Britain is the last place you would think of when it comes to dangerous wildlife, with nothing really that scary or exciting like some of the man-eating beasts you might encounter in other countries. For instance, no one has ever been mauled to death by a tiger whilst out enjoying a summers day picnic. There have been no shark attacks whilst splashing in the surf at one of Britains famous coastal resorts. And when skimming stones at the edge of one of Cumbria’s majestic lakes, no one has ever been dragged off by a 20ft crocodile. In fact it all seems perfectly safe, and most of the time it is.
However, lurking in the green grass of that innocent looking countryside are not only things that can ruin your day, but things that can seriously change your life and even prove fatal, especially if you don’t know what to look out for. Therefore, here we list the main animals and creatures that can pose a real danger to the good people of Britain and anyone who should be visiting, with tips on how to survive and what to do in an emergency in the unlikey event that you fall victim to one of Britain’s Deadliest Animals.
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These tiny little critters (2 – 4mm) live in the long grass and woodlands throughout Britain, with hotspots in the Highlands of Scotland, and in Southern England, and although most of them are harmless, a large number of them can be infected with the bacteria that causes Lyme disease – a sometimes devastating tick-borne disease that can result in chronic fatigue, confusion, pain, depression, loss of memory, and sometimes even death, especially if left undiagnosed as it can eventually move into the heart, brain and nervous system. It is therefore hugely important to check for ticks after walking in areas where they are likely to live, such as grass and woodlands, especially places populated by other animals such as deer and sheep.
How to prevent tick bites & tick removal -
- Use a chemical repellent containing DEET. It is best to use a repellent on your skin (if safe to - always check the label!), clothes, and shoes.
- Avoid tick infested areas and stick to footpaths when possible, staying out of the long grass where ticks lay in wait at knee height ready to attach themselves to a host.
- Cover your skin with light coloured clothing so ticks are easier to see and brush off, and whilst outdoors tuck your trousers into your socks and wear a hat.
- Don’t forget to check yourself, your children, and your pets thoroughly for ticks, especially after a walk, and carefully remove any ticks with tweezers or a tick-removal tool, grabbing it as close to the skin as possible, being careful not to squeeze or crush the tick as this can make it more difficult to remove it entirely. Clean the bite location with antiseptic or/and soap and water.
Signs of Lyme Disease –
- A red rash around the tick bite which is often like a bullseye on a dart board, however not everyone gets the rash, and it can take up to 3 months to appear, though most appear within the first 4 weeks.
- A high temperature, or feeling hot and shivery.
- Headaches, muscle and joint pain.
- Tiredness and a loss of energy.
Please visit a GP if you have any symptoms at all and have been bitten by a tick or have visited an area where infected ticks are known to live.
Facts and Figures
Around 10% of ticks have the bacteria that can cause Lyme disease. It is estimated that around 3,000 people contract Lyme disease in the UK every year.
Sources - https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/lyme-disease/ https://www.countrylife.co.uk/nature/lyme-disease-15-things-need-know-177249
#2 European Adder
There are 3 types of snake in Britain - The Grass snake, The Adder, and the much rarer Smooth snake. However, the Adder is the only venomous one, with the other two being completely harmless to humans.
ADDER BITES (50 - 100 people a year)
Adder bites are quite rare as they are very shy creatures. Sensitive to vibration they will often slip away out of sight before most people get chance to see them. However if they are cornered, grabbed, or trodden on they can and will bite, which can be very painful and will need medical attention immediately as there have been a number of fatalities over the years, with 14 recorded deaths since records began in 1876, with the last known fatality being in 1975.
Around 50 - 100 people get bitten by an Adder each year in Great Britain. Pets (dogs especially) are just as likely to get bitten also.
HOW TO TELL ITS AN ADDER
Adders are distinguished by a dark zigzagging line down their back, against a grey or light brown body. They also have a 'V' or 'X' shaped marking on their head.
If the snake is green-grey with a yellow collar, and dark bands on its sides (not on its back) then its probably a Grass snake, which are much more common in most parts of Britain. However it's best to stay well back just in case!
WHAT TO DO IF BITTEN
- Stay calm. Most bites are not serious and can be easily treated. However do not underestimate it or delay in getting medical help. Dial 999 for an ambulance or get to your nearest medical center as quickly as you can.
- Try and keep the part of your body that was bitten as still as you can if possible.
- Lie in the recovery position if you can and whilst waiting for the ambulance.
- Take off any jewellery and loosen any clothes near the bite in case of swelling.
- Take paracetemol for any pain.
WHAT NOT TO DO -
- Do not go near the snake or try to kill it, as this could lead to multiple bites.
- Do not try to suck out the poison from the bite wound.
- Do not tie anything tightly around the body where the bite is.
- Do not take aspirin or ibuprufen as these can make the bleeding worse, stick to paracetemol only.
SYMPTOMS OF AN ADDER BITE
- Pain, redness and swelling in the area of the bite.
