Australia’s Killer Creatures and Death

How many people die?

Yes, Australia is an extremely scary place, isn’t it, how can you possibly expect to survive? Well, so far I have and I’ve been here since 2007! Not bad eh?

grizzly bearSeriously, I know we’ve got snakes, spiders, sharks, crocodiles, killer jellyfish and a whole host of other venomous critters, but look on the bright side. At least we don’t get lions, tigers, elephants, grizzly bears or hippopotamus.

Now let’s really get serious. Fear of Australia’s creatures shouldn’t even be a consideration. Let’s look at the facts, as at 2011 when I created this page:

  • Snakes: With 41 recorded deaths between 1980 and 2009, snake deaths in Australia average out at less than two per year.
  • Spiders: Nobody in Australia has died from a spider bite since 1979 after the successful introduction of antivenom for all native species. Update: In 2016, Jayden Burleigh was widely reported in the media as having died following a redback spider bite. A severe abscess had formed under his left arm affecting his glands. He was treated in hospital and released after four days with a course of antibiotics; he died two days later. A further complication was he was involved in a car accident a few weeks earlier and had only just recovered from his injuries. An official cause of death has never been recorded, as far as I’m aware. More from The Guardian.
  • Sharks*: Accounted for 25 deaths between 2000 and (March) 2012 in Australia, about 2 a year.
  • Crocodiles: Historically, crocodiles account for less than one death per year here in Australia, although that is increasing slightly as the crocodile population rises following the ban on crocodile hunting in 1971.
  • Blue Ringed Octopus: Just 3 recorded deaths in the last century.
  • Stonefish: One unconfirmed death by stonefish in 1915.
  • Cone Snails: I could find no recorded deaths from cone snails in Australia whatsoever. Update: I stand corrected here. If you check the comments below, on December 22, 2016 K.Glasheen describes how Charles Garbutt, in 1935, died after being stung by a cone snail. I did find confirmation of this online, so we need to amend the figures for this critter; let’s call it one death in about 100 years.
  • Killer Jellyfish: Jellyfish account for (at time of writing) 66 deaths since records began in 1883. The box jellyfish was responsible for 64 deaths, and the Irukandji the other two. It sounds a lot, but still less than one death per year, more like just half a death per year.

* Updated 5.4.12. with latest shark death figures.

There, I think I’ve covered them all. Equalising it out, Australia’s dangerous creatures kill about five people a year.

If I’ve missed anything out, got anything wrong, or if anyone has an update on these figures, please do comment below.

Australia’s worst killers!

  • Here in Australia, about 20 people a year die from horse riding accidents.
  • Around 10 people per year in Australia die from European Honey Bee stings after going into anaphylactic shock.
  • And around 300 people a year drown.

So the best advice I would give anyone about staying safe in Australia would be nothing to do with avoiding scary creatures. It would be “swim between the flags” if you are going to take a dip in the sea.

Does that put it into perspective?

Thinking of moving to Australia but scared of snakes?

Check out this link:

More useful links:

I have loads of posts about Australia’s wildlife; in fact I have an entire category about them called Australia’s Bad Things.

Yes, initially it was supposed to be about all things bad, but the more I got to know about Australia’s wildlife, the more I realised that most of it just adds to the sheer beauty of life in Australia.

But here are some of the posts specifically about Australia’s killers….

Of course, the world’s ‘biggest’ killer critter is the tiny mosquito. We have those too and they are a whole lot worse than all the above put together. But nobody says ” Don’t go to Australia, they got mosquitoes!” do they? You can read more about mosquitoes here…….

Had enough yet? No! Good, because I’ve got a couple more for you. Firstly, it was my privilege to be bitten by a Redback spider…….

And secondly, I was honoured when a snake, yes, a real live snake, wandered into my house…..

And don’t forget to swim between the flags!

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{ 179 comments… add one }
  • Claire February 4, 2019, 9:14 pm |

    Someone died from a spider bite in 2016.

    • BobinOz February 5, 2019, 8:04 pm |

      Yes, I am aware of this incident, it was a young man called Jayden Burleigh, and every now and then I Google “Jayden Burleigh cause of death”, but no results of any substance come up, no coroner’s report, nothing.

