So, you want to know about the most dangerous animals in Finland? Really? Look, this long, bending backbone of Scandinavia is hardly up there with the most feral parts of the planet. It’s not known for its marauding sharks a la Australia; it doesn’t have the overload of deadly snakes you get in Sri Lanka et al.
However, that’s not to say that there aren’t any critters to be cautious of in the home of saunas and Santa Claus. There are! They just don’t often take the form you might expect – you know, no big teeth, no blood-stained lair.
This guide focuses in on five of the most dangerous animals in Finland that are worth knowing about. As we’ve already mentioned, they might not be quite what you expect. Everything from galumphing moose to bugs no bigger than a pinprick makes an appearance, but there are also a few conventional natural threats in the form of slithering snakes to boot. Let’s begin…
Moose (Alces alces)
Moose make it onto this list of the most dangerous animals in Finland because they have actually clocked up the highest body count of any animal in the country in the last 20 years or so. Figures from 1998 to 2015 show that these beefy deer subspecies were responsible for just over 100 fatalities in humans. That’s quite a striking amount given that this is a nation that also has venomous snakes and wolf packs, but more on those later.
But moose aren’t feared predators. In fact, they are browsing herbivores by nature, which means they’ll happily munch on any edible greenery they happen to come across in the forest as they stalk. What really makes them dangerous is, simply, their size.
Yep, moose can clock up weights of 700kg at full adulthood, while even juvenile females can weigh in at a whopping 200kgs. Some will stand two meters high, and that’s not even counting the male’s antlers, which can have a full spread of 200cm. Basically, these guys are big. Like, really big. That’s not an issue when they’re moping around in the woods. But if they happen to be standing on the road as they often do and a car rolls around a bend, there’s usually only one winner in a collision. Clue: It’s not the car.
Today, Finland’s total moose population is estimated to be around 115,000. That’s high but it’s just a shadow of what it once was. Numbers of moose in Europe were decimated throughout the last several centuries. From a peak that once saw them reside all the way from Central Europe around Czechia to the Highlands of Scotland, they are now gradually being reintroduced in Poland, Finland, Scandinavia, and western Russia, though groups remain relatively small.
European adder (Vipera berus)
The European adder is pretty much the only venomous snake that’s common enough to be worthy of note across northern Europe and Scandinavia. These guys live all over the continent, from the sandy dunes of South Wales all the way to the forests of eastern Poland. They’re also prevalent in Finland, but only in the warmer southern half of the country outside of the Arctic Circle.
Trademark features include an oversized head and a distinct color and camo pattern that runs the whole length of the body from snout to tail. The hue of the creature can vary. Some are light brown; some are dusky black. However, there’s usually a clear backwards V shape at the top end of the head.
In Finland, the snake is known as the kyykäärme, but usually folks will use the shorter version of kyy when alerting people to one’s presence. And alert they should, since Vipera berus carry a moderately potent venom that can cause blood-filled blistering at the site of contact and shooting pains up the limbs. Serious complications like anaphylactic shock can also occur and are the usual cause of rare human death from adder bites.
Adders are very common snakes and can live in a whole host of different habitats. They like everything from sand spits to beech woods, riparian wetlands to chalky heaths. Peak season for spotting adders is just as things warm up in the early summer months. If you’re planning on hiking anywhere in southern Finland around about then, be sure to keep an eye on the trail and steer clear of these serpents if one does slide on by.
Urgh – ticks certainly aren’t the nicest critters to behold. Officially arachnids, they are a part of the parasite tree of that group. You’ll notice them for their oversized abdomen and small head, which is actually often fully retractable into the body – like a turtle, only nowhere near as cute! They have eight legs (or are they arms?) that fan around the thorax and a mouthpiece that’s well adapted to latching onto skin and sucking blood.
It’s that latter part that makes them dangerous. We’re not talking about the bite itself. That’s sure to be an irritation, no doubt, but ticks can often be removed with a stiff pull, best done with a proper tick removal tool. The danger here is what the tick carries. Like mosquitoes before them, these guys are potential vectors of debilitating diseases, most notably Lyme disease…
That’s caused by a bacteria known as Borrelia burgdorferi. It begins with cold-like symptoms and, often, a rash around the site of contact with the creature. However, complications of Lyme can be serious, including chronic pain and long-lasting fatigue that can require specialist treatment. The bad news is that the two most prevalent tick species in Finland are known to carry said bacteria and an estimated 30% of all ticks in the country could be carriers.
In fact, the stats are quite startling. Experts estimate that something in the region of 5,000-6,000 people get bitten by a tick in Finland each year. Others say that around 2% of the population has suffered from Lyme disease in the past. Generally speaking, prevention is the best cure here. Ticks live in open grassy areas and woodlands and are more populous in the warmer spring and summer months. That means covering up exposed ankles and doing quick tick checks whenever you come in from a hike.
Wolf (Canis lupus)
Wolves have only recently become visible again in the Finnish wilderness after being almost totally wiped out by hunters and farmers in the 1800s. There’s now an estimated 200 of them roaming the eastern and northern wilds along the borderlands with Russia. They’re part of an encroaching population that looks set to recolonize its former European homeland.
However, not everyone’s happy about that. Livestock has been killed and rural populations say they have been terrorized by this pack hunter in Finland over the last few years. The problem has gotten so bad that the Finnish government has even authorized controversial culls of up to 50 individuals at a time.
Native to forests, wetland habitats, and Arctic tundra, this creature is a tough and versatile canid. They hunt in packs of up to 15 and are extremely skilled stalkers. Reports of some bringing down fully grown moose aren’t unheard of. Most of the time, however, they prey on smaller mammals like forest deer and wild boar.
Although attacks are extremely rare (you’re looking at something like eight fatal attacks in half a century in Europe!), wolves still manage to instill fear in the hearts of humans. Today, debates rage on about whether this onetime master of the Eastern European steppes should be allowed to reclaim its homeland and what that means for the local peoples of the Finnish backcountry.
Brown bear (Ursus arctos)
Last but most certainly not least, the brown bear. Believe it or not, this one actually reigns as the official national animal of Finland. Yep, move over moose, sit down wolf packs, this one’s the creature that the Fins apparently harbor the most respect for. Truth is these hulking forest prowlers have been revered here since ancient times. There’s even something like 200 different words for the bear in Finnish!
So, the fins love them. But they are also an animal that inspires great dread and awe. And they certainly deserve to be listed among the most dangerous animals in Finland. You only have to look at the brown bear to see why. These beefy customers can hit five foot in height and measure something like 2.8 meters when on all four paws. Talking of the paws…they’re capped off with curled claws for mauling that can measure four inches apiece. Oh, and then you have the teeth, which trump the American black bear in size and can be used for chewing up everything from salmon to woodland mushrooms.
Today, the brown bear has a spread across Europe that’s just a fraction of what it once was. There are now just a handful of fragmented populations; some in Spain, some in Greece. Interestingly, one of the largest contiguous populations of all – something in the region of 5,000 bears – lives in a corridor between Finland and Romania.
Nocturnal and largely reserved to the wildest parts of the country, brown bears rarely come into contact with humans in Finland. The times when they have, there have been incidents – haven’t you seen The Revenant? The good news is that they rarely stalk and attack humans on sight and will only usually be aggressive during the main mating times.
The most dangerous animals in Finland – our conclusion
There aren’t all that many dangerous animals in Finland. That’s the good news. The bad news is that there are some..From the big brown bear (also known as the grizzly in North America) to the prowling wolf, this nation has certain big mammals you’ll want to be wary of. There are also slithering snakes that can cause a problem, along with ticks that have been known to carry potentially deadly diseases.