There are some downright dangerous animals in Argentina – that’s for sure! Some are so darn scary that they’ve inspired local folklore tales (just check the phantom Chupacabra). Others are simply known for their predatory prowess and pain-inflicting abilities, their venom and their hunting skills.
The other thing to remember is that Argentina is one massive country. It covers a whopping 1,073,500 square miles of land and represents a vast cut-out of southern South America. You’ll find all sorts of climactic zones and habitats within, from soaring glacier peaks to wave-smashed shorelines, some of which are so darn inhospitable that they can only host some of the world’s most formidable creatures.
This guide will dive into the fearsome fauna that awaits in the home of Tango dancing and Gaucho steaks. It will list seven of the most dangerous animals in Argentina, so you know what you should and shouldn’t be scared of between your hikes in the Patagonian Andes and your dancing sessions in Buenos Aires. Let’s go…
Where better to start than with a bird that was named after an evil creature from Greek mythology? The moniker has good reason behind it. This beast has talons that can grow up to 3 or 4 inches long. If it wanted to, the eagle could pierce a human skull with ease. What’s more, they have a wingspan of anywhere between 5 and 7 feet, which makes for a fairly intimidating approach, especially from the skies!
Harpies, as they’re casually known, usually prey on animals such as sloths and monkeys. In fact, anything weighing up to 20 lbs is usually fair game. However, they aren’t scared of humans and have been known to attack people on occasion. Some have even speculated that they’d be strong enough to carry away toddlers or younger children, so keep an eye on the little ones while you’re traveling Argentina this year!
On the flip side, the harpy is now a rare bird. It’s listed as ‘near threatened’ all across South and Latin America. Numbers are at an all time low in Argentina itself, and the species is only found in the remote Parana Valley in the far north of the country, right on the sub-tropical cusp of Paraguay and Brazil in the depths of Misiones Province.
Jararaca – certainly one of the most dangerous animals in Argentina!
Jararaca might sound like Martini’s cousin, but we can promise you it most certainly isn’t! Instead, the jararaca is one of the most dangerous species of the pit viper family on Earth. You won’t want to be ordering that in a cocktail bar somewhere in Buenos Aires!
Let’s break it down simply: No list of the most dangerous animals in Argentina could possibly be complete without a mention of the jararaca snake. Found in many parts of South America, the species is particularly common in the northernmost regions of Argentina, especially in high-up perennial forests close to the Atlantic coast.
In Brazil, the jararaca is thought to be responsible for up to 52% of snakebites every year. That should give an idea of just how aggressive these guys can be. Their venom, meanwhile, is a potent mix of toxins that can lead to shock, kidney failure, and hemorrhaging. Even though younger snakes feed on smaller creatures such as frogs, adults have a tendency to hunt mammal flesh – and that means humans are sometimes in the line of fire!
South American rattlesnake
These snakes are found mostly in Central Argentina and are some of the most dangerous and common in the whole rattlesnake family. Their venom acts on the body’s tissues as well as the nervous system. It’s this double-action that makes their poison so fatal for humans. The bottom line is this: Out of all the cases that are treated, approximately 12% still result in death!
South American rattlesnakes have a distinct texture and beaded skin type, with a visible rattle at the end. They prefer to live in dry, open areas such as grasslands, which makes the river-carved savannahs of regions like La Pampa, the canyons of La Rioja, and the flatter parts of Mendoza province the perfect habitat.
Although South American rattlesnakes seem quite dangerous from their description, they usually only attack when they feel threatened. They will always prefer to dodge confrontation, so taking proper precautions on hiking trails and in outback camps should be enough to steer you through.
Black widow spiders
The black widow spider goes by the Latin name latrodectus. Although they come in many subspecies across various continents, South America is home to quite a few of the most dangerous types.
Argentina specifically hosts six different sorts of black widow spiders. That’s not great news for arachnophobes who were hoping for a relaxing time on the Pampas. Still, there is some good news. The venom of a widow spider, although highly toxic, is rarely fatal. The usual outcome of a bite is local swelling, nausea, and muscle pain.
