Straddling southeastern Europe and Western Asia, Turkey is home to a vast array of different habitats. Ranging from snow-capped alpine mountain ranges to sun-drenched coastal regions on the Med, the country’s geographic diversity creates the conditions for some hefty biodiversity. But what about the most dangerous animals in Turkey?
You may be surprised to hear that Turkey is more biodiverse than the entirety of Europe put together. It’s thought that the number of animal species in the whole of Europe is around 60,000, while in Turkey there are over 80,000 in all! And there’s a dark side to that cohort. From wolves and bears to snakes and centipedes, the dangerous animals in Turkey come in lots of different shapes and sizes.
This guide will run through nine of the most feared and formidable creatures that make their home in the land of smoking shisha pipes and taste-bud-tingling kebaps. It’s got a good spread, from bulky brown bears to stinging scorpions, and even some fauna of the deep blue sea. Let’s begin…
Brown bear (Ursus arctos)
Situated on Turkey’s northern stretch of coast, the Black Sea region boasts luscious green forests, tall mountains, and coastal villages. Oh, yea, and it’s home to the country’s largest population of brown bears. The Eurasian brown bear certainly looks cute, but be warned: They are among the most dangerous animals in Turkey.
Brown bears are the largest land mammals in the country. They can grow between 5 and 8 feet, and weigh up to 700 pounds. Despite their considerable size, brown bears are extremely speedy when running. They’ve been shown to clock up velocities in excess of 30 miles an hour at full tilt!
Although brown bears generally adjust their behavior to avoid humans, they can be aggressive when approached. They’re most likely to attack if they’re surprised or if someone gets between a mother and her cubs.
Encounters between humans and bears are becoming more common in Turkey. With the uncontrolled hunting of deer and wild boars depleting the native food supply for these big mammals, they’re having to venture outside of their natural habitat in search of sustenance. As they descend from the hills into remote villages and urban environments, bears are now regularly found raiding bins for food and eating livestock. One study even revealed that wild bears have been rummaging for food in garbage dumps around the city of Sarikamis!
Brown bears hibernate during winter, so you’re most likely to come across one during the summer months. In order to stay safe when venturing into bear-populated regions, it’s best to travel in groups and always carry a bear spray. If you come across a brown bear, never run. Walk away slowly, or play dead if the bear makes contact.
Scorpions are common throughout Turkey. There are around 15 species to look out for – the most prevalent being scorpions from the Buthidae family. These nocturnal animals tend to lurk in small crevices, such as old walls and under logs.
They have also been known to make homes for themselves in suitcases and pairs of shoes left lying around, so be wary when you pack or pull on your sandals ready to head to the beach. When camping, it’s important to keep your possessions tightly stowed, and check for unwanted critters from time to time.
So, what puts these guys up there with the most dangerous animals in Turkey? Answer: The venom. Scientists generally agree that there are three main dangerous types of scorpion in the land of smoking shisha pipes and mezze. All were capable of delivering a sting that led to breathing difficulties, shivering, and nausea and vomiting. Thankfully, scorpion stings aren’t likely to be fatal to humans.
While they are generally shy, human-avoiding animals, scorpions will defend themselves when startled. Studies show that almost all scorpion stings occurred in the regions of Marmara and Central Anatolia.
Nomad jellyfish (Rhopilema nomadica)
Jellyfish are some of the most dangerous animals in Turkey, no doubt about it. These alien-looking jelloid creatures are prevalent along all of Turkish shores, from the shimmering Eastern Mediterranean to the sailing meccas of the Turquoise Coast.
Their numbers are on the rise, too. That’s due to a number of factors. An uptick in sea temperatures because of climate change has attracted a greater variety of jellyfish species to the Med. Meanwhile, the opening of an expansion of the Suez Canal in 2016 saw more invasive jellyfish species flock to the country’s waters from the Indian Ocean. As a result, experts have particularly flagged the beaches of Antalya as a danger zone for jellyfish.
The most common varieties of jellyfish in Turkey are the moon jellyfish and rhizostoma polmo – or Barrel Jellyfish. Both species are actually relatively harmless; more gruesome to look at than dangerous. More recently, however, the rhopilema nomadic – or nomad jellyfish – have arrived in Turkey.
