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Essential Tips for Handling a Dangerous Animal Attack in Colombia

Cayman in Casanare Orinoco plains Colombia

Updated on 04/22/2024

Dear reader,
I would also like to recommend our Colombia travel guide, which provides a perfect overview of the tourist attractions in Colombia. Enjoy reading it!

Many of the tourists who come to Colombia enjoy nature. In addition, you will learn useful tips for possible unpleasant encounters during your expedition in the country.

The Black Caiman

Although caiman attacks rarely occur in Colombia, there is no lack of adventurers who dare to explore their territories.

The black caiman (Melanosuchus niger) is an endemic reptile of South America, measuring 5 to 6 meters and weighing around 450 kilograms (1000 lbs). It’s the third largest crocodile in America, a true monster.

  • Characteristics: Its greenish black coloration allows it to camouflage itself in aquatic vegetation, where it stalks its prey. It can swim at almost 50 km/h in the water.
  • Diet: It is carnivorous and feeds on fish, reptiles, birds and mammals.
  • Habitat: Lives in freshwater habitats such as lakes, slow-moving rivers, flooded savannas, especially in areas such as Putumayo, Vaupés and most of the Colombian Amazon.
  • Status: Currently facing problems due to poaching, thanks to the quality of its skin it is a very desirable material for traders.


  • If you’re planning to visit areas where the black caiman resides, avoid getting close to the water or swimming in it, especially at night when these caimans are most active.
  • Maintain a safe distance and avoid disturbing them, although they may not be very hostile. They are genuinely territorial and aggressive when they are protecting their offspring or breeding. In case of an accidental encounter, slowly move away.
  • If attacked, the first thing to do is try to hit it in the eyes or snout, as these are its most sensitive areas.
  • Seek medical help immediately if you suffer a bite, as it can cause severe infections due to its deep bite. If there’s bleeding, apply pressure to the wound with any available cloth.

The Golden Poison Frog

The golden poison frog (Phyllobates terribilis) is considered the most toxic vertebrate animal on the planet and is found in Colombia.

  • Characteristics: You will be able to identify it as they have a variation between light yellow, orange and pale green. It measures 5 centimeters and lives mainly in rainforests in the department of Valle del Cauca, on the Pacific coast of Colombia. It prefers warm climates and stays away from urban areas.
  • Behavior: They are not aggressive, but defend themselves with their venom against possible threats.
  • Toxicity: Their skin contains a substance called batrachotoxin, which blocks the transmission of nervous system impulses and can cause respiratory paralysis, cardiac arrhythmia and death.
  • Lethality: It is estimated that a single frog has the capacity to kill 10 people.


  • Anywhere in the country, if you see brightly colored frogs, do not approach them or attempt to touch or catch them; they are deadly poison bags.
  • If you visit areas in Valle del Cauca where this particular frog is found, avoid touching or handling it; just admire it from a distance.
  • You should know that the poison can easily penetrate through wounds or mucous membranes. There’s no known antidote if you come into contact with its poison.
  • In case of contact, wash the area with plenty of water and remove any clothing that may compress circulation. Seek medical attention immediately. They will provide symptomatic treatment with appropriate medications.

Tityus Scorpions

Cases of scorpion stings aren’t as common in Colombia. Between 2015 and 2017, 116 cases of Tityus scorpion stings were recorded in the country.

Tityus scorpions are the most venomous scorpions in South America

  • Habitat: They are distributed throughout most of Colombia, specifically in warm and humid territories such as jungles and coasts of the country. They have also adapted to live in urban areas.
  • Venom: Its venom is so strong that it acts on the nervous system. It can cause intense pain, swelling, numbness, excessive sweating, tachycardia, difficulty breathing and hypertension. It is 100 times stronger than that of a rattlesnake.
  • Characteristics: If you want to identify them, they are brown or light yellow in their extremities, are not shiny, have rough skin and generally grow up to 7 centimeters.
  • Behavior: It is not an aggressive species, but it will not hesitate to bite you if you try to handle or capture it.


