When you think of France, dangerous animals are probably not at the forefront of your mind. There are no arid deserts hiding scorpions or tropical rainforests filled with poisonous creatures. But you might be surprised to know that France is home to quite a few creatures that you would be wise to stay away from.
The mountains, forests, pastures, and waters of France house several animals that know how to defend themselves when necessary. On our list, we’ve got some apex predators, controversial mammals, spiny marine creatures, venomous insects and reptiles, and at least one animal that is likely to surprise you.
So if you’re planning a trip to France and want to prepare for any dangers you might encounter, read on to learn about the top 9 most dangerous animals to watch out for.
Grey wolves were driven out of France in the early twentieth century by human persecution and hunting. However, they made their way back in the 1990s coming over the mountains from Italy. Today they are well established in the mountainous regions of France and appear to be thriving. The closure of the French ski season for the winter of 2020/21 even led to wolves being spotted in ski resorts like Courchevel and La Plagne as nature reclaimed the usually heavily populated areas.
But joy at the return of these animals is not shared by everyone. They are often still thought of as one of the most dangerous animals in France, even though instances of wolf attacks on humans are extremely rare in modern times. However, there are cases of pets being killed by wolves and also of livestock being attacked. Since wolves are now protected, hunting them is illegal, but farmers often petition the government to cull the wolves to protect livestock. Sadly, the French government allows this culling so long as it doesn’t put the wolf population at risk of extinction.
Wild boar are not just one of the most dangerous animals in France but one of the most controversial. Hunting them for sport and meat is a long-standing, fiercely-protected tradition. It’s also said to be necessary to control the number of wild boar, which is estimated at over 2 million in France today. They can also damage agricultural land, livestock, and occasionally property, so some citizens call for more hunting to combat this. However, wild boar hunting in France has led to the deaths and severe injuries of not just hunters and boars but also of innocent bystanders, hikers, and cyclists.
Wild boars are peaceful creatures who avoid contact with humans as a rule. However, if chased, injured, or protecting their young, they will defend themselves fiercely and are well equipped to do so. They are muscular animals with a lot of power, speed, and intelligence. They also have long vicious tusks, which can cause massive injury, blood loss, and death when turned on pursuers. Many citizens think that the death toll has risen too high and call for an end to this dangerous pastime, no matter how traditional or necessary it may be.
Another of Frances’s most dangerous animals is another of its most controversial. A war has been raging for years between conservationists and farmers over whether or not bears should be allowed to live and thrive in France.
Bears were reintroduced to France 20 years ago, but it’s been a long hard road for the environmentalists and bears alike. Although endangered and protected animals, the introduced bears have faced persecution from the start. Farmers and citizens, fearing for their livestock and safety, engaged in illegal hunting and poisoning of the bears to stop the reintroduction. France has tried to clamp down on this behavior, promising to persecute anyone found to have injured or killed a bear, but the war between factions continues.
Although the fear for livestock was justified, fears over citizens’ safety are not really. Incidents of bear attacks in Europe are extremely rare, and with the number of bears in France estimated at 20, the chances of human-bear contact is almost non-existent.
Several species of venomous snakes live in France and pose varying threat levels to humans. Such as the Montpellier snake, found in the warmer Mediterranean regions. Though large (up to 6ft long), this snake’s mild venom and fangs at the rear of its mouth render it only moderately dangerous to humans. The little Viper Ursinii, or Meadow Viper, has harmful venom but is the most endangered snake in Europe and is rarely seen in France.
Then there are the two you need to watch out for: the Asp Viper and the European Viper. These are two of the most dangerous snakes in France; both have harmful venom that can cause severe reactions in humans and death if left untreated. The asp viper is the most dangerous, with around 4% of untreated bites resulting in fatalities.
Both snakes are prevalent across France, with the asp viper more common in the south and the European viper in the north. If you see these or any other snakes while in France, it’s best to keep your distance. Never try to move, touch or provoke a snake; give it space to make its escape, and if it doesn’t move, then back away slowly.
Two dangerous spiders live in France. The Brown Recluse Spider and the Black Widow Spider. Neither spider is aggressive, but both will bite if threatened, and both have toxic venom, which can cause severe symptoms and death if left untreated.