Having migrated from the Red Sea, these guys form large swarms during the summer months. They have a nasty sting that can cause pain for up to three weeks at a time! Things have gotten so bad around some parts of Israel and Turkey that economists have estimated that they’ve reduced the income of major beach resorts to the tune of $6 million!
Brown recluse spider (Loxosceles reclusa)
Bad news for arachnophobes: There are four varieties of venomous spiders in Turkey. These include the brown recluse spider, the hunter spider, the yellow sac spider, and the black widow.
The brown recluse spider – aka the violin spider – is particularly formidable. These small, brown spiders populate the Easternmost regions of Turkey. With long spindly legs and violin-style markings on their backs, they have a distinct look. When provoked, they will attack. And the bite can have nasty consequences, including vomiting, dizziness, and severe pain at the site of contact.
True to their name, brown recluse spiders like to hang out in isolated spaces – think rubbish bins, sheds, and dark, dank cellars. There have also been some horror stories of them scuttling into people’s shoes – again, check those sandals, folks!
But, while Turkey has some gruesome spiders, venomous critters are fairly rare. The majority of spiders you’re likely to come across will be totally harmless. What’s more, death by spider is unheard of in Turkey, so don’t let arachnophobia get in the way of a great trip!
Centipedes are usually seen as fairly harmless bugs. Not so in Turkey. In this sun-splashed corner of Europe and Asia, Centipedes are to be feared! In fact, we’d put them up there among the most dangerous animals in Turkey. Here’s why…
With long bodies that can grow up to 30cm and countless numbers of spindly limbs, the Turkish centipede will send a shiver down your spine. They’re aggressive critters, too, responsible for around 5,000 bites on humans each year.
Voracious predators, their bite is their main weapon. It works to paralyze prey. Centipedes usually feed on crickets, worms, spiders and moths, though larger specimens have even been known to gobble up young mice!
Less common in built up tourist areas, they make their home under rocks and sand in wilder, more rural areas. That means they’re mainly a problem for hikers and campers, as well as farmers and outdoor workmen.
Their bites are painful, and can cause swelling and rashes that require antibiotics to treat. If you get bitten by a Turkish centipede, wash the wound thoroughly and apply a cold compress. Antihistamine may also be helpful if the wound begins to itch. The whole thing should heal naturally in a matter of days, but seek medical attention if your condition deteriorates.
Common European adder (Vipera berus)
Turkey is home to around 45 species of snake. The vast majority are non-venomous, so pose little threat to humans. There are, however, 12 venomous species that are worth keeping an eye out for on your travels.
Of the lot, vipers are the most common venomous snakes in Turkey, and the country has two varieties: Vipera berus – also known as the common European adder – and Montivipera xanthina – or the Ottoman viper. Let’s get to the former first…
The European adder is found throughout most of Western Europe and as far as East Asia. A fairly timid snake, adders don’t tend to attack unless provoked. Even when they do, it’s estimated that 70% of bites don’t involve venom injection at all.
Sadly, some bites do involve venom. Those are the ones you’ll need to be wary of because they can cause extreme pain at the site of contact with the fangs, including any number of systemic symptoms, from fever to confusion and heart palpitations.
The good news is that adders don’t usually have enough punch to kill an adult human and are way less dangerous that the Ottoman viper (more on those below). To spot one, you’re looking for a snake with a black and tan color pattern and a distinctly thick-set body in the middle.
Ottoman viper (Montivipera xanthina)
While the common adder rarely kills, the Ottoman viper is one of the most dangerous animals in Turkey. These vipers are native to North Turkey, but have also spread to northern Greece and many islands within the Aegean Sea to boot. They have a very aggressive nature, often strike without provocation, and most bites inject strong venom. Not a great combo, eh?
Ottoman vipers are an unassuming snake to look at. They’re not overly long, growing to around 80cm in all. They’re not particularly thick in the body. You’ll mainly be able to tell them apart for the bold colors, which alternate in chevron patterns between beige and light brown. Younger snakes, known as juveniles, might also have a bluish appearance. And to confuse things even more, the looks of the Ottoman viper vary across the various regions of Turkey!
