Visiting the Dominican Republic is the desire of many around the world, and no wonder. This country has gorgeous all-inclusive resorts, radiant sun, beautiful blue beaches and fine white sand. However, a this nation is not free of risks as there are dangerous animals in the Dominican Republic you must watch out for.
Some of these creatures can even cause fatal bites, although it is rare. While none of the dangerous animals in the Dominican Republic that we share with you should stop you from visiting, it is important to know about them before visiting.
1. Sea Urchins
Sea urchins can be found in many tropical areas, and are seen commonly on Juan Dolio and Boca Chica beaches, close to Santo Domingo.
Sea urchins have long sharp thorns, and walking on one of these spikes by accident can cause severe pain. The thorns often break off in the skin and infection can then occur if not removed.
You’ll have to be careful not to step on sea urchins that have been washed ashore when walking along the beach or in the water. Although they tend to be found more often than not in rocky regions of the beach.
2. Brown Recluse (Violin Spider)
The Brown Recluse is broadly spread throughout the Americas, with more than 40 species known. Its bite can cause severe harm or even death in the case of children or elderly adults due to its cytotoxic poison.
In fact its poison can be 15 times more deadly than the king cobra and can damage the liver and bile ducts.
This spider, also known as a “Violin Spider,” does tend to be shy and passive though and thankfully doesn’t seek out humans, but will rather run from them.
However Brown Recluse bites require immediate medical attention. If possible, capture the offending spider in a clear, airtight container. It may help doctors make a positive identification for treatment purposes. (Recommended: Dangerous Spiders in the Dominican Republic).
3. The Brown Widow and Black Widow
The brown widow (Latrodectus geometricus) and the black widow (Latrodectus mactans) are two spiders of the Theridiidae class. They possess glands that create a poison that is extremely powerful and one that can be fatal to humans.
The black widow has larger glands which generates more venom than the brown widow, which tends to make it the more dangerous of the two.
Thankfully, it’s rare for people to be bitten by either widow spider as they are timid arachnids. As of writing there has been no official death in the Dominican Republic due to the bite of these spiders, although unfortunately that’s not true for elsewhere in the world.
4. Portuguese Man o’ War
This creature resides in warm waters throughout the earth. It looks like a jellyfish but is actually made up of several small organisms that form a colony to create this creature.
Its poison possesses cytotoxic, neurotoxic, and cardiotoxic effects, and when stung it will create marks that look like wounds and you will likely be in severe pain. In some cases people have died after being stung by a Portuguese Man o’ War.
Sightings have been recorded in various parts of the Dominican Republic, although stings are rare. It’s the tentacles that you have to watch out for, as they can extend out to 30 feet from the main body. So if you can see one of these dangerous animals in the Dominican Republic you’re too close!
5. Wild Mongoose
The wild mongoose is a species carried from Asia to the Dominican Republic decades ago to deal with a growing rat population. They are ferocious hunters and did a great job of killing off rats, but they’ve also destroyed much of the local species too, such as endemic snakes.
This animal is not venomous, but it is dangerous because its bite can carry infections, including leptospirosis and rabies. They are shy creatures but tend to be aggressive when they sense their home is in danger.
Still, mongoose are pretty shy and don’t seek out humans, and can usually only be seen in woodland or uninhabited grassy regions.
Like the wild mongoose, the raccoon is not a venomous mammal. But, it is regarded as dangerous because it can spread various viruses such as leptospirosis and rabies, as well as transmit worms or nematodes that can harm people.
The racoon is an invasive species here and can mainly be found on Catalina island in the southeast of the country. Regardless of their calm appearance, travellers touring the island are urged not to go near or touch them.
Also called the upside-down jellyfish these creatures have many mouths to catch prey, and up to 40 secondary mouths on their arms! They are often observed in mangroves as well as out to sea.
What makes these jellyfish unique – and worth keeping an eye out for – is that they release clouds of stingers that roam the sea around them ready to sting potential prey. That’s why swimmers and snorkelers can often get stung even if they are at a distance from this jellyfish.
The sting shouldn’t do any long lasting damage but can be pretty painful, and may be a worry for anyone who tends to have issues with allergies.
8. Cane Toad
These animals were brought from Central America to the Dominican Republic to manage pests in cane plantations, and have taken over since.