The European or Mediterranean black widow, recognizable by the red or orange spots across its black torso, was once confined to the warmer southern regions of France and Corsica. However, it has been sighted further north recently. It tends to live in long grasses and wheat fields and in the dark corners of outhouses, sheds, and garages. A bite from a black widow can cause pain, swelling, fever, shock, and in rare cases, death.
The brown recluse spider is most often found in disused storage rooms and boxes and likes to hide in corners and crevices. It tends only to bite when pressed against a person’s skin, such as inside shoes, clothing, or bedsheets. The venom of the recluse spider is necrotic, meaning that it causes the death of soft tissue around the bitten area. If left untreated, it can fester into large deep wounds needing surgery or, in severe cases, amputation.
Originally from Southeast Asia, tiger mosquitos first appeared in France in 2004 and established themselves there ever since. They are a hardy species, and this ability to adapt to various habitats and climates has led to them now living in around 100 countries worldwide. Unfortunately, this makes them one of the ten most invasive species in the world.
Mosquitos aren’t just annoying but pose a real threat to humans because of the diseases that they carry. For example, the tiger mosquito can carry the Zika Virus, Dengue fever, and the Chikungunya virus. These illnesses can lead to unpleasant symptoms such as fever, nausea, aching muscles, and shock. But they can also have serious, lasting effects and can cause death if left untreated.
Another invasive species is the Asian hornet. First spotted in France in 2004, the hornet is now found all over the country and is not making itself popular. The Asian hornet is large and aggressive, especially around its nest, with very few natural predators. It adapts itself easily to new environments and is thriving in other European countries too.
One of the main concerns about the Asian hornet is that it tends to destroy local honey bee populations, thwarting honey production and endangering a fragile ecosystem. In addition, the smaller, less aggressive honey bees have no defense against the larger insect, and their numbers are dwindling in France because of this.
The other concern is that they are venomous and can be harmful to humans. One sting from an Asian hornet is not usually dangerous unless the victim is allergic. However, if a person is stung multiple times, the danger grows. Their venom can cause tissue damage, anaphylactic shock, renal failure, and, as has happened several times in France, death. Therefore, anyone stung more than once by an Asian hornet is advised to seek medical assistance quickly.
You might not have expected these animals on our list, but cows in France have a dangerous reputation. Cows are robust, strong animals, often with horns, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that they can be dangerous. Still, we hold onto this notion that cows are docile, gentle creatures who wouldn’t ever hurt us.
Well, in France, that is just not true. Cows regularly chase people and have caused the death and injury of hikers in both the Pyrenees and the Alps. Accidents happen when walkers get too close to a mother and her young, or a dog gets loose and runs into the herd scaring the cows. The cows then chase the dog and the people, crushing or trampling them or, or in some cases, forcing them off the edge of hills and mountain paths.
A large part of this danger comes from the shared nature of land in France. It’s not unusual for farmers to lead their herds into ski resorts to graze in the summer. Since these resorts are busy with tourist activities in the summer, this brings the cows into regular contact with bikers, hikers, and dog walkers. Unfortunately, inadequate signage and unsuitable fencing often leads to tourists and cows colliding.
It’s not just land animals you need to watch out for in France; there are dangerous creatures in the water too. Weever fish are common along the shorelines of France and have a venomous sting that can cause significant pain, require hospital treatment and sometimes lead to death.
Weever fish lie semi-buried in the sandy sea bed, waiting to pounce on unsuspecting prey. But humans don’t need to worry about them pouncing. Instead, the danger comes from the spines of their dorsal fin, which contain a venom that can cause pain, nausea, swelling, irritation, muscle aches, and in severe cases, cardiac trouble, respiratory problems, and unconsciousness.
Most weever fish stings come from unsuspecting swimmers standing on the fish in the sand or anglers spiking themselves while trying to unhook the fish. Anyone spiked by a weever fish should seek medical attention.
What is the most dangerous animal in France?
The most dangerous animal in France is the wild boar because of the many injuries and deaths that are caused during the hunting of these animals.
Are there predators in France?
Yes, there are predators in France. Wolves, Bears, and Lynx all live in France, although the danger they pose to humans is minimal, and most people would be lucky ever to see one.
Are there dangerous snakes in France?
There are several species of dangerous snakes in France. The two you should be sure to watch out for are the Asp Viper and the European Adder, both of which have venom that is harmful to humans.
Are there dangerous spiders in France?
Two dangerous spiders live in France, the black widow, and the brown recluse spider. Both are highly venomous and harmful to humans.