When planning a trip to Italy, chances are you are more focused on some fairly decadent things. The food and wine you will drink; the historic sites you will visit; the glorious beaches you will frolic on. Few people will spare a thought for the tremendous amount of wildlife that exists within Italy. But there is a lot, and some of it ain’t all that friendly! With this in mind, we have selected our top seven deadly wild animals in Italy.
We have done all the fact finding so you don’t have to! And with a whole host of wonderful wild animals in the countryside, including wild boar and the golden eagle, you might just find some unexpected visitors! There sure are a bunch of exotic beasts found around mainland Europe, and Italy is no exception.
From northern Italy to its southern tip, things lurk that could cut your European holiday unexpectedly short. But we don’t want that to happen! In this article, you will not only learn about the most dangerous animals in Italy, but also how to avoid them, and what to do in the unfortunate event of an attack. By the end, you will feel prepped and pumped for a jaunt into the wilds of Italy. Don’t restrict yourself to the safety of the city!
Marsican Brown Bear (Ursus Arctos Arctos)
Also known as the Appenine brown bear, their habitat is restricted to the Appenine mountains, and much of Abruzzo National Park in Italy. This is due to their critically endangered status. With only between 50-70 Marsican brown bears left in the country, everything is being done to conserve this habitat and help them to breed.
Male Marsicans weigh 478lbs (217kg) on average, with females roughly 310lbs (140kg). Their average size is smaller than other brown bears. These bears have a fairly subdued temperament, so aren’t likely to attack humans thankfully. They also have a much keener sense of smell than sight—finding it easy to sniff out their diet of insects and honey. Not so easy to see humans. If you come face to face with one, remain calm, stay still, and it should just leave you alone.
The fact that this bear can only be found in one place in Italy does restrict the likelihood they’ll become a threat. The Appenine bear is also mainly nocturnal and hibernate in winter, so we figure the chances of bumping into one is slim! But given their status as a real life freaking bear, they get a pass. Their size and power get them into this list of the most dangerous animals in Italy.
Abruzzo National Park sits between Rome and Naples, covered with mountains, trees and open blue skies! The lake is large and a pristine blue colour on a sunny day. This is definitely one to visit, to see the bears and bask in the glory of Italy’s wilderness.
Weever Fish (Trachinidae)
Weever fish are clever little buggers, and very quick to attack if they feel threatened. They tend to dwell on the bottom of river and sea beds, in the shallows where they bury themselves in sand. This is a great spot to lie in wait for prey, but also a surefire way to be stepped on by unwitting humans!
While they might look harmless, they have spines that can cause a lot of pain. The spines arranged on their back contain a protein based venom. These spines can be close to two inches in length! And to think, the weever fish is on average only 14 inches in length itself. When threatened, these extend out to strike foes with great accuracy, delivering the venom. No wonder it also has slang names like ‘sea dragon’ and ‘stang’.
If you get stung by a weever fish you wont need anti-venom, but taking the following few steps will help reduce the pain. It can also reduce spasming and recovery time overall.
- Check for spines and remove with tweezers
- Submerge the affected area in hot water. As hot as you can stand it without burning your skin or feeling a sting. The heat will help to cook out the venom, rendering it harmless, and less painful.
- Keep it there for thirty minutes, or up to 1.5 hours if possible
- Keep topping up the water in this time, so it remains piping hot
- wash the wound in warm water and soap
- leave the wound open (do not bandage) to allow the toxins to come out
Nor is this just one of the most dangerous animals in Italy. Weever fish can be found all across Europe and much of the UK‘s shoreline! Though it seems to prefer the warmer waters of the Mediterranean. If you plan on going in the water in Italy, best to wear rubber soled sea shoes!
There are over 100 different species of jellyfish throughout the world, with stings ranging from mild to severe. A good rule of thumb is to think ‘the smaller, the deadlier’, and always pay attention to where you are swimming, and lifeguard advice. In fact, some would suggest you research the areas you plan to swim prior to getting in the sea!
