8 Most Dangerous Animals in New Zealand: Top Deadly Killers

New Zealand landscape
Photo Credit: Tyler Lastovich
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Is there anywhere more scenic and picturesque than New Zealand? We can’t be the only ones longing to be amongst the jaw dropping landscapes each and every time we pop in Lord of the Rings.

Unfortunately, such places often come with a trade off of sorts when it comes to the local wildlife, in that it often seems to be out to get us; case in point neighbouring Australia.

With a miraculous stroke of luck though, New Zealand seems to be mostly devoid of major dangers, at least when compared to other far-away destinations. Chances are you’ll likely never happen across anything that could do you any genuine harm.

In spite of this, there are still a few dangerous animals in New Zealand you’ll want to be aware of when planning a trip to the land of the long white cloud; and whatever beasties you’re worried about crossing paths with during your trip, we’ve got you covered.

In no particular order, here are the 8 Most Dangerous Animals in New Zealand.

Sharks

shark
Image by Gyöngyvér Fábián from Pixabay

There are a fair few sharks calling the oceans of New Zealand their home, with the Great White, Oceanic Whitecap, Basking shark, and Whale shark keeping the waters nice and scary.

There’s no need to avoid taking a dip in the ocean though, as the last fatal shark attack on record was over 7 years ago. In all, only 12 people have been killed by shark attacks in the country since records began.

Any surfers will naturally find themselves at a slightly higher risk of attack, but emphasis on the slightly—there are still next to no reported incidences. Like with many things, you’re much more likely to be struck by lightning.

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Spiders

Neighbouring Australia is famed for all manner of crazy spiders you’ll want to steer clear of, and New Zealand has a trio of their own: the Katipo spider, White-Tailed spider, and the Redback spider. The good news with these three though is they’re not quite as deadly as their neighbours’, or even all that common.

Katipo Spider

katipo spider
By jesscostall – Latrodectus katipo in lab, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2233180

As things go, the Katipo spider is about the closest thing New Zealand has to an Australian-style evil creepy crawly. Most won’t ever cross paths with one though, and while it can give a pretty nasty bite, the venom isn’t lethal (although a trip to the doctor might be necessary to avoid infection).

The Katipo spider can be recognised by its black hue and red stripe, not too dissimilar from a Black Widow. Overall though it’s not much bigger than a pea, so it’s no surprise most New Zealanders won’t ever have seen one.

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White-Tailed Spider

white-tail spider
By Fir0002 – Own work, GFDL 1.2, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2418110

Originating in Australia, the White-Tailed spider somehow made its way across the ocean to terrorise the nice people of New Zealand too, although in fairness by terrorise we mostly mean semi-harmlessly nibble.

A bite from a White-Tailed spider can be painful, and they’ve been known to cause a fair amount of swelling from time to time, although on the whole though they aren’t dangerous—certainly not by Australia’s standards. At the worst, you may need to seek a little medical attention.

Finding a White-Talied spider isn’t super uncommon, and they can typically be found lurking behind wood or tucked away in a crevice somewhere.

Redback Spider

redback
By Toby Hudson – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18357388

The Redback spider is also a native of Australia, although they don’t seem to do so well with New Zealand’s colder temperatures and wetter climate. It’s therefore unlikely you’ll ever see one, although you’ll want to stay well back if you do—a bite from a Redback spider could lead to serious injury. If you do get bitten by one, make your way to the nearest place with the antivenom sharpish.

Redback spiders are almost identical to the Katipo spider, with the same black colour overall and the same red stripe (again, not too dissimilar from a Black Widow). As a general rule of thumb, it’s probably wise to stay back from any spider with a big fancy bit of red on show.

Jellyfish

portuguese man o' war
By Volkan Yuksel – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26560750

Another on the list of the most dangerous animals in New Zealand is the Portuguese Man-o’-War, otherwise known as the Bluebottle jellyfish. These can be found almost any time of the year washed up on New Zealand’s beaches, and of course lurking in the water.

They’re most commonly brought in on ocean currents from the north of the country, although they’re not all that common. You still might want to check with someone local before you go swimming though, just to make sure—their stings can be pretty painful.

Mosquitos

mosquito
Image by WikiImages from Pixabay

We doubt there’s a more annoying insect out there than the mosquito, and thanks to New Zealand’s fairly wet climate, they can be found just about everywhere—especially in any damp and warm areas throughout the summer.

New Zealand’s mosquitos aren’t particularly dangerous—at worst they’re only a bit annoying and irritable, and liable to leave an itchy bump behind if they get you.

If you decide to head out for a hike into some more remote parts of the country, make sure you pack some mossie repellant, and maybe even a net if you’re going to be sleeping outside or with the windows open.

Sandflies

sandfly
By Emilio_floris (talk) (Uploads) – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57261390

You’ll find Sandflies almost anywhere in New Zealand where there’s sand, especially in more remote parts of the South Island during the summer months (where they’re known to grow especially big).

Much like mosquitos, sandflies love to drink our blood. When they cut into our skin to chow down though, the saliva they leave behind can often bring about a fairly nasty rash; or even hives.

The best way to avoid being a night time snack for the Sandflies is to avoid any summertime camping close to any sandy areas, and always make sure you’ve got some bug spray handy.

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Kea

kea
Photo by Darren Patterson from Pexels

The Kea is New Zealand’s native parrot, found around the South Island and other alpine regions.

