Dangerous animals in Britain

Are shrews dangerous?

November 13th, 2010

Water shrews (Neomys fodiens), Britain’s largest native shrew, have a venomous bite used to paralyse freshwater shrimps, water slaters and caddis larvae. Although, the shrews’ teeth cannot penetrate human skin, the venom in their saliva can leave a rash. So not exactly dangerous… More from the BBC here

People killed by deer

November 13th, 2010

The British Deer Society estimates that annually as many as 75,000 deer are involved in collisions, causing ten human fatalities and many more injuries. BBC here

Killer cows

August 26th, 2009

British farmers and the Ramblers Association warned yesterday of the potential dangers posed by cows after a spate of attacks which have seen four people trampled to death by in just over eight weeks this summer.  The high figures are unusual: in the past eight years there have only been 18 deaths in total caused by cattle of all kinds – including bulls. The Independent

See also  Are cows dangerous? (“Figures reveal that attacks by cows are by no means unusual.)

Portuguese Man O’ War reach Cornwall

July 29th, 2009

A group of eight Portuguese Man O’ War were found strewn on Tregantle beach near Whitsand Bay. Experts say they expect more to be brought in by prevailing winds. Daily Telegraph. These creatures, which are not actually jellyfish but a species called siphonophores, live in warmer waters than those around the UK but global warming is believed to be pushing them further north – ever closer towards Britain. They can in extreme cases provoke a cardiac arrest and death in particularly sensitive persons.

It is also interesting note that  Portuguese Man O’ War have also been seen increasingly more often on the coasts of Spain.

Note the English and Spanish etymology comes from the creature’s air bladder, which looks similar to the triangular sails of the 15th.century Portuguese man-of-war Caravela latina.

Giant jellyfish hit Scotland

July 18th, 2009

Thousands of jellyfish measuring up to half a metre in length have been found on beaches in Scotland, thanks to the recent rise in sea temperatures which are currently two degrees above normal. Specimens are growing to their full growth potential. “The hot summer weather has also fuelled the growth of the lion’s mane jellyfish, the largest to visit UK shores. The tentacles of the lion’s mane jellyfish, which is easily identified by its ragged edges, carry a nasty sting which can leave unsuspecting swimmers in pain for hours.”

The Independent

The great snakehead fish hoax

July 1st, 2009

Last year The Sun in its indomitable style (among others) reported on the worrying discovery of a snakehead fish in the River Witham. Read the rest of this entry

The most venomous spider in Britain

June 30th, 2009

This title has been awarded to an invasive species, Steatoda nobilis, known as the Biting Spider or False Black Widow.  It first arrived in England around 1870 on a shipment of bananas from the Canary islands to Torquay. Its bite is likened to that of a Read the rest of this entry

Are cows dangerous?

June 28th, 2009

The tragic death of a vet who was trampled and killed last week by a herd of cows highlights the danger occassionaly posed by these usually gentle beasts. Read the rest of this entry

A history of pike

June 24th, 2009

File:Pike caught frog.jpg

Pike were sometimes in the back of my mind when I swam in rivers and lakes as a child, my imagination fed by terrible tales told by other children and myself of their bite. Britain and Ireland, the latter where it was probably introduced by the English in the 17c, are home to one species of pike: the northern pike (Esox lucius).

The English common name “pike” is an apparent shortening of “pike-fish”, in reference to its pointed head, Old English píc originally referring to a pickaxe. The generic name Esox derives from the Greek for a kind of fish, itself a word of Celtic origin related to the Welsh eog and Irish Gaelic iach (salmon) Wikipedia

Izzac Walton, who published the famous The Compleat Angler in 1653, said of the pike

” The mighty luce or pike is taken to be the tyrant, as the salmon is the king of the fresh waters” from here.

Pike will aggressively strike at any animal in the vicinity, even at other pike. Young pike have been found dead from choking on a pike of a similar size, an observation referred to by the renowned English poet Ted Hughes in his poem ‘Pike’. The poem begins:

Pike, three inches long, perfect
Pike in all parts, green tigering the gold
Killers from the egg, the malevolent aged grin
They dance on the surface among the flies
Read and listen to introduction and complete poem here read by Ted Huges

Although generally known as a “sporting” quarry, most anglers release pike they have caught because the flesh is considered bony, especially due to the substantial (epipleural) “Y-bones”. However, the larger fish are more easily filleted, and pike have a long and distinguished history in cuisine and are popular fare in Europe. Historical references to cooking pike go as far back as the Romans. The flesh is white and mild-tasting. Fishing for pike is said to be very exciting with their aggressive hits and aerial acrobatics. Wikiepdia

Danger of being bitten by a pike

  • River Swimming Water Safety mentions Pike attack as a risk of open water swimming “You can get a good bite from a pike. This seems to happen when people simulate the movements of a fish.”
  • Why nobody is safe when the pike are biting (The Times) Lots of tales of the amazing exploits of pike “In 1922, The Field carried a report about a 14lb pike caught at Newbury on February 19 that year. The fish had an entire newborn pig in its stomach.”

Zoological and natural hazards in Britain

June 8th, 2009

Volcanic eruptions, lightning strikes, lizard bites and hornet stings caused some of the more unusual injuries listed by the Department of Health (DoH).

From the Guardian here :
Accidents cost the NHS about £1bn a year. The most common cause of injury was falling, which led to 119,203 admissions to casualty.

Thousands suffered attacks from a wide variety of animals. These included 451 people stung by hornets, 46 bitten by venomous snakes and lizards, 24 bitten by rats, 15 injured in contact with a marine mammal, two people bitten by centipedes and one attacked by an alligator. But dogs accounted for most injuries with 3,508 people suffering bites.

Hundreds more fell victims to natural hazards, with 54 people struck by lightning, 37 victims of “volcanic eruption” (sic), 25 injured in “cataclysmic storms”, 12 suffered from avalanches and seven were victims of earthquakes. A further 107 were exposed to “unspecified forces of nature”.

Adder bites in the UK

From the NHS (Plus lots of information on symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of adder bites)

  • Each year, approximately 100 cases of adder bites are reported in the UK. Most bites occur between February and October, with the number of bites peaking during the summer months. Note: I was bitten by an adder in Norfolk in 1972 when I was seven, though it did not inject much venom).
  • Since records began in 1876 there have only been 14 reported deaths caused by adder bites, with the last death  a 5-year-old child in 1975.
  • In addition to the adder, it is estimated that there are 75 species of exotic venomous snakes held in the UK, both legally and illegally, by private snake collectors and enthusiasts. These snakes are thought to be responsible for between five to six cases of snake bites in the UK each year. Most cases involve the snake’s owner

Statistically you have more chance of being killed by a wasp than dying at the teeth of Britain’s only venomous snake. The Independent