Talking of regions, the Ottoman viper is only present in the west of the country. They have a range that goes from the Aegean coast around Marmaris all the way to Cappadocia. Our advice? If you spot any sort of snake stay well away! If you’re unlucky enough to be bitten, make sure to get a good look at the snake and seek medical advice right away!
As with most sun-drenched holiday destinations, Turkey struggles with its mosquitoes. The country’s warm climate provides the perfect conditions for these pesky insects to thrive. It’s just one of the downsides to all that Vitamin D, no matter if you’re chasing it in Thailand, Europe, or the Caribbean.
Generally, mosquitoes in Turkey are more of a pest than a danger. However, they can carry a number of deadly diseases, including malaria. Rest assured, malarial mosquitoes don’t populate tourist destinations in Turkey. But they can be found in the southeastern region of Anatolia, particularly in rural areas. You may need to take malarial medication if your trip takes you out there.
The balmy summer months are the worst for mosquitoes. If you’re really not a fan, plan your trip in the cooler shoulder months of April, May, and September. If you’re visiting Turkey in the summer, be sure to stock up on repellant, and opt for accommodation that provides mozzie nets either on the beds or the doors and windows.
Grey wolf (Canis lupus)
Last but most certainly not least on this list of the most dangerous animals in Turkey comes the grey wolf. Once the most successful pack hunter on the planet, populations of these elegant canids has been decimated since around 1700. They were hunted to the brink of extinction in much of Western Europe, but strongholds did remain in parts of the continent. Turkey was one of them.
Yep, it’s now estimated that over 7,000 individual wolves still make their home in the remote reaches of central and eastern Turkey. There, they tend to reside in wooded mountain ranges and on steppe-like plains. They continue to hunt in well-organized groups and are known to be able to bring down prey many times their own individual body weight.
The wolves found in Turkey tend to grow up to 160cm in length and hit over 80cm in height. Their main attack is a formidably strong bite that’s powered by some of the strongest masseter muscles in the animal kingdom – we’re talking 400 pounds of force per square inch!
The grey wolf is actually the national animal of Turkey, symbolizing goodness, courage and strength. According to Turkish mythology, the first great rulers of the country were descendants of wolves.
The most dangerous animals in Turkey – our conclusion
In this guide, we’ve run through nine of the most dangerous animals in Turkey. We’ve touched on the small critters – spiders, scorpions, mozzies. And we’ve showcased the bigger animals, from the hulking brown bear to the pack hunting wolf.
The truth is that incidents involving travelers and any of the above creatures are extremely rare; fatalities from encounters even more rare.
That said, we still think it’s a great idea to whiz up on the dangers presented by the fauna of Turkey and protect yourself, no matter if that means packing a good anti-bug spray or steering clear of regions known to be inhabited by bears and wolf packs.
Are there crocodiles in Turkey?
No. There are no crocodiles in the wild in Turkey. The only place you’ll see a crocodile in Turkey is in the zoo. Talking of which, the largest croc in Turkey is called Muhteşem and he resides in captivity in Antalya Zoo.
Are there great white sharks in Turkey?
There have been some sightings of great white sharks in Turkey, but these are extremely rare. Between 1881 and 2011 – a period of 126 years – there were just 46 recorded sightings of great white sharks in Turkish waters. Nonetheless, some researchers believe that tuna farming could be attracting more of the sharks to the region. Between 2008 and 2011, six baby great whites were discovered in Turkey’s North Aegean sea, leading some to wonder about a possible breeding ground in the region.
What venomous snakes are in Turkey?
There are 12 species of venomous snakes in Turkey. They range from the common and fairly innocuous European adder to the extremely rare and deadly Wagner’s viper, whose neurotoxic venom is potent enough to shut down human nervous systems. The most dangerous of all of Turkey’s snakes? The Ottoman viper. These are among the largest and most prolific of venomous snakes in Turkey. They have a strong venom and an aggressive nature and have been known to attack humans unprovoked.
Are there wolves in Turkey?
Turkey has a population of around 7,000 wolves. They reside in forests and mountainous regions throughout the country, although they are believed to be extinct in the west. Turkey’s native wolf population is under grave threat from hunting, and has declined significantly over the years. As nocturnal animals that feed mainly on livestock, wolves pose very little threat to human safety.