Friday, 21 May 2010

Poisonous creepy crawlies and snakes in Turkey

People often ask me about this, are there any poisonous snakes in Turkey? Or do you have to worry about scorpions; it always makes me laugh as I get a mental image of some hapless British tourist with a knotted handkerchief on his head, lobster red suntan and union jack boxer shorts trying not to spill his beer whilst grappling with a giant man eating scorpion at the hotel bar like an outtake from Clash of the Titans. The short answer is yes Turkey does have some poisonous inhabitants but the chance of you coming across any of them is so negligible as to be almost nonexistent. I have travelled around Turkey and visited many times and have managed to spot a poisonous snake on just one occasion, which means I see more poisonous snakes in my hometown in the south of England (Adders) then I do in Turkey. Admittedly the one snake I saw in Turkey was a horned viper, considered to be the most dangerous snake found in Europe, which my mother in law almost trod on when we were visiting a Phrygian grave site near the Yazilikaya platform in Eskisehir province, but said horned viper turned tail and crawled in the opposite direction as fast as possible.

Most of the spiders in Turkey are again small and harmless; I have never seen a spider in Turkey that is even the quarter of the size of the domestic house spiders we get in England, that frequently attack you when you are sleeping. Of course a poke around the internet turned up a list of scary contenders including the world famous black widow, to read it click here: Venomous spiders of Turkey. I think it’s worth bearing in mind I have an extended Turkish family and many Turkish friends and have never heard a single story involving a spider bite.

Again I have never seen a Scorpion in Turkey, never heard of anyone who knows someone I know getting bitten by a scorpion in Turkey and don’t really think it’s something the average tourist needs to worry about. However Turkey does have some scorpions the scariest of which is Androctonus crassicauda which apparently translates as fat tailed man killer, how cute! Mostly they inhabit south east Turkey towards Syria and Iraq. If you want to freak yourself out more read this report by the Turkish parasite periodical:Scorpionism in the Sanliurfa Provinces of Turkey.

My advice is to ignore all that unnecessary scaremongering and chill out, the most irritating insect you are going to experience in Turkey are the mosquitoes......

12 comments:

Uzumlu Pete said...

You are just a bit blase.
We have a villa in turkey and spend about 6 months each year. I do a lot of walking running and camping/bivying.I have seen numerous snakes especially when running as I can come up on them suddenly.Several have been caught by our gardener in the garden/Also we have had a number of scorpions indoors.
Admittedly snakes will always get out of the way if they can, but sensible precautions are necessary rather than just ignore the " scaremongering" When walking through vegetation it is wise to proceed slowly and noisily.Also carry an "antivenon" (available from Boots), to withdraw any sting or bite.. Know the local emergency numbers. Turkey is well provided with local health centres which have a stock of serum for all the snakes, but it helps if you can identify which one bit you!
Snake and scorpion bites are rare but they do happen. They are rarely fatal but again they do happen,so take sensible precautions.
PS I find the dogs far more scary and threatening,so be prepared for them as well

Headstraight75 said...

Blasé, hah yes I have been accused of this before, but I honestly believe the risk is so small as to be not worth worrying about. I never carry anti venom, but then I never carry any emergency medical supplies in the off chance that something randomly unpleasant happens. I even travel without insurance! Also none of my Turkish friends or family feel the need to keep anti venom in the house, even the ones that claim to have a snake the width of my wife's thigh living at the bottom of their garden. I have seen a couple more snakes since I wrote that post including a rather large black one but none of them bit me yet, probably they were scared off by the large stick I carry to scare of the restaurant touts!
I agree with you whole heartedly about the dogs, the street dog are normally fairly harmless but some of the village dogs are trained to attack strangers, in our village we can't walk around when the shepherds are returning from or leaving for the fields without carrying some kind of precaution (either a shotgun, large stick or a couple of sizeable rocks) the local Kangal dogs have large spiked collars and look like hounds from hell and have previously attacked other villagers! The dogs for those who don't know are to protect us and the livestock from the wolves and in some places bears!

Phil said...

Change are almost negligible - probably because you won't see them! I visited Turkey last year, and narrowly missed treading on a black scorpion within a day or so. I only knew about it because my partner, who was walking behind me, spotted it.

Federico said...

Mate I went for a walk around the Acropolis in Bergamon earlier this morning and I bumped into 2 snakes, one of them quite big. I don't know if it will be like that the whole time but clearly there are a few of them over here and it is easy to find them. I believe they would attack only if they cannot scape, but I reckon walking carefully, looking around and being aware of their presence is important.

Fede

Anonymous said...

I may be going to Turkey later this year and I am paranoid in case a snake or poisinous insect comes into the hotel. Is this likely? Thanks

Headstraight75 said...

Most likely the only insect that will bother you in your hotel room will be the mosquitos...

Anonymous said...

I have lived here for 20 years. Never been bitten but have seen my fair share of snakes and scorpions.
I see quite a lot of snakes at the bottom of our garden which goes into a lake. The snakes around our way like to swim in it at sunrise and dusk.
I have also come across quite a few scorpions in apartments in Marmaris and Istanbul. They are small and stings like a wasp but still unpleasant but I would say scorpions are a lot more common than snakes.

Anonymous said...

I've seen two scorpions in very urban Istanbul, but pretty small. Wife said she saw a big scorpion in their apartment where the baby boy was sitting. This was after some local flood, which forced the sewer inhabitants above ground a bit. Still to find snakes though, after intentional searching. Spent months around Istanbul / Bursa areas mainly.

Rod Hardman said...

My partner and I are going to Marmaris next September. She has been a few time before but this will be a first for me. I am interested in both snakes and reptiles and would like some imformation on what I am likely to find if I go looking for some. Thanks!

Sam Kidston said...

every year i stay in an appartement in dalyan, turkey quite close to marmaris last year i stumbled across a snake that was brown with dark patches and around 2ft in length coming out of the corn field next door this is the first time i have seen a wild snake and am wondering what i nearly stood on and if it is dangerous etc. Any help would be much appreciated thank you

Anne Mackle said...

I know this is an old post but I was googling snakes to try to find a photo.We are just home from Kayakoy where we rented a villa. My husband was bitten by a snake as we sunbathed at the pool,he had fallen asleep face down on the sunbed and his hands were trailing on the ground. He had no ill effects the snake was about a metre long and black with yellow stripes. I also read in the visitors book that at different times a scorpian had been seen in each of the bedrooms and a huge black snake on the garden path. I've been going to Turkey for years and that's the first time we've ever saw a snake.

Anonymous said...

My sister got bitten by something while in turkey. It left a huge bubble about 3/4 inch high and inch in diameter. It went away and now after 10 months it is back again. I found this article on the web and the bubbles look the same as the ones on the women's leg in the picture.

Any ideas what would cause this and for it to come back after such a long time. Here is the link.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC539371/