The latrodectus corallinus is the most common type of black widow found in this part of the continent. It’s a non-aggressive spider with a distinctive thorax with blood-red markings arranged in a camo-dot pattern. They’re most active in the Southern Hemisphere summer months between September and March, and are usually found in agricultural settings in the drier central and northern regions of the country.
The kissing bug
While the kissing bug may sound like a cute and cuddly name, there is no love coming from this one, we promise! These dangerous creatures are also known as vampire bugs, since they have a very high tendency to bite victims on the face. You can identify vampire bug bites from the look alone. They typically appear as a cluster of red spots in a line or S-pattern across the skin. The bugs themselves are only 0.5-1 inches long and have a black, oval body. They also have six legs and an antenna.
When these insects bite, they leave parasites on the skin. That’s pretty foul in itself, but scratching can actually lead to chagas disease, a severe and deadly ailment that affects the gut and heart muscles. Deaths from this disease are not common since it can be treated. However, the treatment is painful, long, and complex, so it is best to avoid this insect in the first place!
So, how do you do that? If you’re planning to be out in the open air during your travels through Argentina (who isn’t?), be certain to use screens, insect repellents, and other precautionary measures to avoid getting bitten. Since these insects are nocturnal, they are most likely to bite at night. Take extra precautions when going to sleep, and at key times like dusk and dawn.
Ah, the jaguar. Is there any more iconic an animal in South America? We’re all familiar with this elegant big-cat beast. While their population has depleted greatly in recent years, they can still be found in Northern Argentina. In fact, there are an estimated 200 individuals left in the wild in the country, many of them around the lush Iberá wetlands and surrounding regions.
The bite of the jaguar is considered to be the strongest when it comes to the cat family. The jaguar usually hunts by implanting its teeth into the back of the head of its prey. This causes the connection between the vertebrae situated there to be severed, leaving the victim entirely unable to move. On usual hunt days, anything is a target – armadillos, deer, bears, you name it!
Running won’t do you much good if a jaguar gets onto your scent. They can whiz at a blistering 80 km/h. It’s enough to embarrass Usain Bolt and means it’s virtually impossible to get away once these felines are on the chase. And if you thought you could escape a jaguar by jumping into a lake, think again! These cats are very strong swimmers and can easily hunt their prey in water to boot.
It’s not hard to spot a coral snake. These creatures stand out because of their vibrant, patterned skin. Most species have coral colors (hence the name) and are surrounded by bands of black or white. Failing that, look at its head to identify the species: A coral snake has a flat, black top with a nose that comes to a triangular point.
These snakes are so skilled at hiding their venomous nature behind a beautiful exterior that many non-venomous snakes have similar coloring to scare off predators. Copy cats, eh? Generally speaking, corals are shy creatures, and often prefer to remain burrowed in the ground or under leafy piles – not good news for hikers who stray from the path!
Coral snakes are highly venomous and should be avoided at all costs. What’s more, Argentina has many of them! The most common is the eponymous Argentinian coral snake. They live in great numbers across the Gran Chaco dust and grass plains in the north of the country.
Are there venomous snakes in Argentina?
Yes, there are quite a few species of venomous snakes in Argentina. The bothrops jararaca is a prime example, belonging to the pit viper family. You’ll also find lots of coral snakes and even rattlesnakes in the country. Most of the dangerous snake species of Argentina live in the drier and tropical northern regions.
Are there dangerous spiders in Argentina?
Argentina counts at least six subspecies of the dangerous black widow spider family. The venom of this spider contains latrotoxin, which can cause muscle spasms and cramps. The good news is that a bite from a black widow is rarely fatal, though there have been reports of injuries lasting several weeks or more.
What is the most dangerous animal in Argentina?
We think it’s fair to say that the jararaca can be considered the most dangerous animal in Argentina. It is a highly venomous subspecies of the pit viper family. Its venom is very toxic and can sometimes be fatal. The jararaca is mostly found in Argentina’s northernmost regions.