The most dangerous animals in Belize occupy one of the most stunning corners of Central America. No, scratch that. They occupy one of the most stunning corners of the world! This land is blessed with turquoise waters and Robinson Crusoe cays, misty jungles filled with strange wildlife, and sugar-soft sands threaded with palm trees. We can see why you’re pining to come.
But, before you go and press ‘book’ on that private island hotel, be sure to read the list below. It details the snakes and spiders, the poison dart frogs and spiny aquatic swimmers, you might encounter as you laze on Ambergris Caye or tread the bio reserves of the Rio Bravo.
The lionfish is actually a close relation of the equally disliked scorpionfish. Far from being a native to the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea, this subspecies is considered a major invasive animal. In fact, its natural habitat is way, way out east, in the balmy tropical currents of the Indo-Pacific nearer to the Philippines and the islands of Tonga and French Polynesia.
Still, the lionfish looks like it’s in Belize to stay. Fishermen and conservationists are hugely concerned about the effect they’re having on the local marine ecosystem. That means the danger that’s posed by their mightily venomous spines could be dwarfed by the ecological damage they do over the next few decades, especially to the shimmering reefs that exist just off the shore.
Strangely, the lionfish is unquestionably pretty darn beautiful. It often draws in scuba divers and snorkelers in Belize because it’s got a lovely white-and-brown coloring that resembles the striped coat of its namesake African predator.
Black widow spiders
Behold the most poisonous arachnid in all of North and Central America. Covered completely in jet black with just a dot of warning red on its underside, these crawlies have a bite that can lead to anaphylactic shock and death in humans. Most of the time, the damage is limited to swelling and pain at the site of the wound, but even that can be severe – certainly enough to ruin any holiday to the cotton-white sands of the Belize cays.
Black widow females are the sex responsible for the nasty bite. They tend to construct nests in dark, shadowy spots close to the ground. They occur in both wild and built-up areas of Belize but will be particularly common around wooded reserves. It’s rare for black widows to stray indoors, though it does happen. Just be sure to check your boots before you pull them on each morning, folks!
Maya coral snakes
Maya coral snakes are armed with what’s considered by herpetologists to be one of the strongest venoms in the whole of Central America. Yep, you won’t want to accidentally tread on one of these sliders. They can bite you and you could be dead within the day. The reason? A potent mixture of neurotoxic chemicals that works its way into the nervous system to cause intense pain and, finally, shutdown of the heart.
It’s not all bad news for Belizean holidaymakers worried about crossing paths with the coral serpent, though. These snakes are known to be very shy of human contact and quite rare in the wild. They don’t attack easily and, even when they do, are often limited in the damage they can inflict because of those small fangs.
The eyelash viper lives up to its name with a pair of flamboyantly protruding lashes over both eyes. The bold look continues with its color scheme – a shock of ochre yellow that should be easy to spot in the lush green jungles that dash through inland Belize. (Remember that some members of the species can also be an off green or beige hue.) These guys live all the way from Mexico through to South America, preferring the moist tropical lowlands close to the Atlantic Ocean.
A small snake in comparison to other viper species in the region, these are ambush predators that often lie in wait in low-lying branches and bushes. Their bites often don’t get noticed right away on account of the small fangs. However, they’ll certainly be noticed later on, as the hemotoxic venom works through the blood system. Very powerful stuff, it’s known to be able to cause death in humans in just a matter of hours.
Fer de Lance
The Fer de Lance has several names. Some folk call it the yellowjaw. Others use the scientific moniker of bothrops asper. The local Belize people call it Tommy Goff. If you hear anyone shouting that – get out of Dodge! Seriously, these guys are not good news. They’re overly aggressive and very fast to strike, so it’s hardly a surprise they’re among the most prolific biters in all of Central America. (It’s actually thought to be responsible for nearly half of snake bites in nearby Costa Rica each year!).
Venom is strong from the Fer de Lance, though not the strongest in the region. It’s hemotoxic, which means it disrupts the blood and the cardiac system. Initial human responses include puss and bleeding at the site of the wound. That leads to swelling and eventual necrosis. If left untreated, complications might warrant complete amputation of a limb. Death is also a possibility. A pit viper, this species resides below 1,000 meters, usually in montane forests and coastal woods.
