Considering that the national animal of this tropical isle is a red-billed streamertail – a tiny, pretty, jewel-bright member of the hummingbird family – it should hardly come as a surprise that the list of dangerous animals in Jamaica is not huge at all. Jamaica is generally a safe country to travel to and enjoy on the wildlife front, and the risk of attack from a deadly beast is probably less than the risk from dodgy jerk off the BBQ!
Hopefully, you’ll spend your vacation time spotting some of the more harmless creatures that call the country home; animals like the slow-moving manatee, the elegant patoo bird, or endangered sea turtles. However, there’s no saying what might stray your way, and it’s always a good idea to know what creatures could potentially hurt you as you venture out from the reggae bars of Montego Bay and into the Jamaican wilds…
Cue our list of the nine most dangerous animals in Jamaica. We’ve got some big ones and some small ones, some land dwellers and some sea creatures, along with insects and even a shellfish. They all make their home on the rambunctious island in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, and could pose potential dangers. Let’s begin…
The most fearsome reptile in Jamaica is the American crocodile. It is one of the biggest species of crocodile on the globe, capable of growing up to 20 foot long and weighing an incredible 2,000 pounds. Yikes! You certainly wouldn’t want one of these bearing down on you while you laze on Ocho Rios beach, eh?
Despite their fearsome size, however, these reptiles are less aggressive than other, more dangerous types of croc. Their main prey is small reptiles such as frogs and turtles, as well as birds and rodents. They like to live in the brackish water of river mouths and mangrove swamps.
In Jamaica, they are usually found along the south coast and most often around the Black River. Instances of them attacking humans are rare. Unfortunately, though, attacks do happen and given the size of these beasts, many incidents are fatal. The most recent report of an attack by a croc in Jamaica was in 2018 and resulted in a man’s death.
Five species of shark live in the waters around Jamaica. Reef sharks and nurse sharks are the most commonly sighted but cause little concern because they don’t typically pose a danger. Reef sharks because they rarely grow over 5 foot long and tend to be timid around humans. Nurse sharks because they are docile in nature and non-aggressive (although they can clock up sizes of around 10 foot!).
Endangered hammerhead sharks have also been spotted, and these are slightly more of a concern. While they do not target humans, they can be huge (up to 20 feet from end to end) and are aggressive hunters towards their prey (usually octopus, fish, and squid). They have been responsible for rare incidents of unprovoked attacks on humans.
Then there are the bull sharks and tiger sharks. These are the ones you really need to watch out for. Both species like warm, shallow waters close to coastlines, bringing them into regular contact with divers and swimmers. Both species are large, aggressive, will attack without provocation, and are two of the top three most dangerous sharks for fatal attacks on humans anywhere on the planet.
Now that you’re suitably frightened, we should tell you that shark attacks in Jamaica are incredibly rare. There have been only 24 documented shark attacks since 1827. The most recent was one unconfirmed but presumed death by a shark in 2018. That’s only 25 shark attacks in 200 years!
We come now to a much more peaceful creature, the sea urchin. These round, spiny critters sit on the ocean floor, clinging to rocks and reefs, and spend their time eating algae. Completely non-aggressive, sea urchins will never chase or attack you; their danger comes from accidental contact with their spines. If humans accidentally stand on, kick, bump against or grab a sea urchin, these brittle spines can puncture the skin. They tend to break on contact leaving fragments inside the wound.
The severity of a sea urchin injury depends on the species, but most commonly in Jamaica, they will cause pain, swelling, redness, and irritation at the injury site. If spiked, you should remove all spines and fragments from the affected area because if they remain in the skin, they can break down, releasing toxins that cause infection and blood poisoning.
Very rarely, if many puncture wounds occur or if a person is allergic to the urchin, more severe symptoms such as respiratory trouble and shock can occur. In this case, the person affected should seek immediate medical attention.
What these fish lack in beauty, they make up for in venom. The scorpionfish, a close relative of the stonefish, is one of the most venomous fish in the world. Their dorsal fin contains spikes capable of impaling and injecting toxins into any attacker – or even just an unsuspecting scuba diver who happens to plonk their food on top!
The danger to humans comes because this fish is a master of camouflage. Its mottled pinkish-grey appearance makes it almost impossible to see as it lies motionless amongst the stones and crags of a reef. As a result, injuries occur when swimmers accidentally stand on an unseen scorpionfish.
If this happens and the venomous spines puncture the skin, the victim may experience severe pain spreading through the stung limb. Other symptoms include bleeding, swelling, trouble breathing, nausea, and shock, none of which are great if you’re 10 meters down under the Caribbean Sea! Scorpionfish venom can be deadly if left untreated, so if you have the misfortune to step on one of these hidden fish, seek medical help immediately.
Should you be lucky enough to see one of these stripy, beautiful fish while diving or swimming, keep your distance! The long fronds of fins and spines that swish around this fish don’t just look pretty, they also serve a dangerous purpose. The dorsal fins of this fish – like the stonefish and scorpionfish before it – are capable of injecting venom into attackers.
Said venom is strong enough to incapacitate marine predators and cause pain to humans. This pain can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, respiratory problems, headaches, fever, and shock. The symptoms can worsen if the person stung is allergic to the venom, in which case they should seek medical assistance without delay.