Thankfully, there are some fairly mild Medusa (as the Italians call them) floating around the Tyrrehenian, Ionian and Adriatic seas. These are the seas that surround Italy. While you might find some pretty frightening predators in the mediterranean sea, this and the weever fish are the extent of your Italian aquatic fears.
Mild jellyfish stings can still be a cause for concern, however! The most common species is the rhizostoma pulmo, or barrel jellyfish. Though in recent years the rhopilema nomadica—a species native to the Indian Ocean and parts of the Pacific—has become more common. In fact, jellyfish sightings have risen from 300 to around 3000 per year. This seems to line up with increase in sea temperatures as a result of global warming.
Jellyfish are harmless if you touch the top of their bulbous bodies. It is their tentacles that are primes with painful poison! A few symptoms will will help you know you have been stung by a jellyfish:
- A stinging sensation, followed by a general throbbing of the affected area
- Itching and/or burning sensations in the affected area
- Red welts or ‘lash marks’ appearing
If you are unlucky enough to still have a tentacle attached, remove it with a plastic implement, such as a bucket, spade or credit card. All things we should have on the beach, right?
Asp Viper (Vipera Aspis)
There are many forms of snake in Italy, though most are harmless. Common to central Italy and much of Tuscany (equidistant from Rome and Venice), the asp viper are a venomous snake, though generally not considered to be deadly. That being said, their venom is pretty nasty, earning the viper a spot with the most dangerous animals in Italy.
The male viper is generally around 4 inches longer than the female, growing up to 33 inches. The wide flat head forms a triangular shape ending in an upturned snout. These features are a great way to spot a viper, as their colouration and markings can vary. Grey to a red-brown, with patterns that stretch from zig-zag shapes to one uniform colour, are common.
These invertebrates tend to dwell in the drier regions of Italy, favouring a diet of small mammals reptiles, and birds. This is where their venom comes in handy, killing their prey with one bite.
If a human is bitten, the result isn’t fatal, perhaps, but nevertheless unwanted. Symptoms of a viper bite include nausea, sweating, shortness of breath, impaired vision and in some extreme cases, paralysis and renal failure. If you do get bitten, see medical attention immediately. Anti-venom is generally available in hospitals for treatment.
Another form of venomous snake found in Italy is the vipera ursinii. Though these are admittedly very rare!
These guys can also found in Switzerland, the south of France, north of Spain and even in the black forest of Germany. Fitting name, huh? This proves the changeability of each genus and species of snake, and how adaptable they are! If in doubt, it is always best to avoid snakes in the wild. Just remember to make a lot of noise when walking, and if you see a snake walk the other way or give it a wide berth!
Scorpions (Euscorpius Italicus)
Next up in our run-down of dangerous animals in Italy: something with a sting in the tail!
Scorpions tend to dwell in the warmer regions of countries, and so can be found allover the world. There are between five and seven genus of scorpion in Italy, the most common being Euscorpius Italicus. The body of this species is mostly black, with brownish or red colouring appearing on the legs. Scorpions love to dwell in shady; under trees, stones and in wood piles, though they have been known to venture indoors.
The best way to avoid a nasty incident is to check your living space for stow-aways. pull the bedsheets back before getting in at night, shake out your shoes, and always hang clothes up rather than leaving them on the floor! If threatened or surprised, the venom delivered via its sting can do some real damage.
Many scorpions have one venom gland, which is attached to the stinger that sits at the tip of the tail. This is called the ‘aculeus’. When threatened, this stinger delivers venom from the gland and stuns or kills its prey. When a human is stung, toxins delivered are not potent enough to have a sudden effect on the victim. Aside from a localised pain that is. If left untreated however, there are three phases of activation, measured by severity. Symptoms can range from swelling and mild fever, to hypotension, chronic pain, cardiovascular arrest.
Human deaths from scorpion stings tend to be in young children and the elderly, though anaphylactic shock can occur if allergies are present. Even so, this has to be one of the most dangerous insects found in Europe. It is simply not a risk you want to take, so always check your clothes, shoes and beds for scorpions when in warmer climates!
European Black Widow (Latrodectus Tredecimguttatus)
Whilst there aren’t as many spiders to concern yourself with in Europe as there are in tropical countries like the Philippines, there is one to watch.
