Considering some of the most dangerous animals in the world live in South America, it’s surprising that Chile has so few. But the many poisonous, venomous, and deadly creatures that thrive elsewhere on the continent, haven’t made Chile their home.
This is due in part, to the country’s natural barriers like the imposing Andes to the east and the driest desert in the world, the Atacama to the north. These geological features have kept Chile somewhat isolated and unique. They also help create a dramatic and diverse landscape that makes Chile the perfect place for some not so dangerous but magnificent creatures. Visitors to this incredible country can see King Penguins, flamingos, whales, alpacas, and condors.
But for those who crave a little more risk in their nature walks, don’t worry, there are a few threats you need to watch out for. Here’s our list of the 7 most dangerous animals and creatures found in Chile.
This iconic animal’s habitat ranges from the Canadian Rockies, down the mountainous regions of two continents, to the very southernmost tip of Chile and Argentina. Within this massive habitat, Chile’s Torres del Paine national park offers the highest concentration of pumas and the greatest chance of seeing one.
The majestic wild cats spend their days hunting for guanacos. These llama-like animals, native to Chile, make up the bulk of the puma’s diet. Though they might look like easy prey, guanacos can reach 200lbs in weight and can run at speeds up to 40 miles per hour. Whilst pumas have equal size and speed, they don’t have the stamina necessary for a prolonged chase. They generally rely on their ability to leap great distances instead. Often they will stalk their prey for an extended time before making their move with a swift pounce.
Though this technique is effective against guanacos, Pumas offer very little risk to humans. In Chile, they have enough space not to venture near human habitation, and enough food not to need to hunt humans. However, they are wild animals and will attack in extreme circumstances.
Although extremely rare in Chile, a puma attack can cause massive injury and even death. The best way to avoid danger is to always trek with a knowledgeable guide. Ensure that you keep a good distance away from any Pumas you see and take all precautions so that you don’t surprise or threaten a Puma. If you respect these beautiful animals and their habitat then they should offer no danger to you.
Chilean Recluse Spider
The Chilean Recluse Spider is highly venomous and its bites can have nasty results. Considered the most dangerous of all the recluse spiders it is one of the most dangerous animals in Chile.
Generally light brown with darker markings around its body, the recluse spider grows to around 40mm in size. Nicknamed The Corner Spider for its love of dark enclosed spaces, they are often found in quiet spots such as attics and storage rooms. They will also hide in crevices between floorboards, furniture, and window sills and inside old boxes and unused clothing and shoes.
A recluse spider bite can cause a variety of symptoms from mild pain and itching, to serious tissue damage and death in rare cases. The bite venom usually causes pain and redness followed by swelling and blistering. If not treated the tissue around the bite area will become necrotic, breaking down around the bite area causing large wounds that take a long time to heal.
However, this spider is not an aggressive species. Bites usually occur when it has been accidentally pressed against a person. Such as when caught between the skin and an article of clothing. So it is wise to inspect clothing and check inside shoes before putting them on.
If a bite occurs seek medical help immediately to avoid any long-term effects.
Black Widow Spider
The second spider to be aware of is the venomous and dangerous Black Widow. Nicknamed The Wheat Spider in Chile, for their prevalence in wheat fields and farmlands, these spiders also like dark spaces in outhouses, sheds, and garages. The distinctive red hourglass markings on their torso make them easy to recognize and hopefully, easy to avoid.
They are not aggressive, only biting when startled or threatened. But their venom is said to be fifteen times more potent than that of a rattlesnake. Symptoms include burning pain and itching, muscle stiffness and spasms, nausea, paralysis of the diaphragm, increased heart rate, excessive sweating, and abdominal cramps. Bites can be fatal, usually when the person bitten is a child, elderly, or already unwell.
The black widow spider might be one of the most dangerous animals in Chile but it is also one of the most unusual. The Chilean widow alone produces an effect unlike that of black widow spiders anywhere else in the world. When healthy young men are bitten by this spider, the venom produces an extended, localized swelling to… a certain part of the male anatomy. This effect is so common that virile Chilean men are often be said to be Spider Bitten. Pharmaceutical companies in the US, hearing of this phenomenon, have looked into using Chilean black widow venom within erectile dysfunction medication.
But this is no reason to go looking for them! Any black widow spider bite (regardless of your symptoms) should be treated as serious and medical attention sought. If it is a child or a frail person who is bitten seek immediate emergency care.
The Rose Coloured Tarantula
So named for the beautiful pink hue of the hairs adorning its body, this spider is highly sought after as a pet. Sadly, you are far more likely to come across one in an American pet store than in the desert wilds of northern Chile where they belong. Whilst that may make them sound harmless, that’s not entirely the case and if you are lucky enough to come across one, it’s best to keep your distance.
