7 Most Dangerous Animals in the UK: Deadly Wildlife Explored

Reading Time: 8 minutes
30-second summary:
  • The UK may not seem like the most obvious place to spot a dangerous animal but there are definitely a few beasts that you should be careful of.
  • Ticks are a silent killer and carry Lyme disease, which can be fatal for humans.
  • When you’re at the beach, be aware of weaver fish which can shoot a searing pain into your foot if you don’t wear foot protection.
  • Even some of the UKs favourite countryside mammals (deers, cows ect…) can be a danger if they stray out in front of cars or charge at you in herds

Okay, so the most dangerous animals in the UK might not be fierce tigers and prowling savannah lions, but there are still some beasts you should watch out for when you’re traveling around Old Blighty. They’re probably not the beasts you thought you’d have to watch out for, mind. Some are tiny specks on blades of grass; creepy crawlies that can carry dangerous diseases. Others are galumphing mammals we associate more with munching on meadows than causing harm.

This guide takes a look at seven of the most dangerous animals in the UK. It’s got info on the British fauna you should consider when heading to the countryside, no matter if you’re off on a coastal jaunt around sun-kissed Cornwall or an outback adventure in the Scottish Highlands.

Warning: You may never look at a cow the same way again. Sorry about that…

Ticks

ticks
Image by Catkin from Pixabay

Ticks are the stealthy killer of the UK. Barely larger than a pinprick, they possess eight legs, an oversized thorax and a small head that anchors on needle-like biters. All that lurks in the long grass of outdoor meadows and farm fields, waiting for unsuspecting prey to pass on by. When something or someone does come, the tick will pounce and look for a spot of moist, healthy skin to latch onto. Then it starts bulging with drawn blood.

But the bloodsucking nature of these bijou vampires isn’t actually what’s so bad about them. It’s the diseases they can carry and spread. Ticks are one of the most common insect transmitters of Lyme Disease, a potentially debilitating ailment that can cause huge skin rashes, joint swelling, heart problems and cognitive issues in advanced patients.

Thankfully, not all ticks carry Lyme. However, it’s a good idea to remain vigilant against bites to fend off those that do. To ensure that, try to cover your legs and ankles when you go walking in environments with lots of grass coverage or woodland. Also, be sure to check over any exposed skin when you return from being outdoors in the UK. A pair of tweezers or a tick removal tool can help you get ticks off fast if you do find you’ve fallen victim.

European adder

adder
Image by James Common from Pixabay

Anyone who’s ever ventured out into the great wilds of Britain should know all about the adder. It’s probably the nation’s most feared creature. With good reason, too – a whopping century of attacks are recorded every year, give or take. Fatal incidents are very rare indeed, with the last death from adder attacks coming way back in 1975. To put that into perspective, The Carpenters and Barry Manilow were still blazing the charts when the snake last killed!

The adder is actually the UK’s only venomous snake. It occurs all over Wales, Scotland and England, but isn’t found in Northern Ireland (St. Patrick drove all the sliders out of the Emerald Isle, remember?). Despite their distinctive look – a length of 60cm, alternating beige-and-black patterning on the back, edged snouts – folk often mistake these guys for the humble slow worm.

The bite from the common European adder is considered to be pretty mellow compared to other species of viper. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it can still cause localised swelling, necrosis of the flesh, and intense pain at the site of contact. Sometimes, amputation of the bitten limb will also be required. Other patients report taking up to one year to fully recover. Gnarly stuff, eh?

Weever fish

weever fish
Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Small but potentially painful, the weever fish is the bane of the British seaside holidaymaker. With a max length of 20-30cm, these small swimmers inhabit the shore waters around the UK from tip to toe. They are most common in the North Sea and the Atlantic, and often pop up in popular vacation spots like Cornwall and along the Norfolk coast.

Unlike a jellyfish, you don’t need to touch the weever fish to get stung. They come to you. Brandishing, long, needle-like spines all down their back, they can inflict a searing pain straight into the flesh. That said, most stings result from people standing on weever fish without proper foot protection, usually in sandy or muddy shallows.

Treatment for a weever fish sting is about getting the wound submerged in hot water. High-temperature H2O is thought to break down the main components of the venom and prevent it from acting strongly on the site of infection. The height of the pain occurs in the half an hour or so following an attack and subsides from then on.

Deer

deer
Image by Lubos Houska from Pixabay

Think deer, think elegant forest dwellers that every countryside explorer simply loves to see. It’s rare to associate these handsome, four-legged ruminant mammals with danger. However, follow the stats and you’ll see that they’re actually up there with the most dangerous animals in the UK.

As with bees and ticks, it’s not so much what a deer can do to you but rather what results from what it does. In this instance, it’s all about car crashes. Stray deer are thought to cause around 50,000 incidents with vehicles per annum. Not many of those end up being fatal, but we’re talking in the region of 20 deaths each year!

