Looking for an adventure in the great wide somewhere? Know what to do if you run into a bear? A moose? If you’ve not given much thought to animal encounters beyond the usual suspects, you might want to read on. Turns out we share our wide open spaces with an array of pretty deadly critters. Here’s how to make sure you’ll walk away with only photos and good memories.
The King Cobra may rule the forests of India and Southeast Asia, but the Boomslang of Sub-Saharan Africa is by far the more attractive species. These venomous snakes can reach lengths of up to around five feet, with every inch of its scales mesmerizing in their coloration; often a bright green with black or sometimes blue patterning, all the better to blend in with their arboreal homes. Although these snakes frighten easily, their venom can be fatal to humans without treatment, so don’t try to harass or handle them.
This bird, a common native of New Guinea, is renowned for its striking black and orange plumage. Don’t let the feathers fool you, though. They’re covered in batrachotoxin (BTX), a deadly poison that stops all electrical impulses in the nervous system (it’s the same stuff produced by the infamous golden poison frogs in Colombia). Touching this fine feathered creature won’t kill you, although licking one is definitely a bad idea.
This teensy cephalopod might not have the infamy of its kraken cousins, but a single, often painless bite makes up for its lack of bulk with a vengeance. Though able to fit in the palm of your hand, the blue-ringed octopus carries enough venom to kill twenty-six grown humans. The beautiful sapphire blue rings for which it is named are a warning that only the careless fail to heed. If your visit to the Pacific and Indian Oceans includes tide pools and coral reefs, keep your eyes open for this tiny, deadly denizen.
Because ostriches aren’t colorful enough, Australia and New Guinea offer the cassowary, a beautiful flightless bird with glossy black feathers along its body and an electric blue head and neck. Though typically a shy bird who prefers the seclusion of its rainforest home, a provoked cassowary may charge and slash at its perceived offender with the five-inch claw on either foot. Provocation in this case typically refers to a bird who has lost its fear of humans and expects food; in a study of a year of attacks, over three-quarters involved habituated birds who may have expected or tried to snatch people food. Don’t feed the birds, kids.
“Cute” is probably a better descriptor for these tiny primates from Southeast Asia, but that only increases the relative danger of the slow loris. As a defensive mechanism against predation, the slow loris employs a toxic bite: a gland along its arms produces a poisonous secretion, which is activated by the loris’ saliva. This same toxic combination may also be spread along its fur during grooming. If you catch a glimpse of these guys in the wild, don’t panic! Don’t touch them, don’t pick them up, don’t hand them tiny umbrellas or try to tickle them, and you should find it easy to avoid being bitten.
The name says it all, really. The larval stage of the Giant Silkworm Moth might look as festive as a Christmas tree, but all of those bristles are delivery systems for a very potent venom. And while a single bristle isn’t a threat to a human, the problem with these caterpillars is that they’re often very successfully camouflaged away in their tree homes in Brazil. Combine their camouflage with their tendency to cluster in numbers, and you’re unlikely to ever come into contact with a single bristle. The answer is to stay aware of your surroundings—oh, and check your shoes before you put them on.