Animals you are not supposed to touch

Look, but don’t touch!

The arrival of beautiful sunny days suits humans, as well as snakes, which then leave their shelters in search of food and partners. Snakes are widespread in Croatia due to the mild climate. Out of the fifteen known snake species occurring in Croatia, twelve are non-venomous and harmless, while only three are venomous (the horned viper, European viper and the meadow viper). You will recognise them by the distinct zig-zagging stripe on their back, a short stocky body, wide head and vertically slit pupils.

 

Although snake encounters are less frequent than one might think, make sure to wear long trousers and stout shoes.

 

If you get bitten, remain calm, immobilise the bitten area and go to the nearest medical facility as soon as possible or call 112 for help.

 

Another reason for paying attention to where you walk barefoot outdoors and put your hands is the most venomous spider in Europe – the black widow, which can be identified by its black body and red spots on its back.

It prefers secluded and abandoned places, so you are likely to find it in gardens, on backyard walls, under rocks, in thickets and basements.

They spin their webs close to the ground, which is why people that accidentally step on them are the most common victims. Their bite is not painful and often goes unnoticed, however the onset of symptoms (redness, rash, pain in the nearest lymph nodes, muscle spasms, perspiration, heavy breathing, nausea) is quick, after which you should immediately visit a doctor.

Small, but not harmless, is how one would describe the tick – a tiny animal that keeps doctors on call busy in spring.

The tick acts as a parasite that feeds on the blood of animals and humans and transmits infectious diseases, some of which are lethal. There is a large number of tick species, with the Castor bean tick being the most common in Croatia and a potential threat to anyone spending time outdoors. Virus- or bacteria-infected ticks are most widespread in north and northwest Croatia.

 

In order to avoid them, wear multiple layers of clothes, do not walk through shrubs and low vegetation, and thoroughly examine yourself upon returning home. Another frequent target are pets, which need to be protected against external parasites, and once you locate a tick on yourself or your pet, attempt to remove it gently with tweezers using circular motions or contact a doctor.

 

When it comes to aerial threats, wasps and hornets deliver the most painful stings. These black and yellow insects build nests in hollowed-out trees, coal-sheds and abandoned sites, which they defend very aggressively, so make sure to move away as quickly as possible once you encounter them. They are sensitive to running and hand-waving and react to the smell of sweat and bright colours. Stings may cause allergic reactions that result in death, with those delivered in the head and neck area being especially dangerous, which is why the injured person should be immediately taken to a doctor.

 

Sometimes summer frolicking in the sea can lead to unpleasant experiences, so if you enjoy swimming and fishing, be mindful of sea urchins, sea anemones, jellyfish and certain fish species.

As you enter the sea in a carefree manner, be careful not to step on a sea urchin in shallow water. The sting is harmless, yet unpleasant, causing pain and redness.

After being stung, carefully remove the spines with tweezers and a vinegar solution and clean the wound to prevent bacteria growth. If you are unable to remove all the spines, contact a doctor who will help you and prevent inflammation of the stung area.

Jellyfish and sea anemones “prey” in shallow water with venomous cnidocytes on their tentacles that cause pain, redness, rashes and swelling upon touching these animals.

You should first wash out the stung area with saltwater and then vinegar, clean it and remove the tentacles with tweezers.

 

Deep sea lovers may encounter dangerous fish with venomous spines on their fins and operculums or ones with venomous bites, such as weeverfish (greater, spotted, lesser and starry weever), scorpionfish (red scorpionfish, black scorpionfish, small red scorpionfish), rays (common eagle ray, river stingray) and eels (Muraena). They secrete strong and painful, but thermostable venom (which may cause heart arrythmia, heavy breathing and dizziness).

Muraena is the best-known species of venomous fish. Bites cause a variety of symptoms (redness, swelling, pains, spasms, heavy breathing) and should be treated in a medical facility.

The best thing to do is immerse the affected area in hot water, remove the residual venomous spines, clean the wound, cover it with a sterile gause and contact a doctor as soon as possible.

 

Remember that animals attack when they are afraid in order to protect themselves, which is why you should not disturb them and move along instead!