Following Devastating Fires, Now Australians Must Prep for Deadly Spiders

CBS News
January 22, 2020 - 10:04 am

Australians, already reeling from months of devastating bushfires, have been warned they face a potential "bonanza" of "super dangerous" funnel-web spiders. While experts have voiced fears that the bushfires have killed as many as a billion wild animals, and pushed as many as 100 species closer to extinction, the deadly spiders are apparently thriving.

Jake Meney, of the Australian Reptile Park, north of Sydney, told CBS News partner network 9 News on Wednesday that hot temperatures and days of rain have increased humidity, creating perfect conditions to lure the spiders out of their hiding places.

He said the park has seen an increase in the number of funnel-web spiders, which are native to eastern Australia, being brought into the park by members of the public. The increase prompted the park to issue a warning for Australians to keep an eye out for the creatures.

Male funnel-web spiders are of particular concern, as they are more likely to emerge seeking mating partners — and their venom is six-times more potent than that of their female counterparts.  

"Females don't move around too much," Meney, who looks after spiders and reptiles at the park, told 9 News. "They mostly wait for the males to come and find them, but that's bad news because it's the males that are super dangerous."

"A male funnel-web bite is extremely dangerous and extremely serious and has caused deaths in the past," he noted.

In a video post on the Australian Reptile Park's Facebook page, a staff member warned that "funnel-web spiders are potentially one of the most dangerous spiders on the planet in terms of a bite towards a human," but he noted there had not been any confirmed deaths from the spider's bite since the 1980s. 

Meney said anyone bit by a funnel-web should "apply immediate first aid, which would usually be applying pressure or a compression bandage to stop limit circulation to the entire limb." He added that anyone bitten by a fennel-web should immediately be taken to a hospital.

Meney said funnel-webs don't jump and can't climb on smooth surfaces, so they are most likely to be found at ground level. 

"Piles of clothing, and shoes (are) a tempting retreat for them especially when they've wandered too far away from their burrow and they can't find their way back before daylight," he said.

For those with the nerve, Meney said the spiders aren't difficult to catch. "If you see one on the ground just slowly put a jar over it or just put the jar in front of it and it will usually just crawl straight in."

The Australian Reptile Park said anyone who captures a funnel-web can bring them to the park or one of the drop zones set up around Sydney.