7 Dangerous Animals in Jamaica: The Deadliest Wildlife

30-second summary:

  • In Jamaica, you will find dangerous animals almost everywhere that you go so, it is important to know how to spot them!
  • Crocodiles, scorpion fish, sting rays, sea urchins and sharks are just a few of the dangerous animals that you may find when you venture to the ocean.
  • There are plenty of creepy crawlies that you should be aware of on land.
  • One thing to be grateful for is that Jamaica is home to zero venomous snakes!

Ready to take a look at the most dangerous animals in Jamaica? We’re not going to lie – there are some pretty formidable creatures on this list. We wouldn’t want to put you off your dreams of picture-perfect Seven Mile Beach or the lush rainforests of the Blue Mountains or the deluxe hotel resorts of Ocho Rios…

Still, these animals might be worth having on the radar before you touch down in the home of reggaeton. They range from slithering centipedes with a truly unpleasant bite to beefy sharks that patrol the warm Caribbean waters.

Let’s get started.

American crocodiles

Image by Raik Thorstad from Pixabay

By far the largest reptile on the whole island of Jamaica is this ancient beast with its big, bright teeth. In the local lingo, it’s often called the ‘getor‘ or ‘alligettor,‘ but they aren’t gators at all. In fact, it’s the most widespread species of crocodilian in the whole of the Americas. They can be found in the musty swamps of Mexico, throughout the glinting Caribbean beaches of Cuba, and even on the far south tip of Florida.

In Jamaica, the snapping crocs have big concentrations around brackish and wetland habitats. Look for them – or, better yet, don’t look for them – near the basin of the Black River in the south of country, and around the shorelines by Crawford and New Hope. If you do come into contact, you shouldn’t be in any doubt that it’s an American crocodile. These monsters can grow up to six meters in length (yep – that’s SIX meters) and weigh in at nearly a ton.

Thankfully, attacks on humans remain rare. However, incidents have been reported in nearby countries like Costa Rica and the USA. You won’t want to get caught. These guys have super camouflage and a bite that can tear through human flesh in a jiffy.  


Photo by Uriel Soberanes on Unsplash

The dreaded scorpionfish has many names. In other lingos it’s known invariably as the rockfish and the stonefish. Some simply call it the silent stinger. Colored a musky beige and dotted with little specks of brown, these underwater swimmers are excellent at hiding in the nooks and crannies of Jamaica’s resplendent coral reefs.

But you wouldn’t crave a meeting like you would with a zebrafish or a brain coral during that snorkeling outing through the coves of Ocho Rios. Not when there’s a hugely venomous injection from the spiky fins that radiate out from the stonefish’s body. Even not counting the poison that’s on board, the spines can often cause deep lacerations that are a nightmare to take care of.

Sea urchins

Sea urchins
Image by Riccardo Maccarini from Pixabay

The third water-loving beast to be found on this list of the most dangerous animals in Jamaica is the sea urchin. Not much to look at, they reside in crevices and cracks in coastal boulders and coral reefs. From the exterior, they are big blobs of black or dark brown that radiate sharp, needle-like spikes. Some can come in a purple or deep red hue, but they’re rarer.

The main danger to humans is when the sea urchin gets stepped on. That’s actually quite common in Jamaica, because the reefs are such a tempting place to explore for divers and snorkel goers. But you’ll want to be certain you watch where you put those feet. The sting from an urchin can be pretty bad, with the potential for toxin ingestion that will lead to allergic reactions, breathing difficulties and nausea in some cases.

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Image by anncapictures from Pixabay

We’re sticking to the sea with one of the most iconic creatures of the deep: The stingray. These usually placid cartilaginous fish are perhaps best known for causing the death of legendary Australian zoologist Steve Irwin back in 2006. That might be a bad reflection on the animal, as it was actually only the second recorded death from a ray in the country since 1945! Still, they can be dangerous.

What’s more, they’re pretty common throughout the crystal-clear waters of Jamaica. In fact, there’s even a whole marine park – Stingray City Jamaica – dedicated to getting folk in the water and swimming with the beasts.

The attack of a stingray revolves entirely around its barbed tail. They are sharp and well adapted at carving through flesh. The barbs will often break off inside a victim and cause local swelling, intense pain, and cramps. On top of that, the ray will sometimes inject a venom to boot. It’s known to induce cell death in humans and leads to excessive bleeding in the region of the wound.

Tiger sharks

tiger sharks
Photo credit:Kris Mikael Krister @ Wikimedia

There are lots of shark species in the warm water habitats around Jamaica. The vast majority are nurse sharks, which are considered generally totally harmless to humans. However, there are just a couple of species you should be a tad more wary of…

They include the tiger shark. It’s a beefy customer, which can hit a length of 4.5 meters from tip to tail. The jaws are pretty hefty, too, with double rows of serrated chompers that have evolved for the express purpose of ripping up living tissue.

