Costa Rica is a country rich in biodiversity, making it home to almost 500,000 species. This makes Costa Rica one of the top 20 countries with highest biodiversity in the world, representing 5% of the species found worldwide. The tropical nature of this beautiful country can lead to unexpected encounters with some not so safe critters. While most animals and insects are harmless, there are a few species you should exercise caution around. Here are some of the animals to be careful of in Costa Rica:
Costa Rica hubs over 20 species of venomous snakes and they are often easy to miss especially when you don’t have their presence in mind. In order to prevent accidents when encountering snakes, it is important to always look where you step (especially on a trails), avoid reaching into dark spaces, and familiarize yourself with the different ways to identify venomous snakes. For example, non-venomous snakes have distinctive triangle-shaped heads and elliptical pupils, while non-venomous snakes tend to have rounder heads.
Crocodiles and Alligators
Over the last few years crocodile attacks in Costa Rica have spiked, capitalizing on the importance of keeping tourists aware of the dangers that come with swimming in cautionary areas. Usually found in oceans, rivers, ponds, and estuaries Costa Rica hubs two very dangerous species: the American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) and the Spectacled caiman (Caiman crocodilus). These species commonly attack when threatened, especially females as they defend their nests and babies. Though most of these species live in freshwater environments, most tourist attacks occur in saltwater areas, especially near estuaries. Luckily, preventing attacks is easy as long as you look out for warning signs near bodies of water. When in doubt always do your research or ask a local where it is safe to swim and where to avoid.
Unfortunately, scorpions are relatively common in Costa Rica. While they may not be as numerous as some other insects and arachnids, they are present in various regions throughout the country. Scorpions are most commonly found in dry and arid areas, but they can also be encountered in forests, grasslands, and urban areas. When traveling or living in Costa Rica you might be surprised to find scorpions in your shoes, clothes, sheets, and even bags, however there is usually nothing to be alarmed about. They will typically not attack unless
directly touched or stepped on, and even if you are unlucky enough to be stung, the majority of scorpion species in the country have mild venom and do not pose a significant threat to people. However, the Costa Rican Striped-tail Scorpion (Centruroides margaritatus) is one of the venomous species that can deliver painful stings, and in some cases, cause more severe reactions, particularly in sensitive individuals. To prevent being a victim of these creatures you should always shake your sheets, shoes, and clothing before use, and be cautious at night.
In Costa Rica, there are two species of wildcats that could potentially pose a danger to humans: the Jaguar (Panthera onca) and the Puma (Puma concolor), also known as the Cougar or Mountain Lion. If you’re interested in watching them from a safe distance, you can see all six species of wild cats in Costa Rica’s national parks including La Amistad International Park. They mainly live in nature reserves or in remote areas of the country however while attacks on humans are extremely rare, it's essential to be aware of their presence and take precautions when exploring their habitats. One way of avoiding an unpleasant encounter is to make noise when hiking or walking through forests or wilderness areas as they will often avoid humans if they are aware of their approach. It is also important to avoid solitary travel and hike or explore in groups rather than alone. Larger groups are more likely to deter wildcats from approaching. Finally, never approach or feed wildlife as it habituates them to human presence and cause potentially dangerous interactions.
Costa Rica's wildlife is an essential part of its ecosystem, and most creatures are not aggressive unless provoked. If you plan to venture into remote areas, consider hiring a local guide who can help you navigate and understand the wildlife better. Known for its amazing fauna, Costa Rica offers incredible sights and beautiful animals. There are no reasons why you shouldn’t experience a lovely and memorable vacation as long as you stay safe and keep some of the few dangerous animals in mind.