  • To avoid unpleasant encounters with scorpions, check your clothing before putting it on, especially footwear like boots or shoes.
  • Shake out clothing and wear thick gloves if necessary.
  • These scorpions can easily infiltrate residences, so check for cracks, holes in walls, or gaps in the floor.
  • If stung, first clean the area with soap and water, apply cold compresses to the affected area, and elevate the affected limb for a few minutes to prevent venom spread.
  • Don’t apply tourniquets, cauterize, or suck the wound, as it can worsen infection.
  • Antidotes and antiscorpion serums exist for stings from this species. While they’re not manufactured in Colombia, you might be fortunate enough to find some in a hospital. Otherwise, you may be treated with other types of intravenous serums.

The Banana Spider (Phoneutria)

It is estimated that there are 5 deaths per year in Colombia due to this species.

The banana spider (Phoneutria nigriventer) is a fascinating species of arachnid, and according to the Guinness World Records, the banana spider is the most venomous arachnid on the planet.

  • Characteristics: You can easily identify it by its imposing appearance, dark brown in color, with some red hairs near its venom glands. It has thick, hairy legs that allow it to move with agility and generally measure about the size of a palm of the hand.
  • Activity: This spider does not build webs but actively hunts from the ground and hides in plantations to attack its prey, such as lizards, bats, and all kinds of insects.
  • Habitat: It has spread to many countries in South America through ships carrying bananas. They generally inhabit these plantations in tropical ports of the country and in the Amazon region. Additionally, it is considered a “highly aggressive” species.
  • Venom: It is so venomous that it only needs 6 grams of venom to kill 20 mice. Its bite causes respiratory loss, cardiac disorders, and death by suffocation. In humans, it can cause painful erections for several hours.


  • If you are traveling to areas where this spider lives, check your luggage and clothes before using them, as they tend to hide among these items.
  • Avoid manipulating banana plantations, lifting logs, or fruit plantations unless accompanied by a local guide.
  • If you see one, do not touch it or corner it under any circumstances, as the chances of it attacking you are high.
  • In case of a bite, remember: water, soap, and apply pressure on the bite to reduce bleeding.
  • You can carry the spider with you or have taken a picture of it before the bite to facilitate diagnosis and treatment.
  • In Colombia, there are antivenoms made from spider venom. However, they are not available in many hospitals. You must go to a reference hospital that has them.

The Bullet Ant

The bullet ant (Paraponera clavata) is a very dangerous insect, with a very potent sting. Its sting is thirty times more intense and painful than that of a bee or wasp, resembling the impact of a bullet shot. It is the insect with the most painful sting in the world.

  • Behavior: They are not aggressive, but they become very hostile when they have to defend the nest. They warn you before attacking by emitting a bad odor as a warning signal.
  • Lethality: Their sting is not lethal. However, the throbbing pain lasts for more than 24 hours, causing temporary paralysis of the affected area, swelling, chills, and redness.
  • Diet: They feed on smaller animals such as centipedes or termites. They also feed on the nectar of some plants.
  • Characteristics: They are dark brown to reddish in color, measuring about 2 and a half centimeters, one of the largest ants in the world. They are found in the humid forests of the Colombian Pacific coast, the Amazon, and the Orinoquia region.
  • Nests: They build their nests at the bases of trees, not only digging immense tunnels in the ground but also penetrating the roots of trees and creating colonies.


  • It goes without saying, but you shouldn’t be walking barefoot or with sandals in an Amazon forest. You should always wear shoes like sneakers or footwear that covers well.
  • Another good tip is not to disturb them or disturb their nest or colonies, so avoid touching or stepping on them, whether accidentally or not; you will end up paying the consequences.
  • In case of a sting, treatments are simple. You should apply cold compresses plus a high dose of antihistamines to prevent venom flow. You should also keep the affected area clean.

The X Snake

When it comes to snakes, Colombia records 2,500 cases of snakebites per year. Nevertheless, the X snake is a very famous species for its attacks.

The X snake (Bothrops atrox) is a venomous snake of the viper family.