      The reason I’m searching is because there were complications; he was bitten by a redback spider, an abscess formed, he was treated in hospital and released after four days with a course of antibiotics. He died two days later. A further complication was he was involved in a car accident a few weeks earlier and had only just recovered from his injuries.

      That was back in 2016, here we are three years later, there are plenty of suggestions in the media that the spider caused the death, but the truth is, as far as I’m aware, nobody knows for sure. For more, see…

      If ever I were to come across an official announcement attributing Jayden’s death to the spider bite, I will certainly update this page to reflect that, but that hasn’t happened yet. If anyone knows anything about this case, I’d love to hear from them.

      If I don’t hear anything, then I’ll probably update this post in a couple of months with the same information I’ve included in this comment.

      Thanks for reminding me of this Claire, cheers, Bob

  • VR April 20, 2018, 2:34 am |
    • BobinOz April 20, 2018, 6:26 pm |

      Yes, I’m aware of the Jayden Burleigh case from 2016, and I have been waiting patiently for the official cause of death, but it still hasn’t been announced as far as I’m aware.

      I know there were some unusual circumstances in his case, apparently he’d been involved in a motor accident a couple weeks before getting bitten, then he spent four days in hospital being treated for the bite before being given antibiotics for an abscess under his arm and being sent home.

      He then died a few days later, but most people say it remains unclear what the true cause was. If anyone has any updates on it, I’d love to hear from them.

  • Ronelle Welton February 3, 2017, 2:02 pm |
    • BobinOz February 3, 2017, 7:24 pm |

      Two excellent articles Ronelle, you’ve gathered some fascinating data. I am constantly trying to tell people not to worry about our critters as they are nowhere near as bad as people think.

      Your findings prove that to be the case.

      So many people are put off of Australia because of our spiders and snakes, but as you have proved, they should be more scared of bees, hornets and wasps.

      Thanks for providing the links, I might well quote some of your findings on an article here on this website, if that’s okay with you? I will obviously credit you and include a link.

  • Chaz January 26, 2017, 10:49 pm |

    And 1300 people die in road fatalities.

    Every single one of which is easily avoidable.

  • Mark Ritchie January 26, 2017, 6:38 pm |

    By far the greatest killer animal in Australia is the “motorist modernica(r)”. According to official statistics from the Department Of Infrastructure And Rural Development [AU] 1,300 people lost their lives on Australia’s roads in 2016. This equates to 5.4 people per 100,000.

    That is not the worst of it: around twice that number die each year from suicide.

    • BobinOz January 27, 2017, 6:50 pm |

      Sorry, even though the figures are bad, I can’t allow it on account that a car isn’t a critter. I agree with you though that the road death rate here is too high, see…

      It is an old post, the figures are out of date, but I do know that even today the deaths on our roads are far too high.

  • Vítor Ferreira January 25, 2017, 10:36 pm |

    Hi Bob and all the followers. First of all, ´cos this is my first post, here, i ‘d like to congratulate you Bob. This is an extraordinary site for those who want to know mora about Australia. I’m one of them…
    And what about the world’s deadliest bird – the cassowary?
    thank you,

  • neonsignal January 22, 2017, 1:35 pm |

    Also check out the jack jumper ant. There have been several deaths due to anaphylatic reactions (in Tasmania, where they are most prevalent).

    • BobinOz January 23, 2017, 6:24 pm |

      Yes, I have mentioned the Jack jumper ant a couple of times in other posts on this website, but I haven’t as yet written a whole post about the ant. Having just read up on it again, maybe I should.

      As you say, it has been the cause of several deaths, most notably in Tasmania. It’s a scary critter for sure.

  • K. Glasheen December 22, 2016, 10:00 am |

    There has been a recorded death from a cone shell(conus geographus) in 1935 @Whitehaven Beach North Queensland one Charles Garbutt an Uncle of mine.The actual shell was in the Queensland Museum for a number of years.

    • BobinOz December 23, 2016, 9:07 pm |

      Thank you, I stand corrected. Armed with your uncle’s name, I soon found a reference to his death following a cone snail sting back in 1935. There are though only, from what I found, a couple of articles about it, so I’m sure you can see how difficult it would have been for me to try and find it without his name.