Also called the Mediterranean black widow, this is one of the milder forms of black widow spiders. Though still rather deadly! Many of us have been primed for spotting these deadly creatures, identifiable by their small black bodies and telltale red markings. Though prominent in Australasia, interestingly this species’ territory ranges from the south of Iberia to south and central parts of Asia. Hence their presence in Italy!
Whilst black widow spider bites aren’t likely to kill you if you seek treatment, the discomfort can be unbearable! Some victims have reported sweating and nausea as symptoms, even extending to hallucinations and muscle spasms. If you do get bitten, seek medical attention. It is likely you will require anti-venom.
To avoid such an encounter, check your clothes, shoes, and toilet seats before use! They like to hide in dark spots and under rims. And they are small, the females between 7 to 15mm. The males are much smaller, measuring between 4 and 7mm.
Lynx (Lynx Canadensis)
The Lynx has been deemed worthy of appearing on this list of the most dangerous animals in Italy in the last 12 years. In 2008 the forestry service announced the Lynx, long missing from the Italian mountains, has made a resurgence! This is great news for the Lynx though could spell disaster if come across whilst hiking!
The Eurasian lynx is the largest of the four species in existence, identified by beige fur with tawny brown and black spots. The tips of its ears are also spiked with black. Generally nocturnal, the solitary animals tend to hunt hares, rabbits and deer. The fact that an animal between 30 and 50 inches tall, weighing between 40 and 60lbs (18-30kg) could take down a deer shows their true power. The females are even lighter, weighing around 40% less on average!
Whilst there haven’t been many instances of lynx attacks—certainly none in Italy since their reappearance—this doesn’t stop them from being one of the most dangerous animals in Italy if you cross it. If you find yourself walking through the wilds in the beautiful Val di Non, Italy, be sure to make lots of noise (singing, stamping, talking to yourself and buddies) to avid any encounters!
What is the Most Dangerous Animal in Italy?
The scorpion has to be the most dangerous animal in Italy for its sheer toxicity. Being large in stature isn’t always an indication of severity when it comes to dangerous animals in Italy—or anywhere else for that matter! And while the brown bear and lynx stalk the mountains, the scorpion beats them all for its venomous sting.
Prevalent in the hotter parts of Italy, its penchant for hiding in shady spots and under woodpiles and even venturing into homes, makes it one to watch out for. If stung, the symptoms within the first hour or so will be mild. Sweating, nausea and the like. Though in circulating in the blood for too long, toxins in the venom can cause the heart and respiratory system to fail.
Whilst this is uncommon, travellers should be mindful. It also pays to research local healthcare professionals, and know how to call for an ambulance.
Does Italy have Poisonous Spiders?
There are a few creepy spiders in Italy, and the European Widow is one of them. Also known as the black widow spider. these have a nasty bite that can induce fever, nausea and vomiting. They are not as bad, however, as the arachnids you can find in Thailand or the Philippines.
Does Italy have Venomous Snakes?
Italy does not have poisonous snakes, though it does have a couple of venomous ones! The difference is in the way the toxin is stored and secreted. Venom is generally injected via spines or fangs. There are more troublesome snakes in Turkey than you will find in Italy, though there are some that can give you a nasty bite that could prove fatal. Namely the asp viper and the vipera ursinii, as we have seen!
Are There Wolves in Italy?
There are many wolves in Italy, yes, though they are heavily protected as an endangered animal. After numbers dwindled across Europe, a successful breeding programme has seen a good increase in numbers. A wolf will tend to avoid humans, though some more vicious or frightened animals can attack if threatened. But as they are for the most part harmless, the wild wolf narrowly avoided being in the top 7 list of dangerous animals in Italy. Just!
Italy is a place full of food and fun! But it is also home to some pretty exotic species, including some that are near extinct. So when planning your next trip to Italy, make sure you spare some time to get familiar with nature and its flora and fauna. There is no doubt a dangerous animal lurking here or there, but their beauty cannot be denied. Plus if you treat them with respect, and give them space, you should be fine!
In any case, the beasts you can find here are no match for those you could find in Mexico!