Rose coloured tarantulas are not naturally aggressive and would rather run from a fight than confront an attacker. But if they are cornered they have a few tricks up their hairy sleeves. Like many other tarantula species, this one has bristly spines or hairs on its abdomen which it can shoot towards an attacker. These bristles can be very effective against small mammals but in humans tend to cause only itching or mild irritation if lodged in the skin.
If the spines don’t deter an attacker, this tarantula can also bite and is venomous. Though the venom is not fatal to humans it does contain toxins that can cause a range of allergic reactions. If you find yourself on the wrong end of either the spines or a tarantula bite it is advisable to seek medical advice.
Chilean Slender Snake
Tachymenis Chilensis or Culebra de Cola Corta is the most dangerous snake found in Chile. But although it is venomous, there are a few reasons why the Slender Snake shouldn’t concern you too much.
Firstly unlike its Peruvian relative, the Chilean slender snake’s venom is not fatal to humans. It is only mildly harmful and whilst a bite can be painful it is not known to be serious. Secondly, the slender snake is at the disadvantage of being a rear-fanged species. This means that its fangs are at the back of its mouth. To inject venom into its prey, the slender snake must first transfer its victim to the back of its mouth before being able to bite down and inject venom. Whilst this method is effective on small prey, it is ineffective on large creatures and humans.
Thirdly, bites from this snake are extremely rare, because the snake itself is rare. Although it inhabits the whole of Chile, it is seldom seen and recorded incidents of one biting a human are few and far between. Because of this rarity and lack of sightings the snake is considered near-threatened by the IUCN.
Long Tailed Snake
Philodryas Chamissonis or Culebra de Cola Larga, is the second dangerous snake you might come across in Chile. Endemic to Chile this snake inhabits a range of habitats from the northern city of Copiapó to the southern town of Valdivia.
Reaching up to 5ft in length the Long-tailed snake is the largest of the two dangerous snakes found in Chile. It is usually grey with distinctive black and white stripes running the length of its body. Like the slender snake, this one is moderately venomous, rear-fanged, and rarely found, meaning that whilst it is dangerous, the risk is low.
However, bites from a long-tailed snake can be painful and cause large amounts of swelling so it’s always wise to seek medical attention in the event of a bite.
Long-Tailed Pygmy Rice Rat
The last creature on our list of the dangerous animals found in Chile should reassure you of how few natural threats there are in this country. We don’t expect you to fear a bite or deadly attack by these rather cute little critters. The threat they pose is because of the virus that they carry.
The Hantavirus, a disease found in both North and South America can cause illness and death in people exposed to it. The strain of Hantavirus found in Chile, the Andes Virus is carried mainly by the long-tailed pygmy rice rat. The disease is found in the rat’s droppings and urine. Humans can become infected if they handle droppings or breathe air that contains fecal particles. In rare cases with the Andes Virus humans can catch it from prolonged or close contact with another infected person.
The disease has flu-like symptoms, to begin with: fever, headaches, stomach pain, and muscle aches. Leading to more serious symptoms such as coughing, fluid on the lungs, and struggling to breathe. The disease is dangerous and has a high mortality rate if not treated correctly.
The tiny rat is generally found in mountainous regions, forest floors, and rural areas. Travelers can reduce risk by avoiding areas infested with rodents and enclosed areas where rodent droppings can be found. Hands should be washed frequently and any items that come into contact with rat droppings should be disinfected thoroughly. Whilst camping or staying in rural areas it is wise to safeguard all food from rodents. If you or someone you’re traveling with come into contact with the virus, or exhibits any symptoms seek help from a medical professional.
What is the most dangerous animal in Chile?
Pumas are objectively the most dangerous animals in Chile because an attack by one can cause severe injury or death. However attacks on humans by Pumas in Chile are extremely rare and so long as care is taken whilst hiking or visiting their habitat, visitors should be safe.
What is the most dangerous snake in Chile?
There are few snakes in Chile when compared with the rest of South America. Since it does not have a tropical climate, giant anacondas and boa constrictors the like of which are found in the Amazon, do not live in Chile. However, there are still one or two snakes that it’s worth watching out for. The Chilean Slender Snake is the most dangerous. Although rare, its bite is moderately venomous and can cause pain, swelling, and discomfort.
What is the most dangerous spider in Chile?
The Chilean Recluse is the most dangerous spider in Chile. Its bite is highly venomous and can cause serious illness and fatality if not treated properly.