Of course, you can cut your risk of becoming a victim of the proverbial deer in the headlights by taking it slow on country roads. That’s especially important when it’s dark outside, and in the winter, when breaking distances are reduced thanks to latent ice on the tarmac surface.

Cows

cows
Image by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay

Believe it or not, the great British heifer is right up there with the most dangerous animals in the UK. Yep, between 2008 and 2014, as many as 12 people were killed by these beasts of the farm fields. Those are stats worthy of something a lot more formidable if you ask us, and even contribute to making cows potentially the single most deadly creature in Old Blighty.

Most of the time cows are docile grass eaters who prefer to moo, graze and laze away their days. However, throw in the maternal instinct when there’s a new-born calf around and things can get hairy fast. Females are known to be pretty territorial when they have young, and often come into human contact on right-of-way paths across pastures. The final blow is usually dealt by a kick or a charge, but there have also been reports of deaths occurring after a stampede a la The Lion King.

Considering that these islands are home to nearly 10 million cattle individuals, a couple of incidents each year is probably to be expected. That said, walkers and countryside goers can mitigate the risk of getting on the wrong side of a British cow. Steer clear of going too close to cattle who are protecting young. Always keep your dog on the lead around herds. Oh, and don’t stray off marked paths when you’re out and about.

Bees

bees
Image by Anja from Pixabay

Bees are actually one of the most important components of the British ecosystem. A lot has been said in recent years about declining bee numbers. In fact, some estimations have it that around a third of the islands’ total population of buzzers is at risk of disappearing. That would have an immense effect on agriculture and the food chain by hindering pollination processes.

So, we need bees, but they can be dangerous…An estimated eight to a dozen people die every year after receiving a sting from a bee or its similar fliers, the hornet and the wasp. That’s not usually down to the sting itself, which is a sharp pinprick sensation that can give pulsing pains at the site of contact. It’s more down to the anaphylactic shock that causes suffocation in people with certain allergies.

What is the deadliest animal in the UK?

dangerous cows uk
Image by Frank Winkler from Pixabay

It’s pretty hard to track what animal is the deadliest in the country. That’s because a lot of the most dangerous animals in the UK are actually only dangerous because they cause other things that can be damaging and even potentially fatal. That’s true of ticks, for example, who are a known carrier of Lyme Disease.

If you focus on the stats and look at deaths caused directly by animal action, then you might be in for a surprise. Yep, a milk-covered, moo-worthy surprise. The reason? Cows regularly top the bill as the most dangerous animals in the UK. They mainly attack in the calving season (which is typically springtime, but could vary) because they’ve felt threatened around their young. Most incidents involve stampedes or kicks and can often be avoided by following proper countryside protocols.

Are there wolves in UK?

Nope. There are currently no wolves in the wild in the UK. There was a time when they were widespread across the islands. Historical documents dating the Roman era show that packs roamed all across England and the borders with Wales. In fact, wolves were so successful in the UK that the Anglo-Saxon kings imposed a tribute of 300 pelts annually throughout the 10th century!

Norman lords would go on to organise regular wolf hunts and actively try to cut wolf populations in their territories. Meanwhile, James VI of Scotland created a series of shelters to protect travelers and couriers from wolf attacks on the highways north of the border.

These days, the closest thing you’ll get to a wolf in the UK is a trip to the Longleat Safari Park. However, there is talk of potentially reintroducing wolves as part of a re-wilding project, with the Scottish Highlands leading the way as a location candidate.

Are there crocodiles in UK?

crocodile
Image by Raik Thorstad from Pixabay

Sorry if you were expecting an unequivocal, go-paddle-in-the-river ‘no’ right about now. Sadly, experts aren’t really sure if there are crocs in the UK or not. Reported sightings in Norfolk and Bristol have raised concerns that the great Jurassic snappers do sometimes stray into the home of fish and chips. What’s more, ecologists generally agree that the UK has the right climate and habitat for crocs to make their home.

However – and it’s a big however – there’s no doubt that any populations of crocs in the British Isles are super small. They aren’t common around the country and the only place you can really plan on coming face to face with their glinting teeth is in a zoo.

To sum up: Dangerous animals in the UK

There’s nothing even close to the slithering snakes of Thailand or the roaring lions of South Africa in Old Blighty. However, we’d stop short of saying that there aren’t any dangerous animals in the UK. There are…

From the diminutive tick that carries debilitating Lyme Disease to the buzzing bee capable of inducing anaphylactic shock, our formidable natural foes go right down to the pint-sized. Also be wary of cattle in all its forms, from bulls to females nursing calves, not to mention deer that can hop, unexpectedly, in front of the headlights. On top of all that, you’ve got a snake or two to raise concern, and darting weever fish, which can turn that seaside jaunt to Dorset into something very painful indeed!

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