  • Lethality: For every 100 people attacked, five inevitably lose their lives.
  • Characteristics: You can easily identify it by its brown, olive green, or gray color with dark X-shaped spots on its back. It can measure up to 2 meters long and weigh more than 4 kilos.
  • Habitat: It is a terrestrial snake that inhabits the humid forests of the country, and it is quite common to see it in the eastern plains, in the Meta region.
  • Behavior: It is a snake with very aggressive behavior that attacks very quickly and without giving time to react. When you encounter it, it will quickly coil and emit a sound to warn you that it is going to attack and will not hesitate to do so.
  • Diet: It feeds on rodents, birds, lizards, and other snakes. It is one of the most feared snakes in South America, as it causes the majority of snakebite accidents in the region.
  • Venom: Its bite always causes hemorrhage, necrosis, edema, infections, and death. It is a venom that affects the nervous system, the circulatory system, and tissues.


  • Snakes inhabit wooded areas or dense vegetation. If you are going on expeditions through these areas, you can carry a stick or a rod to push aside the leaves or branches as you walk.
  • In case of a bite, you should remain calm and keep the limb or the area where you were bitten completely still to reduce the spread of the venom. You should immediately go to a recommended health center.
  • Clean the area properly (with water and soap) and cover the wound with a cloth or a clean garment and if possible, dry.
  • Fortunately, many hospitals and health centers have antivenom specifically for snakebite treatment.

Aedes Aegypti Mosquitoes

Aedes mosquitoes (Aedes aegypti) are the main transmitters of diseases such as dengue, Zika, and chikungunya. Every year in Colombia, more than 40,000 cases are reported.

  • Distribution: The greatest impact of these mosquitoes is found in 90% of Colombian territories located below 2,200 meters above sea level. Departments such as Meta, Cundinamarca, Santander, Norte de Santander, the Pacific coast, and the Colombian Caribbean coast are the most affected.
  • Habitat: They inhabit freshwater nurseries, breeding in containers such as flower vases, old tires, garbage cans and other places where water can accumulate.
  • Behavior: These mosquitoes are known for their silent flight. The characteristic buzzing sound is not very common in this species, which makes it more frightening.
  • Disease transmission: Females are responsible for transmitting diseases such as dengue, Zika, Chikungunya and yellow fever, as they feed on blood to complete the development of their eggs.
  • Smell: They have a keen sense of smell that allows them to locate their hosts (humans) from long distances. For example, if you sweat a lot, this will attract them.


  • If you are staying with someone, always remember to bring insect repellent.
  • Check beforehand that there are no objects where water can accumulate, such as pots, buckets, or bottles, as this is where mosquitoes lay their eggs and reproduce.
  • If you have a bite, you should consult a doctor if you have symptoms such as fever, headache, rash, joint pain, intense fatigue, or bleeding.
  • It is advisable not to expose the wound area to the sun, as it can sensitize the skin and worsen the symptoms.
  • Currently, there is no specific treatment for these diseases, so it is symptomatic, which means you should treat them with medication until you fully recover.
  • Symptoms can last for days, weeks, or a couple of months until you fully recover, which is completely normal.

More Nature Tourism Experiences in Colombia

Here is a list of incredible destinations for hiking and other nature activities in Colombia:

Where to see animals in Colombia?


About Author



Hello! I'm Frank Spitzer, the founder and the heart behind Pelecanus, a specialized tour operator for Colombia travel. My journey in travel is vast and rich – I've explored over 60 countries, absorbing cultures, experiences, and stories along the way. Since 2017, I've been channeling this wealth of global experience into creating unforgettable travel experiences in Colombia. I'm recognized as a leading authority in Colombian tourism, with a deep-seated passion for sharing this beautiful country with the world. You can catch glimpses of my travel adventures and insights around Colombia on my YouTube channel. I'm also active on social media platforms like TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, where I share the vibrant culture and stunning landscapes of Colombia. For professional networking, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn. Join me on this incredible journey, and let's explore the wonders of Colombia together!

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