There is some good news if you’re worried about meeting one of these guys on your trip to the land of reggae and jerk. They tend to stick to depths of at least 350 meters under, which is well beyond the range of where divers will go. On top of that, there have actually only been 22 recorded shark attacks on humans in Jamaica since 1827. So, the odds are on your side!

Forty leg

Forty leg
Photo credit: Katka Nemčoková @ Wikimedia

Forty leg is the local Jamaican name for one of the country’s most unpleasant creepy crawlies. Every islander knows to steer clear when one of these slinking, multi-limbed bad boys is in the vicinity. The reason? Well…first off, they are rather unpleasant animals that manage to wriggle into any corner and look more like an alien from another planet than something you’d expect to find in a tropical paradise.

However, the main reason to dodge the forty leg is its sting. Bites from these guys can offer up a potent venom that can be so severe it’s thought it could lead to death in humans. Most victims will suffer a searing pain at the point of contact, some swelling, and even muscle spasms. It’s often enough to warrant the need for professional medical advice.

You’ll need to keep a special eye out for the forty leg if you choose to venture into the lush and verdant jungles in the heart of Jamaica. They tend to come out following rains in the Blue Mountains and around the forests and waterfalls of the north coast especially.  

Brown recluse

Brown Recluse Spider
Image by Robby Lockeby from Pixabay

And so…the spiders in Jamaica. There are a few thousand species of the eight-legged crawlers in this part of the world (sorry, arachnophobes). Most don’t pose any danger to humans at all. However, the brown recluse isn’t one of them. It’s a horrid looking creature with a two-part body and protruding pincers towards the front of its head. Those are what do the damage, injecting a powerful hemotoxin venom that can take days and even weeks to really work through the body on some occasions.

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Common symptoms of being bitten by a brown recluse include local swelling, pimples and lesions on the skin, and – eventually – necrosis that can lead to sepsis and sometimes death. Spread throughout North America, these spiders are also known as the fiddleback spider or the violin spider. If you think you’ve been attacked by one during your Jamaican holiday and the pain just keeps on getting worse, it’s definitely time to seek medical attention!

What is the most dangerous animal in Jamaica?

If you’re going to be snorkeling and scuba diving in the shimmering reefs, you might want to be a bit more concerned about sea urchins and sharks, although the latter typically stick to the less-visited south coast. If you’re hitting the trials and reggae-bopping towns of the Blue Mountains, be very wary of the forty leg centipedes and brown recluse spiders. Anyone traveling near shoreline or riverways will want to keep their eyes peeled for those hulking American crocs!

Are there dangerous spiders in Jamaica?

Yes, dangerous spiders exist in Jamaica. In fact, there are a couple of thousand species of spider living in the land of jerk chicken. They’re pretty common sights, especially if you travel outside of the built-up north shore around Negril, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios. Most of the crawlies aren’t dangerous. A few – like the brown recluse – can actually cause death and severe necrosis of the flesh.

On top of spiders in Jamaica, you’ll also have to keep an eye out for so-called forty legs. That’s a native Caribbean centipede that has a strong venomous bite.

Are there any poisonous snakes in Jamaica?

Of all the snakes that live on Jamaica, a grand total of zero posses a venom that can harm us. So, you don’t have to be that concerned about getting on the wrong side of snakes when you travel to that five-star resort hotel on the side of Montego Bay. Phew!

Lay eyes on a Jamaican boa and you’d be forgiven for running a mile. These chunky sliders can clock up lengths of over two meters in total. The thing is – they aren’t dangerous to humans. 

Are there monkeys in Jamaica?

There are no wild monkeys in Jamaica. You might catch some monkeys in the zoo in Jamaica, but there’s not a simian ape in sight in the wild. There was once upon a time, though. The Jamaican monkey is thought to have existed on the island long ago, but the only traces of that are fossils and bone fragments. Leave it to the paleontologists.

The most dangerous animals in Jamaica: A conclusion

Jamaica mountain
Photo by Yves Alarie on Unsplash

So, there are actually quite a few dangerous animals in Jamaica. But, on the other hand, there isn’t anywhere near the abundance of fear-inducing fauna that you get in other parts of the world.

Yes, you’ll have to be cautious of sea urchins when you’re exploring the multi-colored reefs around Mo’Bay. You’ll need to dodge the brown recluse spiders up in the Blue Mountain villages. And you’ve got to keep an eye out for crocodiles on the south coast to boot.

However, Jamaica doesn’t have any poisonous snakes and it’s got pretty good stats when it comes to things like shark attacks. That means there’s still plenty chilling to do during your time on the island, not matter if you’ve got your heart set on the gleaming bays of the north coast or the rambunctious city bars of Kingston. 


James Ardimento has spent the last 12 years journeying around the globe ! With its precious experiences and tips he gained around Asia, South America, Europe and the US he is a precious asset for this blog and for its readers