kill up to 10 humans, or 20,000 mice.
Are there dangerous snakes in Venezuela?
Yes, there are dangerous snakes in Venezuela. Of the 142 species of snake found in the country, 25 are venomous. Among the more dangerous snakes to humans are the Venezuelan lancehead, Venezuela coral snake, uracoan rattlesnake, horned pit viper and Southern American bushmaster.
Do Jaguars live in Venezuela?
Yes, Jaguars do live in Venezuela. Although extinct in some Central American countries due to habitat destruction, the jaguar is still alive and well in Venezuela. It is thought that jaguars have survived so well because of their avoidance of areas with any human activity.
Interested in learning more about South America’s fauna? Check out our guide to the most dangerous animals in Brazil and Peru!