Yes, there are dangerous animals in the UK. However, this fact should not stop you from going outdoors and exploring nature. Instead, know what these animals are as well as what you can do to stay safe. After all, a number of of these so-called “dangerous” animals do not fit the typical image people have – animals with big bodies, sharp claws and pointy teeth.
To help you learn about dangerous animals found in the UK, we’ve listed some of them down based on their potential to cause harm on humans.
The adder, Vipera berus, is one of the three snakes found in Britain. The other two snake species are the smooth snake, Coronella austriaca, and the grass snake, Natrix natrix. Native to the UK, adders are the only venomous snakes in the country. They are protected animals; hence, injuring or killing them is considered illegal.
Also called vipers, these stocky snakes have an average length of 60 to 75 centimetres. Female vipers are usually longer than males. Their colours vary widely, but females are usually russet or reddish brown and males are grey. One thing that distinguishes adders from other snakes is the dark zigzag or diamond-shaped pattern on their spine.
They are usually found on lake shores and rocky or rough hillsides. One of the places where adders are commonly seen in the UK is at Bradgate Park.
While they are not aggressive, they attack other animals, including people, when threatened. Vipers’ venom injecting mechanism is said to be highly developed.
Adder bites are not as deadly as other snake species. The last adder-related death in the UK was in 1975. However, their venom may cause nausea, diarrhoea, difficulty breathing, dizziness and mental confusion. The bitten body part can also become extremely painful. When immediate treatment is not given, the injury can become severe and may lead to amputation.
Reports from the NHS state that 100 adder bites are recorded each year in the UK. The incidents usually happen between June and August.
Keep in mind, adders rarely attack humans. However, if you see them, never go near them or even attempt to touch them.
Also referred to as European scorpions, the yellow-tailed scorpions, Euscorpus flavicaudis, are not native to the UK. They first came to the country in the 18th century via merchant ships. Currently, they have a colony at Sheerness Dockyard in Kent. This also happens to be the biggest known colony of wild scorpions in the country. The estimate is that there are about 10, 000 yellow-tailed scorpions in the UK.
These scorpion species are tiny, measuring around 35 to 45 millimetres. Their body is typically dark brown with a yellow-tipped tail. Yellow-tailed scorpions reside on rocky areas, specifically in crevices or holes. They prefer areas with hot or dry climate. Their body metabolises food at a very slow rate; hence, they only need to feed at least four times a year.
These arachnids are nocturnal predators that stay hidden before stinging their preys or victims. Their stings rarely lead to life-threatening situations, except in children where serious consequences may occur. Oftentimes, the sting causes intense pain, swelling and numbness. In severe cases, nausea, muscle twitching, hypertension and excessive sweating may be experienced. Allergic reactions may also be possible, especially for those who had been stung before.
Bees, Wasps & Hornets
There are over 250 species of bees in the UK. Some of the most common species are the common carder bees, red-tailed bumblebees, tree bumblebees and red mason bees.
Meanwhile, thousands of wasp species are found in Britain. The most abundant and widespread among them is the Common wasp, also called jasper. Found in urban areas and forests, its abdomen is divided into six segments, each with a distinctive black and yellow stripe.
Another type of wasp familiar to those in Britain is the hornet. Classified as social wasps, hornets are larger than other wasps. While wasps are typically coloured black and yellow, hornets are usually black and white or red and brown. The past years, the deadly Asian Hornet, which killed several people in France, arrived in the UK.
Compared to bees and wasps, hornets’ stings cause more pain because it contains more acetylcholine. Meanwhile, unlike bees, hornets and wasps do not die after stinging; hence, they can sting repeatedly.
Stings from bees, wasps and hornets cause two to nine deaths per year in the UK. The deaths are mainly because of anaphylactic reaction. Reports indicate that these tiny creatures are responsible for 70% of anaphylaxis deaths in Wales and England. Cases of people being stung by bees, wasps or hornets often peak during summer.
Yes, you read it right! Cows are included in this list of dangerous animals in the UK. It may be hard to believe, but these docile mammals cause injuries and deaths in humans.
In fact, cows are considered as the deadliest large animals in the UK. This is because, according to report from the HSE, there have been 74 cattle-related deaths in the last 15 years. Most of the victims were farm workers and walkers with dogs.
The victims suffer a horrible fate. They get repeatedly trampled on and crushed to death. Those who survive suffer from serious injuries that require months of recovery.
The reason for the aggressive behaviour is not entirely understood. However, experts believe that cows attack primarily to protect the calves, especially when dogs are present.
So, when you go on walks, avoid fields with cows. Meanwhile, if you happen to wander around an area with a herd of cattle, stay calm and slowly move away. If you have a dog with you, release it as this may agitate the cows more; then, quietly walk away.
Wasp photo by DanielaC173
Adder photo by Pasha Kirillov
Yellow-Tailed Scorpion photo by User: Dikhou (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons
Deadly Asian Hornet photo by Gilles San Martin
Herd of cows photo by Peter O’Connor aka anemoneprojectors