      Thanks for providing me with this information, I am now going to make an amendment to the above.

  • Jim Walker July 13, 2016, 1:42 pm |

    So Aussies are scared of Fruit bats? Rubbish but most detest them because – they are prolific breeders they roost in BIG colonies thousands at a time, They sterilize the ground beneath the roost trees and they stink. They screech at dusk & dawn but worst they destroy $ millions a year of fruit, a lot of which was for export. Australia feed 70 million people a year, not bad for a colony! Provided the bats haven’t killed the trees.

  • jess June 10, 2016, 10:28 am |

    Hi bob, I have followed your site for a few years now and its great, thank you.
    We are British expats who have been living in Auckland NZ for a decade now, kids born here etc. However, we are thinking its time to move on and we like Brisbane but the snakes and spiders are really worrying me. If you install sheet metal fencing to the ground, spray the house in and out for spiders regularly how likely are we to come across something at our house/garden?
    Is there anything we can do to stop them coming in the yard so the kids can play without shoes etc? Are there suburbs that are less likely to have dangerous animals? At the moment we like to look of Redcliffe, Clontarf and Bribie island. Thanks Jess.

    • BobinOz June 10, 2016, 9:11 pm |

      Well, firstly, having a pest control treatment to your house regularly, I have mine done once a year, is very effective. I hardly see any spiders at all in my house, and if I do, it’s normally towards the end of the treatment, most usually in the 12th month.

      It’s how I am reminded to get it done again.

      A snake proof fence though, that is a little trickier, although not impossible. If you Google it I think some people do claim it can be done, but I think it does involve the fence extending under the ground for whole length of it, can’t remember how deep and no overhanging trees.

      I suppose, as a rule of thumb, the closer to the city centre you get, and the more concrete there is around, the fewer snakes there will be. But I wouldn’t let the existence of snakes govern your choice of suburb.

      By and large, snakes really don’t trouble us at all, they are very shy. Most people, me included, don’t even think about them at all. You might like to read the following post as well…

      Hope that helps, Bob

      • Jess June 12, 2016, 11:26 am |

        Thanks so much, that has helped put my mind at ease. I never thought I would be looking for as much concrete as possible in my house criteria lol but I will do now!

  • Jon Haugsand June 4, 2016, 8:59 pm |

    Thanks for this article and website. I have two comments. First I watched Stephen Fry on BBC and he mention the same fact on spiders, noone dies from the venom any more. However, a few dies every year in traffic accidents when freaking out finding one behind the sun screen. Shouldn’t this count as spider deaths?

    Secondly, how dangerous a thing is is dependent on the situation you are in. Given that most people doesn’t go hiking around crocodile habitats, it is interesting to assess the risk being one doing exacly that.


    • BobinOz June 6, 2016, 5:28 pm |

      I suppose the problem with those possible car crashes caused by spiders is there is usually no proof of what has happened. If somebody falls off of a horse, or gets charged at by a bull, it’s clear to see what has happened.

      But a spider in a car? Who would know? I take your point though.

      And yes, humans proximity to danger is an important factor, simply by not swimming in any of the seas around Australia you can eliminate quite a few potential dangers immediately. That’s why I like swimming pools 🙂

  • Caroline April 16, 2016, 2:41 pm |

    What about drop bears? Surely they’re the most lethal.

    • BobinOz April 16, 2016, 9:05 pm |

      Some things are best left unsaid Caroline. People need to be able to sleep at night, I don’t want to be the one to stop that from happening.

      Let’s move on.

  • Adran Brown April 13, 2016, 5:37 am |

    Bob. I’m an Aussie traveling around the world, talking to plenty if people. I get the same answer, often from educated folk ‘I’m not comming to Aus caus there’s too many dangerous. I’m developing a come-back to this. I ask them… Are you a logical person? & Do you smoke? … Strange looks… I repeat those simple figures you mention & the fact that 15,000 Australians die per year from smoking related causes… Sometimes they’re ready to think about it. Adrian

    • BobinOz April 13, 2016, 11:20 pm |

      Yes, Australia’s killer creatures reputation goes before it and it stretches worldwide. There are so many ways to die in every other country in the world, but apparently not in Australia. Here a critter will get you 🙂

  • Leslie Graham February 25, 2016, 4:39 pm |

    There are 36 recorded deaths from snail cones in the last 90 years.
    The article wasn’t clear whether this was in Australia or just in Queensland alone but I got the impression they were just talking about deaths in Queensland.
    Don’t go to Australia – apart from all the obvious dangers there are other reasons not to visit I can’t tell you about here or my comment would be deleted.

