From beautiful medieval towns to high-quality beers and yummy fries, Belgium has a lot to offer to its visitors. The country is best known for its capital city, Brussels, which is the home of international business and European affairs. But what about the rural parts of the country that provide plenty of hiding spaces for the most dangerous animals in Belgium?
With places such as Hoge Kempen National Park, Mehaigne National Park, and the forests of the Ardennes, there is no shortage of spots where such wildlife may thrive. Most people don’t associate Belgium with deadly species, but it doesn’t mean there are no animals to be scared of hiding out of sight!
This guide to the dangerous animals in Belgium will talk you through the seven most frightening species that you might come across in this Western European country. From venomous snakes to poisonous insects and large mammals capable of injuring people, you’ll learn what critters you should watch out for when heading into the Belgian backcountry.
Although wolves have previously been considered extinct in many European countries, including Belgium, they have recently returned to many places in small numbers. They’re still considered a vulnerable species by the IUCN, which means it’s not common to come across one while taking a stroll through the woods here or anywhere in the region. That said, the Eurasian wolf is up there with the most dangerous animals in Belgium.
The species living in western parts of Europe tend to be smaller than those up north and east. Belgian individuals usually weigh between 25-35kg and don’t often exceed 150cm in body length and 70cm in height. They resemble some common dog breeds such as wolfdogs, huskies, and Alsatians. They much prefer wilderness and usually stay clear of urban spheres. In Belgium, there are a couple of them living in the regions of Ardennes and Limburg.
Luckily, getting attacked by Eurasian wolves in Belgium is extremely unlikely, but that doesn’t mean they’re not capable of harming or even killing humans. There have been many wolf incidents in Europe in the past that have resulted in death. That said, none of these incidents happened in Belgium.
Vipera berus, which is better known as the adder or the common viper, is a venomous snake that lives across most parts of Europe, including Belgium. In fact, it’s the only poisonous serpent in this part of Europe, and the only one that can cause any harm to people. Luckily, they rarely bite unprovoked, but be sure to watch your step when walking in the wilderness.
You can recognize adders by the characteristic zigzag on their back, so if you don’t see one of those, it usually means the snake can’t hurt you. They have relatively thick bodies and usually grow up to 60cm in length, but you’ll sometimes notice larger individuals. They feed on small mammals, birds, and lizards.
Adders usually spend winters resting underground, so you should watch out for them mainly from March to November. They’re much more common in rural areas such as farm fields, woodlands, or on rocky slopes and coastlines. They only attack humans if they feel threatened, so steer clear of picking up the snake or stepping on it and you should be a-okay. Although the venom isn’t likely to kill, there is a slim chance that any adder bite could be fatal.
A wild boar is a type of feral pig that lives in the forested areas of many European countries, including the western part of the continent. There are actually two reasons why these creatures are considered some of the most dangerous animals in Belgium. Firstly, they can seriously injure people when they feel threatened. Secondly, there’s a chance that they carry some infectious diseases.
Wild boars resemble pigs in many ways. They’re similar in size and shape, but, unlike their domesticated cousins, their bodies are covered in thick brown fur. They can weigh up to 100kg and grow up to 80cm high. They have large heads, pointed ears, and big canine teeth inside their mouths. They’re strong and quick and can reach a maximum speed of 40kmph.
Luckily, wild boars don’t tend to attack humans unprovoked, although they might do so when they feel cornered or threatened. That said, females that care for piglets are very protective over young and might preemptively strike to keep people away. However, there have been efforts in Belgium to eradicate these species due to worries about swine influenza, which means coming across one, or let alone getting attacked by one, is now very unlikely.
Processionary pine caterpillar
A processionary pine caterpillar is a small moth larva native to the southern Mediterranean parts of Europe. However, climate change has caused these species to migrate further north, which now means they might inhabit parts of the continent that include the pine forests of the Belgian Ardennes. While these small insects don’t look threatening, their hairs contain toxins that can cause nasty skin rashes and allergic reactions.
Processionary pine caterpillars are also very damaging to forests. They cause defoliation of coniferous trees, especially pines. That’s why these little insects are not only dangerous to humans, but also to the environment. Belgian officials have been importing beetles from Turkey that are natural predators to get rid of these small insects.
Luckily, these small and damaging insects aren’t as common in Belgium as they are in the more southerly parts of the continent – Greece, Italy. You can also easily avoid getting a nasty reaction by not touching them and keeping a safe distance.
Although this most fearsome arachnid isn’t native to Belgium, these eight-legged creatures do occasionally make an appearance in this Western European country. There have been many alarms over the years about sightings of black widows, but it’s not yet thought that these venomous spiders have made the home of waffles their permanent abode. Most black widows in Belgium were brought to the country via the busy Antwerp Port on shipments from the USA or Australia.
As their name suggests, most species of black widows are black or dark brown. Many of them have red markings on their backs or undersides, which is usually the feature you can recognize them by. They’re very small spiders ranging from only 3-13mm in size. It’s the females that are dangerous to humans, because of their highly poisonous venom that can even cause fatality in rare cases.
Luckily, black widows are extremely rare in Belgium, so the chances of seeing one there are very low. The other good news is that they’re not aggressive spiders. They usually prefer to play dead when feeling threatened rather than to attack.
Ticks may be tiny little creatures that don’t look very threatening at first sight, but they’re actually some of the most dangerous animals in Belgium. These miniature arachnids are external parasites that feed on the blood of mammals, including people, by clinging to their skin. While many ticks won’t cause much harm, they can often transmit serious diseases that can sometimes be life-threatening.
Ticks live in shady and moist areas close to the ground, such as grass meadows or plant beds. They might also live in your garden, especially if you live close to woodlands or overgrown areas of wilderness. They’re very small and dark brown to black with four legs on each side of their bodies. The adults are a similar size to an apple seed, but they grow larger when they’re filled with blood.
Luckily not all tick bites result in infections, but one of the most serious and most common ones that those tiny creatures can transmit is Lyme disease. In Belgium, around 10% of the tick population are infected with that, which is actually lower than in many other places in Europe. Still, you should stick to paths and steer clear of walking through high grasses to limit the chances of catching a tick.
The good news is that there are no dangerous sharks or any other deadly animals in the North Sea that borders the northwestern part of Belgium. The bad news, though, is that there are some little creatures that could cause a nasty sting that could really spoil your holiday on the coast here. One of those is the formidable weever fish. These are small fish that often bury themselves in the sand close to the shoreline.
Weever fish are about the size of a school ruler, usually not exceeding 30cm across. Their backs have small but sharp spines that contain venom, which is used in self-defense. These small marine creatures spend most of their time laying on the sand and their light brown color means that they’re quite hard to spot once tucked in.
While a weever fish sting is very painful, it’s not usually deadly, so you don’t need to panic if you happen to step on one. The venom they inject might cause a serious allergic reaction, so you should seek medical help if it causes difficulty in breathing or other complications. Most people, though, experience pain around the wound and might notice swelling and itching.
Dangerous animals in Belgium – the conclusion.
Are there any dangerous animals in Belgium? Well, not many. There are some frightening species out there, but most of them aren’t likely to cause you serious harm on your travels, especially if you’re sticking to the cities. We’ve listed some animals that are extremely rare, such as wolves and black widows, which only reflects how few threatening creatures can be found in this Western European country. Adders probably pose the biggest threat to walkers and hikers, but their bite isn’t likely to result in fatality.