The Kea isn’t so much of a danger to people, more a bit of a nuisance; at worst they might attack our belongings or steal our food. Be wary if you’re planning on moving to New Zealand to become a farmer though—they’re renowned for killing sheep.

Another flavour they’ve come to love is rubber—specifically the rubber found on car doors, mirrors, and windscreens, and they’ve become quite renowned for the damage they’ll do to a car if given the chance.

Unfortunately for the Kea though it’s recently been moved onto the endangered species list, due in part to their poor diets and eagerness to eat just about anything.

Seals and Sea Lions

sea lion
Image by Gerhard G. from Pixabay

Seals and Sea Lions are pretty laid back and well behaved for the most part, and won’t pose any threat to any passing humans. That being said, they make the list of the most dangerous animals in New Zealand due to their propensity to attack if and when they feel threatened, especially the males.

It’s usually best to stay back and enjoy these animals from afar, especially if any young are around. Both seal and Sea Lion mothers can be incredibly protective.

Wasps and Bees

Wasp
Image by jggrz from Pixabay

Wasps and bees are a nuisance we’re all familiar with, and New Zealand is no different. Unless you’ve an allergy, their stings won’t cause much more than a few days of pain (which obviously isn’t exactly desirable).

Be that as it may, you’ll still want to take caution not to bump into any trees that could be home to a wasp or bee nest, as you never know where they might be hiding.

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While you certainly wouldn’t want to get into a one-on-one with a shark, it’s not like you’ll ever cross paths with one. The same goes for the Katipo spider too—a bite may result in a trip to the hospital, but you’ll have to find one first.

white-tailed spider
By Sylke Rohrlach – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38599694

The biggest threat to look out for is the White-Tailed spider. As we mentioned above, they’re often found lurking behind wood, tucked away in tight crevices, or even hiding in your bed (look out for that one). Bites from a White-Tailed spider aren’t lethal, however you may experience some nasty swelling and a trip to the doctor may be necessary.

Ultimately, the lovely folks of New Zealand have found themselves in a fairly lucky spot when it comes to dangerous animals. All the deadly spiders, snakes, and whatever else of their closest neighbours are nowhere to be seen, and instead what they do have we should perhaps categorise as more of a minor nuisance.

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Does New Zealand have venomous Snakes?

Australia is renowned the world over for its venomous snakes, from the Inland Taipan to the Eastern Brown snake. The good news though is that—unlike us—these deadly snakes haven’t heard of all the amazing things New Zealand has to offer, and as such never made much of an effort to go visit. For the most part, the country is completely devoid of snakes, venomous or otherwise.

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Sea snakes

yellow-bellied sea snake
By Aloaiza – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3582452

There are two snakes that can be known to pop their heads up from time to time though: the yellow-bellied Pelamis platurus (yellow-bellied sea snake, pictured above) and the Laticauda colubrina (banded sea krait). These snakes often make their way to New Zealand from places like Australia, Southeast Asia, the South Pacific and New Guinea, and while small, they’re surprisingly poisonous.

As predators go though, these sea snakes have only been reported a less-than-impressive 35 times over the past 90 years, so odds are you’re not going to be crossing paths with them any time soon.

Land snakes

snake
https://www.pexels.com/photo/brown-and-beige-snake-in-the-grass-during-daytime-53498/

Even less common with finding a sea snake though is finding one on land, although it is possible for one or two to find their way onto a cargo ship or some other form of transport and pop up every now and then.

If a snake has been reported somewhere in the country, the government and local folk go out of their way to ensure it’s eliminated before it can spread, which may sound drastic, but there’s good reason.

Since humans first settled on New Zealand’s islands, it’s estimated that around half of all frogs, a third of all birds, and at least a dozen species of plant have all now become extinct, with hundreds more species considered endangered. With the introduction of any predatory snakes, it’s feared that this could only get worse.

Therefore, if and when any snake sightings get reported, the government will immediately send out specialists to track it down and assess it’s ability to breed. If it’s deemed to be low-risk, then it’ll be removed by the specialists and placed in captivity. If however there’s a high-risk that the snake will breed, then they’ll take every necessary step to eradicate it and any others, harsh as that may sound.

Are there Crocodiles in New Zealand?

crocodile
Image by miniformat65 from Pixabay

Much like with the snakes, New Zealand is officially a croc free country. This isn’t to say that one or two might not show their faces from time to time however, as there have been a confirmed sighting or two over the years.

Ancient Māori myths spoke of the ‘taniwha’, huge lizard-like beasts that live in rivers, caves, or the ocean, always ready to snap up anyone that got too close.

A short while later in the 1800s, numerous sightings of crocodiles began to get reported, starting with a 1842 story where an “alligator” like creature was seen upending a canoe.

In 1869, another newspaper reported a sighting of one in a lake near Wellington, and another in the Waikato river in 1886. That same year, a crocodile was also responsible for biting off a child’s arm.

Towards the end of the 1980s, studies found that Australian saltwater crocs like to make their way over to New Zealand on occasion in the summertime. It was around this time that a similar report claimed to have spied another crocodile somewhere around the North Cape.

The fact that these stories exist just goes to show how big of a deal crocodile sightings in New Zealand are, and that any such any sightings have been incredibly few and far between. As a result of the country’s colder climate, only the biggest crocodiles will be able to survive, and it’s a long way to swim from Australia—even if you’re a giant beast of a crocodile.

Be sure to check out our lists on the most dangerous animals in other countries too! Including 9 Dangerous Animals in Fiji and the 8 Most Dangerous Animals in Bali

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