spider in britain

Very often as I set off on a local hike or a trip to the mountains I am asked questions from around the world on Twitter. Many and varied. I was struck by how many times I am asked if I come across things like bears or wild dogs here. Of course if you know Britain you may think that is a silly question, but, in the far reaches of the world people will naturally know as little of our land as we theirs. One great reason to travel is to learn and questions also help to learn.

Britain ‘used’ to be full of ‘wild beasts’, some were around not too long ago too. The British Wolf (a relative of the grey wolf) was abundant until at least 2000 years ago. The Romans wrote about how numerous they were, plus fossils have proven that here they were as big as the Arctic wolf. Beavers became extinct here in the 1500s although an introduction is being tested at the moment. Plus the Lynx cat has been was around until medieval times. Hunting and deforestation has been found to be the blame for these disappearances plus many others. So….. What are some of our so called dangerous animals? Some maybe, some wrongly accused:

The Adder

british adder

In Britain we have only one venomous snake, the adder. They are found all over the country but, before you get scared of walking in the grass that is the problem, finding them! They are not aggressive and really really shy. If they feel a vibration of someone coming they will just slide away and hide. Very rarely seen and since 1876 there have been only 14 deaths from an adder bite. Modern treatments also mean there have been no deaths since the 70s. Compare that to 4 deaths per year from bees or wasps.

BaldHiker Retreats

The False Widow Spider

OK, if you read the tabloid press you would think these things are on the rampage killing all in their path. False. Nobody in Britain has ever died from a spider bite from a British Spider. The False Widow Spider looks like a Black Widow Spider but thats it. If one bites you a local rash or local pain/itch may occur but nothing serious. They are growing in number all along the south coast of the country after entering from the Canary Islands it is believed. If you see one say hello like any other spider 😉

Dust Mites

close up of a dust mite

Not a beast, not a wild animal but indirectly responsible for more deaths than a lot of UK animals. It is thought now that 20% of the population is allergic to dust mites. Linked to many asthma attacks and cot deaths.

The Cow

friendly cow

We have all read the (rare) reports of people being crushed by cows. Poor things, they then get a bashing in some press corners. I am a dog owner and a hiker so I will always have occasion to enter a cow field when out and about. Most of the time never a problem. The main reason they would gang up on hikers and pin them in a corner is, the dog. Cows are curious creatures and when they have their young even more so. If they do start moving fast towards you just let the dog off the lead I would say. The cows are not interested in humans and although you cannot outrun them I would let the dog run away as they could, and the cows will ‘try’ to go that way.

SO… When all is said and done the answer is no, we have no really dangerous animals and there are others that naturally would attack if we did not respect them but why disrespect them? And the answer to the questions? I can walk up any hill or along any valley safe in the knowledge that the wildlife is only to be admired, respected and enjoyed.

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  1. Must be nice not to have to worry about hanging "bear bags", carrying "bear canisters" and "bear spray", and waking up in your tent in the middle of the night and wondering whether the noise you just heard is something coming to eat you…

    I've been backpacking in Ireland (the Wicklow Way), and made one trip to London, but haven't had the chance to do any backpacking in the U.K. If I ever make it over there again from the U.S., and can only do one backpacking trip, where should I go?

  2. Great topic – enjoyable read!

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