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dizziness and fainting.
SYMPTOMS IN PETS
Dogs are most commonly bitten on the legs or face. Here's what to look out for -
- Swelling around the bite wound, which can often be severe.
- Pain, bleeding, lameness, lethargy, nervousness, tremors, drooling and vomiting.
- Young dogs are more at risk, as they are often curious and playful, unaware of the dangers.
#3 Wasps, Hornets, and Bees
It is believed that bees, wasps, and hornets combined kill around 2 to 12 people a year in the UK, though the figure could be higher as some unknown sudden adult deaths could be attributed to insect stings/bites.
What causes these deaths is something called Anaphylactic Shock, where the body has a severe and life-threatening reaction to the venom of the sting. Sometimes within minutes (though it can be hours) the whole body is affected as it over reacts to the venom. Blood vessels widen causing a severe drop in blood pressure, an itchy raised rash (hives) can appear, and there is often a swelling of the tongue and throat making it very difficult for the victim to breathe.
Prevent Stings or Bites
- If you come across an insect that can sting such as a wasp or bee, try and remain calm, and move away slowly. Do not try and swat them or hit them as this can get them aggravated and increase the chance of getting stung.
- Keep skin covered by wearing long sleeves and trousers, and don’t walk around outside barefooted.
- Apply insect repellent to exposed skin. The ones that contain 50% DEET (diethyltoluamide) are the most effective.
- Avoid using strong perfumes, deodorants, soaps and shampoos.
- Be especially careful around outside bins, and areas where food and drink is served outside such as pub gardens or BBQ’s. These can be hotspots for wasps especially.
EMERGENCY MEDICAL HELP
Always seek emergency medical help (dial 999 or get to a hospital) if you or anyone else gets stung and begins experiencing any of the following symptoms -
- Wheezing or difficulty breathing
- Swelling of the throat, mouth or face.
- Difficulty in swallowing.
- A fast heart rate
- Dizziness, feeling faint, or sick.
- Loss of consciousness.
You should also phone for medical advice (dial 111) or visit your doctor if –
- Your worried about a sting or bite
- Your symptoms do not improve within a day or two.
- You have been stung or bitten on your throat or inside your mouth, or near your eyes.
- The sting becomes red and swollen, or begins to look infected such as containing pus.
- You become unwell such as developing a high temperature, swollen glands, or just generally unwell.
DIY Sting or Bite Care
- Remove the sting as fast as you can if it has been left in you, such as can be the case with a bee sting, as it will continue to pump poison into your body.
- Wash the sting area with soap and water.
- If any swelling occurs, use a cold compress such as an ice pack or even a bag of frozen peas! Keeping it applied for at least 10 minutes.
- Elevate or raise the affected area to help minimise swelling.
- Do not scratch the area as it can lead to serious infections.
- Ask your pharmacist for any medicines that can help, such as antihistamines to reduce the itching, sting relief creams and painkillers.
Deer are beautiful animals and it is a real treat to see them out in the wild in so many numbers again, and with the population believed to have doubled since 1999 to over 2 million deer (the highest number in a 1000 years), we are coming into contact with these beautiful animals more and more, often catching a glimpse of them at the edge of the road as we drive by, and this is where the main danger lies. For it is believed that road traffic accidents involving deer cost the lives of between 10 and 20 people a year, with around 74,000 traffic accidents per year involving this beautiful animal.
74,000 road traffic accidents a year involving deer is not to be taken lightly, and the best way to stop yourself becoming part of that growing statistic is to SLOW RIGHT DOWN, particularly on country roads and through woodland roads where they can suddenly jump out in front of you. They can be very hard to see in the verges, so the only way to avoid an accident is to slow right down and drive more carefully.
As much a part of the British countryside as anything else, Cows are hardly ever looked on as dangerous creatures, as they lumber around slowly, and lazily munch away on the grass to the beautiful backdrop of the British countryside. However, to ignore them and dismiss them as peaceful animals could be a fatal mistake as they are responsible for around 2 - 4 deaths per year, with around 80 deaths since the year 2000. They are especially dangerous when they have young calves to protect, and if you have a dog with you, and please note that some public footpaths can take you through land where cows roam freely, so always be on the look out.
When out walking in the countryside, try to avoid cows where possible, keeping out of fields where you see herds or individuals, especially when you see young calves along with the adults.
If you do find yourself in a field with wary cows, try to stay very calm, and back out or take a very wide berth. Do not make any sudden movements or noises.
Keep your dog on a lead, as dogs can cause the cows to become alarmed and to stampede. Most deaths have occurred when a person has had a dog with them. If they do charge, it may be best to release your hold of the dog lead, as it could be the dog they are targetting. The dog will outrun the cows but you won't, and you could end up being trampled to death when you could have both got away by simply letting go of the lead.
For more information and stories about cow attacks, visit the killer cows website.