When this toad feels in danger, they discharge a powerful poison from the organs behind their eyes and back. That poison can be deadly to predators, but only to people if it’s ingested. So if you touch this dangerous animal in the Dominican Republic make sure you wash your hands straight away and thoroughly.
9. Paper Wasp
The large paper wasp that you find in the Dominican Republic, called a ‘Horse Wasp’ in the country, can be quite aggressive if they sense any danger in their surroundings.
This wasp will sting as many times as it thinks is needed to ward off a threat, and so multiple stings can not only be painful but also pose a threat for anyone with allergies. While they don’t seek confrontation with humans, they will attack if you disturb their nest.
10. Amazonian Giant Centipede
This centipede is the stuff of nightmares and is the largest centipede in the world. Growing to upwards of 30cm in length, this carnivore discharges poison to catch its prey, and there’s been at least one known case of its bite killing a human.
This huge centipede has been known to kill and eat snakes and even bats, but if you are bitten by one it shouldn’t create any long lasting damage. Still the bite will be painful, and it would be recommended to seek medical attention. An easy addition to our dangerous animals in the Dominican Republic list.
11. Hispaniolan Giant Tarantula
The Hispaniolan Giant Tarantula is one of the largest spider species in Latin America and it makes its home in the Dominican Republic!
These giant spiders exhibit violent hunting behavior and have long powerful fangs. When hunting, they shake hairs from their abdomen and stick them into skin, causing massive irritation.
They use their fangs to inject venom into their prey. The venom paralyzes their prey and begins to break down tissue. They eat by sucking out the softened insides of their prey.
When facing a person, they’re more likely to flee than to fight. However, they do occasionally bite humans. Their bite is extremely painful, but it rarely causes serious complications.
There are 45 scorpion species in the Dominican Republic, of which 42 are endemic. Scorpions possess a sting with venom at their tail’s tip, which they use to capture prey and protect themselves. They can often be found under stones, in hollowed out wood, leaf litter, and hidden in dark corners of homes and buildings.
A scorpion’s sting is rarely lethal, but it can be very painful and may need medical attention. Some scorpion stings, though rare, can cause heart or respiratory failure a few hours after the attack.
13. Southern Stingray
These animals live in the subtropical and tropical waters of the Caribbean and the Atlantic Ocean. This stingray has a six-inch sting or spike at the tip of its long tail which it utilizes for protection. When not on the move it tends to stay motionless, partly hidden in the sand under water.
Being stung by one of these animals is excruciating, and while docile creatures, stingrays will attack if they are accidentally stepped on or if people provoke them.
The injury can be deep and the venom can cause fainting, swelling, tissue damage, and in rare cases, even death.
Lionfish are present everywhere on the island at various depths. While they are generally not an aggressive fish, they do act in self defence and have large venomous spikes on its fins that can produce significant pain.
Being stung by a lionfish can lead to respiratory paralysis, fever, and heart failure. They’re actually regarded as a pest by many around the world, as they’re very good at re-populating and taking resources from endemic species.
However these fish are actually known for being very tasty, and when cooked correctly, they are a great ethical seafood dish as reducing lionfish populations in places like the Dominican Republic can help other fish species thrive.
15. Mata Cacata
This black species of wasp has a pretty metallic sheen to it, but don’t be too mesmerised by its appearance. These wasps are nicknamed ‘tarantula killers’ as they sting these massive spiders to paralyse them, and then use the spider as feed for their larvae.
The sting from one of these wasps is regarded as one of the most severe stings and bites in the world, and has been compared to the sting of the notorious bullet ant – so named due to the pain caused by its bite. Easily one of the most dangerous animals in the Dominican Republic!
16. Moray eels
Moray eels are shy creatures, but can bite people when they feel threatened. They are often only reached by scuba divers, so most visiting the Dominican Republic won’t meet any.
It’s not recommended to go near or touch them because not only is their bite painful, but there’s often germs and bacteria covering their teeth which can spread viruses.
17. Tiger Shark
Tiger Sharks can grow to almost 17 feet and weigh 1,400 lbs, so along with being extremely aggressive animals, they are very big and capable of causing a lot of damage. They can be identified by the dark stripes down their body that look like a tiger.
Outside of the Great White Shark, Tiger Sharks are considered the most aggressive and dangerous sharks in the world. They account for the second most attacks and fatalities of any shark species on the planet.