The words "Animals that can kill you" illustrated to look like claw marks against a green background.

Animals That Can Kill You

How to maybe not die in the Costa Rican wilderness

Written by Sylvia Dean and Jordon Kaplan
Illustrated by Alex Balosie

(Animal Planet voice-over announcer, with intensity)

Costa Rica’s deadliest. If your name does not end in “Irwin” there is little to no reason to be poking around any of the animals on the following list. But if you do happen to encounter them, the following is a few things you might like to know.*

*Disclaimer: Some of these things are true and some are not so true, but the truest thing is to maybe leave them all be.
Illustration of a gold and white Jaguar holding a football between its front paws.


Panthera onca
Costa Rica’s only big cat. A bite pressure that is twice that of a tiger.

How they’ll kill you:

By capturing the hearts and support of an entire city to believe in them and then repaying that kindness by kicking 48 field goals per season. Just to do it all over again season after season.

But Seriously:

 It will bite through the back of your skull and then scrape the meat off your bones using pointy bumps on its tongue. Seriously, this jungle cat is no Disney character, so if you happen upon one, do not disturb it and no sudden movements.

Illustration of a green and white American Crocodile standing on its hind legs facing away. There's a speech bubble coming from its mouth that says "pffffft, nice knock-offs".

American Crocodile

Crocodylus acutus
Gargantuan reptiles that are hefty and territorial.

How they’ll kill you:

They’ll hurt your feelings by telling you your alligator-skin boots are knock-offs, then pretend to be sorry by shedding a few fake tears.

But seriously:

Literally dinosaurs, and like any wild animal with a mouthful of sharp teeth, do not try to feed them and avoid wading and splashing in the shallow waters they reside in. Once they bite, they aren’t letting go. They don’t call it the death roll for nothing.


Bothrops asper
Aka the Costa Rican landmine. An extremely venomous snake.

How they’ll kill you:

No joke, this one will literally just kill you. Its name means spearhead, it’s usually 4 to 7 feet long, and did we mention the very strong venom?

But seriously:

What did we just say?

Illustration of a burgundy Fer-de-lance snake in an s-shape. It has a red and gold diamond pattern on it's back.

Illustration of a red and blue frog standing up leaning against a bar. The bar has a mug of beer on it and the frog is throwing darts towards a dart board on the left.

Poison Dart Frog

Oophaga pumilio
A small but mighty threat that looks real pretty. Don’t touch.

How they’ll kill you:

It’s a late night at a dive bar on the wrong side of town. It’s not your first drink and a leggy fellow challenges you to a game of darts. You’re terrible and he knows it. You play. You lose. Your ego never recovers.

But seriously:

They very literally secrete poison. If you’re into licking frogs definitely do not lick this one.

Illustration of an yellow eyelash viper snake draped over a green tree branch. There is a speech bubble coming from its mouth that says "Nissssse caterpillarssss on your fasssse..."

Eyelash Viper

Bothriechis schlegelii
Queen of the ambush. Smaller than the snake Britney Spears brought to the VMAs, but its bite is far more potent.

How they’ll kill you:

They’ll tell you your new eyelash extensions look like the caterpillars that live a tree over.

But seriously:

Look upon this yellow beauty from afar, but please don’t get close enough to touch. Unless you would like to find out what necrosis feels like on a first-hand basis

Illustration of a black widow spider holding a glass of champagne in one front leg and throwing money with the other leg. The belly of the spider has two red triangles touching points in the middle like an hourglass shape.

Black Widow

Latrodectus hesperus
Also known as “Oh, shit.”

How they’ll kill you:

Honestly maybe they really did like you for who you were on the inside and not for all that money that was hidden in your mattress. Hard to tell now that you’re broke and alone and they’re in Miami on a yacht.

But seriously:

A very good reminder that you should really be checking your shoes before putting them on. Black widow bites, while not always fatal, will still put you in enough pain to write home about. And the nickname comes from the female in the species, which eats her mate after the deed. Casual.

Bull Shark

Carcharhinus leucas
Will eat almost anything they can swallow, with a bite that has the greatest force among all shark species.

How they’ll kill you:

Death by swirly and a couple shoves into the locker. Unless you give them your lunch money. Most of the time.

But seriously:

This is the most aggressive shark on the planet, and even hunts in shallows. Maybe don’t spend too much time in the water.

Illustration of a light blue bull shark wearing a dark teal zip-up jacket.

Illustration of a wolf-like animal with black shaggy hair, feet that look like hoofs, sharp teeth, and red glowing eyes. The animal ha s a light blue-colored chain wrapped around its body.

El Cadejo

An animal that seems deadly but actually has your best interest at heart. It’s not just the real animals that can scare you, but the ones that exist in legend and lore whose fear is a tool used to teach a lesson.

The legend of El Cadejo:

It all started with a young man named Joaquin, a lover of the booze. His father was getting pretty frustrated with his son’s frequent alcohol-induced hootin’ and hollerin’. And after not listening to his dad one too many times, Joaquin was cursed by his father’s rage and anger and was turned into a vicious, large black dog with glowing red eyes covered in chains— known as el cadejo.

El cadejo roams the streets at night, following those wandering the roads under the influence of alcohol, scaring them back onto the right life path. While it won’t kill you, it will scare you into turning your life around, like Joaquin’s father once tried to do for Joaquin.

Moral of the story, do what every alcohol brand is legally obligated to say: Drink responsibly.