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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{ 148 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…

      https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/apr/12/sydney-man-dies-after-redback-spider-bite

      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…

      https://www.bobinoz.com/blog/2353/australia-vs-england-road-safety/

      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,
    Vítor

  • 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.

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