    • BobinOz February 25, 2016, 5:51 pm |

      If you are talking about my article about the comes now Leslie, the one that is linked in the above list articles, it was made quite clear that there were around 30 deaths worldwide from cone snails.

      And as is says above, ‘I could find no recorded deaths from cone snails in Australia whatsoever.’

      By the way, I only delete comments that are in breach of my comment policy and you can read that by clicking the link above the comment box any time you choose to make a one. So I’m not sure why you think I would delete your comments if all you want to do is offer your opinion.

  • Barbara Brindley February 19, 2016, 9:02 am |

    It’s quite incredible that bats (flying foxes) are not mentioned above because millions of people in Australia are terrified of them and demand they be culled, dispersed or by whatever means possible to get rid of them. However only 3 recorded deaths in the last 30+ years from the Lyssavirus in Australia (some say only 3 in approximately 200 years). Why are people so scared of them? It’s all to do with media scaremongering. There’s little or no positive media education about our vital night pollinators. There are vaccines for both the Lyssavirus and the Hendra virus. However approximately 200 children have died in a similar 30 yr period from drowning, there’s no vaccine for drowning. Domestic dogs in Australia kill more people than bats, and filicide (parents killing their own children) is responsible for approximately 27 babies/children dying every year (no vaccine for that either).

    • BobinOz February 19, 2016, 5:25 pm |

      Well, the reason flying foxes have not been mentioned in the above article is for the very reasons you’ve given yourself, they are not dangerous killers. I have to say, I disagree with your statement that millions of people in Australia are terrified of them. Cautious maybe, simply because they do carry that virus.

      People often want them moved on because they travel around in large groups and can be very noisy at night.

      They come and visit me once every year for a few weeks as they feed off of my tree. I’ve got a couple of videos, see…

      Flying foxes are okay by me, and I believe they are good for the environment, pollinating some of our trees.

      • Barbara Brindley February 19, 2016, 6:47 pm |

        Thanks for the reply BobinOz. I still believe millions of people are scared of them, having been in contact with SO many people over the years who despise them and just want them culled. It isn’t caution, it is unmitigated fear and hate, but the media do nothing to allow us the opportunity to educate people. There are 4.6m people in Qld, 7.5m in NSW and 1.2m in Adelaide (where most bat colonies are) and practically every Councillor, due to pressure from residents, has applied for a dispersal order to get rid of the bats, due to fear. In Cairns recently all the roosting trees around the town were cut down, and then the historic trees around the Novotel Oasis Hotel were chopped down to get rid of the bats, even the maternity trees were chopped down, despite tourists admitting they loved our bats and specifically stayed in Cairns so they could watch them fly out every night. In Charters Towers there have been approx 13 dispersals (none have been successful), and the costs are in the hundreds of thousand dollars each time. Even people in CT admit they kill the bats whenever they can, despite it being illegal. It’s extremely sad that we can’t educate the masses, and yes you are right flying foxes do pollinate some of our trees, ie. most of our native trees, including the Eucalyptus woodlands that our unique koalas depend on (ie. the koala placard “no tree no me”), and our rainforests around Australia where most of the trees and flowers can only be pollinated between midnight and 3am when only bats are about. Great to be part of your blog and thanks for the opportunity to comment.

        • BobinOz February 22, 2016, 4:44 pm |

          Thanks for the education, as you can see though from the links I provided in my previous comment, bats are always welcome in my back garden.

        • Leslie Graham February 25, 2016, 4:45 pm |

          I stayed in Cairns for a year and in Charters for about 6 months when I was travelling around Australia in my housebus. I concur that to foreing tourists like me the bats are fascinating and I loved to see the huge flocks of tens of thousands heading out from that park in Charters. I still have a picture of them on my computer here.
          I heard that about 50,000 bats literally dropped dead from the heat recently.
          As global warming is ramping up the temperatures to new record highs in Australia you might find that the bats cease to be a ‘problem’ altogether.