Not native to the waters around Jamaica, lionfish first appeared in the 1990s after escaping (or being released) from captivity in the US. Regardless of how they got there, they soon made their presence felt in the Caribbean. This highly invasive species bred quickly and decimated the population of native fish. The Jamaicans, who initially avoided the fish because of its venomous spines, then discovered that it was delicious (and safe to eat). Once this discovery occurred and people figured out how to handle the fish without being injured, it was open season on lionfish. These days their numbers are kept low by this excessive fishing, which has allowed the depleted numbers of native species to increase once more.
The recluse spider is probably the most dangerous of all the animals in Jamaica. Not because it is particularly aggressive but because of the effect of its bite, which is hemotoxic, causing soft tissue death.
This spider is quite reserved and likes to live in quiet, dark corners in storage rooms and boxes or seldom worn clothes and shoes. The spider is quite timid and only bites when provoked, most often when trapped against someone’s skin inside their clothing. Or in the case of one unlucky woman, in between the sheets of her bed.
When this spider does bite, it injects a highly toxic venom. Bites are not initially painful and may go unnoticed at first. Later, the victim may begin to feel itching and swelling around the bite as the soft tissue begins to decay. Recluse bites that go untreated can spread quickly, leaving large, deep lesions that take a long time to heal. Although rare, some cases of recluse bites have led to limb amputation and death. It’s essential, therefore, to get any spider bite looked at by a medical professional.
Both black and brown widow spiders live in Jamaica. Both are venomous and are capable of giving a dangerous bite.
Both widows are instantly recognizable for their markings, the black widow for the distinctive red hourglass markings on their otherwise black torso. The brown widow for its orange or yellow color and legs that are striped tan and dark brown. Both spiders make their homes in quiet places such as outhouses and garages or disused containers. The brown widow is more prevalent in Jamaica but is also less stealthy, often spinning its web out in the open.
While both spiders contain a neurotoxic venom of equal strength, the black widow’s bite is more severe than the brown because it can inject more venom per bite than its smaller relative. A bite by either spider can lead to symptoms such as pain, vomiting, sweating, stiffness, or spasms in the bitten limb.
While these symptoms are generally not fatal, brown widow bites and black widow bites can be deadly in humans, especially if the person bitten is a child, elderly, or frail.
The extremely creepy Scolopendra gigantea, most often known as a fortyleg in Jamaica, is the largest centipede species in the world. It can grow to a foot long and has a nasty bite that can cause great pain.
This carnivorous creature lives on a diet of insects, scorpions, frogs, lizards, rodents (yep – a rat-eating insect!), and any other animal it can get its teeth into. This crawly creature overpowers its prey by seizing it with two claw-like appendages located behind its head. These forcipules clamp down on the victim and inject a venom that can incapacitate and kill.
In humans, the venom is most likely to cause pain, swelling, chills, fever, and excessive sweating. It is rarely fatal, but there have been cases, so keep your distance from this critter while hiking the Blue Mountains and the jungles around the Dunn’s River Falls, folks!
These hairy, squealing animals may look fearsome, but their long, curving tusks are usually used for rooting around the forest floors They turn over dirt and logs looking for roots and tubers and rarely to attack or fight. However, as is the case in most places where wild boar live, people like to hunt them, both for the sport and for their meat. It is this that brings them into contact with humans and leads to injuries and occasional fatalities.
When chased, hunted, provoked, or injured, boars will defend themselves. When they do, those tusks can cause massive injury, blood loss, and death.
You might see a wild boar if you go hiking through their habitat in the mountains of St Thomas and Portland. But since they’ve learned to be wary of humans, so you’ll probably only see it go crashing away through the undergrowth. Never try to chase, corner, or provoke one and you shouldn’t have any problems.
Dangerous animals in Jamaica – a conclusion
There’s good news and bad news when it comes to the dangerous animals in Jamaica. The bad news is that there are some critters than can pose a danger to humans. The good news is that there aren’t many of them and fatal incidents on this paradise island on account of the fauna are rare. Overall, we’d say that the venomous recluse and widow spiders are among the most fearsome on land. But the most dangerous creatures of all here are in the water, in the form of deadly lionfish and scorpionfish, but also sharks!
What is the most dangerous animal in Jamaica?
Recluse spiders are probably the most dangerous animals in Jamaica on land. Their bites contains a hemotoxic venom that can cause painful wounds and lead to complications in humans. The ocean holds more immediately dangerous animals, like aggressive bull sharks or the scorpionfish, which has a very potent venom capable of killing grown adults. Just watch where you’re stepping on the reef!
Are there any poisonous snakes in Jamaica?
No. There are several species of snake in Jamaica. None of them are poisonous. The most dangerous snake overall is probably the large Jamaican boa, which is a type of constrictor snake that kills prey from suffocation and squeezing. Generally, these are thought to pose zero threat to human life, though.
Are there jaguars in Jamaica?
No, there are no jaguars in Jamaica. To see one of these elusive jungle big cats, you’d have to make the trip over to the mainland of Central America or the rainforests of South America, where there are some reserves that are known to host jaguars to this day, although they are listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN.
What is the most dangerous spider in Jamaica?
The recluse spider is the most dangerous. It has a highly venomous bite that can lead to severe wounds and even death if left untreated. You might also come across widow spiders on the island, which are also venomous, capable of causing painful bites. Good news fro arachnophobes: There are no tarantulas or oversized jungle spiders in Jamaica.