There’s a handful of so-called poison dart frogs living in Belize. They’re all subspecies of a particular branch of amphibians who are known for the powerful neurotoxins that are secreted straight onto their skin. In fact, the golden poison dart frog is hailed as one of the most poisonous animals on the whole planet. Those guys only live down in Colombia these days, but their relations have similar cocktails of hallucinogens that put them up there with the most dangerous animals in Belize.
Of course, frogs aren’t usually as formidable as snakes or sharks. They don’t pounce at humans or lie in wait in the undergrowth. You need to make direct skin-to-skin contact to feel any effects. What’s more, dart frogs often have very bright and over-the-top color schemes (we’re talking bold yellow blushes and painted white stripes) to warn off potential predators.
The first of the shark genus on this list of the most dangerous animals in Belize is the strange hammerhead. They’re among the most recognizable of shark species on account of those odd, protruding eye sockets, which make them something of a regular in marine aquarium exhibits all over the world.
Now on the endangered list, you’re probably not that likely to spot a hammerhead. If you do, it will almost certainly be during a snorkeling or scuba diving expedition out to the deeper waters beyond the Belize Barrier Reef. That’s where the hammerheads can often be found, usually in small schools in the daytime but hunting alone at night.
Hammerheads are thought to be responsible for around 17 unprovoked shark attacks in the last 500 years or so. That means your chances of getting bitten are pretty darn low. It’s still worth being wary of, though, since these guys boast wide jaws filled with sharp, dagger-like teeth.
What is the most dangerous animal in Belize?
The most dangerous animal in Belize has to go to the Maya coral snake. The stats would say otherwise – there’s not been a recorded death at the hands of these tropical serpents for a long time. However, scientists think that they have access to one of the most potent venoms in the whole of the animal kingdom, second only to the dreaded black mamba in the snake world. On the plus side, they have small fangs, so often find it tricky to bite a human and can’t inject enough of the stuff to make it fatal.
Are there venomous snakes in Belize?
There are an estimated eight species of venomous snakes in Belize. They include the several pit vipers, of which the starkly colored eyelash viper and the Fer de Lance are probably the most feared. They have strong hemotoxin venoms that can cause havoc in human cardiovascular systems. Bites occasionally lead to sepsis and amputations, but the poison is also enough to kill. Belize also hosts coral snakes, which are known to have one of the most powerful venoms in the whole world. Oh, and there’s also a single species of rattlesnake in these parts.
Are there dangerous spiders in Belize?
Yes, you can find dangerous spiders in Belize. The black widow is probably the most unsavory of the bunch. It’s got that dark thorax and don’t-even-think-about-trying-to-catch-me red pattern on its soft underside. Bites cause extreme pain and can cause death in humans, although it’s rare. The brown recluse that’s common across the Caribbean is also found in Belize. Its bites sometimes go unnoticed but are risk factors for sepsis and blood infections. You could also happen upon a tarantula in the Belizean jungle. They don’t have the most potent poison but are large, downright frightening to look at, and have hair that can irritate human skin.
Are there scorpions in Belize?
Yes, there are scorpions in Belize. The centruroides gracilis – the bark scorpion – is by far the most common in this corner of Central America. With a long, protruding tail that can reach more than three inches in length, it certainly looks like it deserves a place among the most dangerous animals in Belize. However, it’s not really that formidable at all. Stings can be sharp shocks but are usually little more than that of a bee or a wasp. Still, some victims might have reactions to scorpion bites that will require medical treatment.
In summary: the most dangerous animals in Belize
This list of the most dangerous animals in Belize details just a small snippet of the creatures that could cause you trouble in this lovely land of sparkling coral islands and lush rainforests. It’s got info on the most feared snakes in the country. It looks at the venomous spiders and the underwater stonefish, not to mention a few snapping sharks and curiously colored amphibians. Of course, they aren’t the only threats around, so be sure to do some extra research about the wild hazards in the region you’ll be traveling too.