  • Elvis February 10, 2016, 4:45 pm |

    The only issue I have with this article is the apparent misunderstanding the Author has with the terms “Dangerous” and the terms “Deadly”
    It’s not always made perfectly clear, for example in youtube lists, what the difference is.
    The best distinction that can be made is that deadly animals are just that, deadly. They have the highest kill counts. This is not necessarily because they are most powerful or venomous. It is often due to the aggressive nature of these animals.
    Dangerous, from what I can gather, is the potential to be fatal for humans.
    Using the Cone shell as an example. The cone shell is insanely venomous. Its venom could kill multiple humans. But as stated above it lacks the aggression (Or human stupidity) to acquire a significant kill count. This qualifies it for most venomous and most dangerous categories.
    Some of the most dangerous animals in the world are not the most deadly. If you were to look up any list you can see the difference.

    • BobinOz February 10, 2016, 6:46 pm |

      Interesting to hear your thoughts Elvis, but I’ve had a quick scan of my own article and unless I missed anything I’ve only used the word ‘dangerous’ four times, just once in the article and a further three times in links to other posts, all correctly as far as I’m concerned.

      I’ve not used the word ‘deadly” at all. I am, I can assure you, aware of the difference between the two words.

  • dub allard December 10, 2015, 7:42 am |

    thanks bob that helped me. I’ve been watching “72 dangerous animals Australia” and it kind of freaked me out, so thanks

    • BobinOz December 10, 2015, 9:32 pm |

      We’ve got 72 of them? Wow, now I’m freaked out 🙂

      • dub allard December 11, 2015, 11:42 am |

        and 90 percent of them are native to the land 😉

        • BobinOz December 11, 2015, 9:13 pm |

          I’ve made a note to check out that list, I want to know which ones I’ve missed out!

          • dub allard December 11, 2015, 10:29 pm |

            just go on Netflix and look up 72 and it should pop up (its a great show)

            • BobinOz December 14, 2015, 6:47 pm |

              Thanks for that, I have now added it to my list on Netflix.

  • Vaibhav Vyas October 17, 2015, 5:50 am |

    Wow this really pulls the pressure off my system. I saw some posts where people were constantly telling how dangerous can Australia be but now I am relieved.
    So what percentage of population live in dessert ?
    Since they have higher chances of an encounter with these deadly reptiles, animals and spiders.

    • BobinOz October 19, 2015, 4:43 pm |

      Yes, not as bad as all that after all, is it? I’m not sure what you mean by the desert exactly, but the vast majority of Australians live in major towns or cities. I don’t know the exact percentage, but I would have said less than 10%, maybe as low as 5%, live in what we call the outback.

      • dub allard December 10, 2015, 7:44 am |

        wow can i use this for my school project?

        • BobinOz December 10, 2015, 9:34 pm |

          Of course, but as you know, you must always quote your sources, even in homework. I know that because my daughter has to reference wherever she gets her information from. But by all means, feel free to use it.

          • dub allard December 11, 2015, 11:09 am |


  • Adi September 6, 2015, 8:32 am |

    Sorry, that comment was intended for this page:

    • BobinOz September 7, 2015, 10:45 am |

      That’s OK Adi, the comment is fine here. Australia’s reputation for having killer creatures and being a dangerous place because of them is vastly overstated, or, to put it another way, its bark is worse than its bite.

      As Mike has said, taking into account the gun fatalities in the US, Australia is a much safer place all round.

      • Mike Puleston October 2, 2015, 7:19 am |

        Another 13 people killed in a US college shooting yesterday.

        As far as I know, there have never been any school or college shootings in Australia.

        You are FAR FAR FAR more likely to be killed by a gun-toting loonie on an educational site in the USA than you are by a critter in the Oz bush.

        • BobinOz October 2, 2015, 1:20 pm |

          Yes, another shocking and senseless waste of many young lives. When will it stop?

  • Adi September 6, 2015, 8:30 am |

    Wow! Having heard so much about how most of the most venomous snake species live in Australia, I was surprised to find out that there are fewer deaths from snake bites per year in Australia than in the United States. Given that North America overall has the least venomous snakes of all continents except Antarctica and on average only 5-6 people per year are killed by snakes in the United States, my first reaction was “Come on, this guy has to be either grossly misinformed or lying his head off to promote tourism.” So I researched it, and found that in fact the average number of snake bite fatalities per year in Australia is approximately 2.

