Australia is often considered one of the scariest places to live when it comes to wildlife, somehow frequently outshining everything from the savannahs of Africa to the jungles of South America.
This reputation, like that of all the animals on this list, is pretty much off the mark, and is based much more on fiction than fact. Many of Australia’s “monsters” don’t really pose much of a threat. However, some of its lesser-discussed inhabitants may be the ones you should really be aware of.
So get ready to face your fears as we uncover 10 Australian animals with a bad reputation.
Related: The 10 most terribly painful poisons
10 Excessively Feared: Huntsman Spider
Big, hairy, fast, and intimidating spiders are certainly a group of animals that many of us simply don’t want to deal with. The huntsman spider embodies that description fully and gets extra credit, ranking among the largest and fastest spiders. And apparently, many claim that they are also among the most intimidating, given the way people respond to them.
They are a stereotypical Australian horror image, feared by foreigners the world over, although huntsman spiders are not unique to the continent. In addition, the fact is that they are absolutely harmless.
They can scare you, sure, but with a disposition that’s more fond of running than fighting. Now, we certainly agree that it’s unpleasant to have its poison in your bloodstream. But since it’s not actually a serious threat, you have no rational reason to fear these gentle giants. If anything, their habit of getting rid of other, less benevolent critters makes them better friends than enemies.
9 Not Feared Enough: Saltwater Crocodile
Crocodiles are certainly feared, and this entry is not intended to contradict that. However, there is a reason it says “not feared enough”.
Many of us struggle to tell alligators from crocodiles, a fact that, combined with the former’s presence in the media due to their inhabitance in the United States, makes people think that the two are very comparable.
The reality, however, is that compared to crocodiles, alligators are harmless little sweethearts. It’s not something that matches their reputation, and in reality, alligators can certainly pose a threat, but that just illustrates how threatening crocodiles really are.
Larger, much more aggressive even towards humans, and equipped with considerably stronger bite force, “Salties” and other crocodiles are hardly comparable to alligators, at least when it comes to danger. As it turns out, although many of us are familiar with a parallel to them, saltwater crocodiles are one of the most unique and formidable things you can find in Australia.
8 Excessively Feared: Cassowary
A very prehistoric-looking large bird equipped with large, sharp talons and a confirmed history of killing people is certainly not a combination many of us would look at without concern.
Cassowaries are one of the most stereotypically dinosaur-like animals on the planet, and are often considered the most dangerous bird on the planet, a stance that might not actually be false.
However, you should consider the fact that compared to most animals, birds as a whole do not pose a real threat to us. The first confirmed death caused by a cassowary was in 1926, nearly a hundred years ago, with no second to follow until 2019, when a Florida farmer was tragically killed by the cassowary he kept.
Frightening for a bird, to be sure, but with only two deaths in a hundred years and only showing aggression when someone enters their territory, they don’t live up to their monstrous reputation. Velociraptors, they are not.
7 Not Feared Enough: Cane Toad
Cane Toads are large, poisonous toads. Not something you want to eat or come into contact with, for sure, but not exactly the scariest image. However, they could be the most harmful animals on this entire list.
Cane toads won’t kill you. However, they will harm the environment to an incredible extent, as well as our resources.
Considered a major pest by the Australian government, these amphibians reproduce very quickly, eat a lot of food, cause untold environmental damage, and threaten many of Australia’s native species which they happily consume in incredibly large numbers. They are not a direct threat to us, but as a major threat to the future and ecosystems of Australians, they should not be taken lightly.
6 Excessively Feared: Redback Spider
The “Australian black widow” is among the most venomous spiders in Australia, and indeed the world. Rivaled only on the mainland by the infamous funnel-web spiders. Redback spiders are one of the few spider species alive today that can and have killed humans.
All true, except that since an effective antidote was introduced in the 1950s, only one person has died from its bite.
One of the scariest spiders in the world and one that would certainly result in a nasty trip to the hospital if it did bite you, but would it result in your death? Almost certainly not.
5 Not Feared Enough: Platypus
The platypus is one of the relatively few Australian animals considered cute and charming. Unfortunately, they’re not that cuddly, despite their unique appeal and fascinating biology.
Are platypuses the most dangerous animals on this list? Certainly not, but given how few people talk about some of their less charming points, they are immensely deserving of their spot.
The males, very unusual for mammals, are poisonous. While not terribly dangerous, the sting is also not like a wasp sting. The sting in the male’s extremities that releases said venom may not be able to kill you, but it will almost certainly lead to one of the most painful experiences of your entire life thanks to the unique proteins contained in its disgusting substance. Best observed from a distance, as wild animals generally are.
4 Excessively Feared—Inland Taipan
Now is the time for the most poisonous snake in the entire world. That is, the one with the most potent venom, at least according to LD50 tests in mice. How could they be excessively feared?
These rare snakes are, in fact, incredibly shy. Their venom is everything it’s cracked up to be, rare and terrifying when it comes to venomous animals, considering how many fall prey to scaremongering. However, it is unlikely that you will ever come across one. If you do, this snake will still run away unless you disturb it. However, if you disturb it, the snake tends to put on a threat display, giving you the opportunity to back off.
Inland taipans don’t want to bite you. Only a few people have been through it, all of whom survived thanks to prompt hospital treatment. That being said, their close relatives, the coastal taipans, are much more aggressive and more common. Either way, don’t mess with the taipans, just in case.
3 Not Feared Enough: Kangaroo
As symbols of Australia, kangaroos are strange yet endearing, a majestic sight with their unique physiology. There seems to be a lot to love about kangaroos. At first, anyway.
One Australian wildlife expert, when asked for advice on the best course of action when encountering a kangaroo, simply said: “Just get away from it as fast as you can.”
Sinister to hear from an expert, but nothing compared to the follow-up. According to the same expert, if you are standing up, a kangaroo can kick you with such force that it can “rip you open”. It’s a horrible thing to imagine and a scenario to avoid at all costs. Kangaroo attacks are pretty rare, thankfully. Not so fortunately though, they are also potentially fatal when they happen.
2 Overly Feared: The Sydney Funnel-Web Spider
Arguably the most feared spider on Earth, a pretty impressive place to be when you consider the reputation of the group as a whole. Is it up to it?, is the question. Compared to other spiders? Maybe. In general? Not precisely.
His bite, again, is not something you want to experience. They are not feared for any reason at all. However, based on the pattern, they are not likely to be much of a threat to your life if you visit Australia. They also don’t jump or chase people, despite what some rumors suggest.
Even if someone is bitten, and while it will be a pretty horrible experience that could result in death, if that person were to die, it would be the first since funnel-cloth antivenom was introduced.
1 Not Feared Enough: Eastern Brown Snake
It turns out that the snake to fear in Australia is not the one with the most potent venom in the world.
Their venom may be surpassed by the inland taipan, but they more than make up for this with their nervous disposition which makes them much more likely to bite. Also, they seem to enjoy living and even thrive in human-inhabited areas.
Their bite is often painless, a fact that may seem like a small mercy, but it really just means you’re less likely to notice until it’s too late. The snake emits a venom that is still among the most potent in the world. The common and relatively unassuming eastern brown snake is responsible for the majority of snake deaths in Australia.
With that being said, Australia is a wonderful and beautiful country. If there’s one thing to take away from this list, it’s that if you keep a safe distance from wildlife, as everyone should, there’s no real reason to avoid visiting this amazing and unique continent.
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