    To be fair, keep in mind that the population of the United States is about 13 times as large as Australia’s, so Australia has 4-5 times more snake bite deaths per capita. However, that’s still surprising considering its reputation for being teeming with deadly snakes.

    • Mike Puleston September 6, 2015, 10:02 am |

      What worried me when I travelled in the USA last year was not snakes but guns. On a per capita basis, the USA has ten times the number of gun fatalities as has Australia. We certainly did hear guns blazing away near a campground where we were staying, so we didn’t take a hike. Pity- it was beautiful country. Apparently Walmart sells brightly coloured clothing that you can wear in the woods to reduce the risk of a drunken hunter mistaking you for a moose, squirrel etc.

  • mike puleston July 21, 2015, 7:22 am |

    Hi Dudette. The most dangerous things in Sydney are the politicians. Avoid them, and you’ll be fine…But seriously, I grew up in Sydney, and rarely saw a snake, and then only twice in the bush in 20 years. Yes, you’ll see some spiders, but not any dangerous ones, unless you go poking around under houses or stick your fingers into rock ledges.

    • BobinOz July 21, 2015, 9:00 pm |

      Couldn’t agree more Mike 🙂

  • Dudette July 20, 2015, 10:08 pm |

    I want to make a study year in Sydney. Im so afraid of snakes and spiders 😀 🙁
    How is it in Sydney? Are there many snakes and spiders? :S 🙁

    • BobinOz July 21, 2015, 8:59 pm |

      I don’t know the exact number :-), but yes, there are snakes and spiders in Sydney, there are snakes and spiders everywhere in Australia. Don’t worry about it though, you could live here for years without seeing the snake, and thanks to pest control, I see fewer spiders in my house here than I ever did back in the UK.

      Anyway, you’ll be so busy concentrating on your studying you won’t give it a thought 🙂

  • Ayşe Salier June 19, 2015, 4:07 pm |

    Hi I’m eleven and I live in Oz and I’ve never seen a wild

    > Croc
    >Snake (Dangerous)
    >Shark (big)
    or even a Red-Back!!
    But I’ve seen a drop bear!
    LoL I’m kidding there’s no such thing!
    I don’t see why Oz is scary!?

    • BobinOz June 20, 2015, 12:40 am |

      Exactly Ayşe, that’s the very point I’m trying to make here. Australia isn’t scary at all, people just think it is. There are plenty of countries scarier than this place, that’s for sure.

      A lot of adults are scared of coming here because of the snakes, spiders and other critters, hopefully they will read your comment and think “if someone who is 11 can deal with it, surely I can as well?”

      Thanks for helping out here, Bob

      • Patricia Anne August 1, 2016, 11:38 am |

        I saw a picture of a Drop Bear and I decided that I cannot go. In the San Francisco Bay area, we have Eucalyptus trees and Acacia trees. I ‘d be afraid even in Melbourne or Adelaide, two places that I thought I’d like to visit to even walk in a public park, they might pounce on ME! If I am being silly for.a young senior please advise. I think that autumn ( your harvest and wine season) in March would be a great time to visit.What are my safety chances?

    • jess August 1, 2016, 9:21 pm |

      lol, now you have me researching drop bears! No kidding, feeling much better about it all now. Probably won’t even get the super snake fence installed ?

      • BobinOz August 2, 2016, 1:07 am |

        All Australians everywhere have a kind of collective unwritten agreement, we do not mention the Drop Bears. So please, can we change the subject? I don’t want the nightmares to return.

        If we can all just act as though Drop Bears don’t exist? It’s the Australian way, please toe the line.

        Thank you 🙂

  • mike puleston April 28, 2015, 6:05 am |

    I feel a lot safer in the Australian bush or sea than I do on British motorways. They are really scarey places!

    • BobinOz April 28, 2015, 11:14 pm |

      Surfing off the coast of WA versus driving around the M25?

      Yes, me too, I’ll take the ocean 🙂 Or the outback, all day long.

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