Most people instinctively understand which wild animals are dangerous. Precious few people need to be told that a moose, bear, lion or snake can hurt you, and most folks only need to learn their lesson with bees or wasps once!
But not all animals are dangerous, and to make things even trickier some animals that don’t look dangerous are dangerous. You can’t afford to make any mistakes when you’re in the middle of a survival situation or just enjoying time in the great outdoors.
So how about cute, cuddly koalas? Are koalas dangerous?
Koalas aren’t particularly dangerous, but they can still hurt you, and hurt you pretty badly. They are unfriendly, even aggressive when in the wild, and they have large teeth and claws that can inflict injury. They’re surprisingly nasty animals, and carry diseases that people can catch.
I know it seems almost cruel that an animal so cute and so charismatic is actually something of a nasty little gremlin, but it’s true. You never want to get close to koalas in the wild, as they’re unpredictable and surprisingly mean.
Attacks on humans are very rare, but they do occur. I’ll tell you what you need to know about koalas and any potential danger they pose to people in the rest of this article…
Koala Overview, Temperament and Habitat
Koalas, sometimes called koala bears, are not bears at all, and don’t even have a similar diet to bears.
Unlike bears, which are omnivores, koalas are strict herbivores and subsist entirely on a diet of plant matter, primarily eucalyptus leaves taken from the trees of the eucalyptus forests where they typically dwell.
Koalas are usually not active during the day, and they tend to move around only slowly and cautiously at night.
Koalas spend much of their life, and most of their time, alone unless it is a mother with young or the annual joining of males and females for mating purposes.
Every once in a while, small bands of koalas might hang around together in friendly relationships. In any case, a koala is unlikely to show aggression unless people come too close.
You’ll be happy to know that the supposedly mythical ferocity of koalas, and their tendency to drop on the heads of people who pass under their trees, is a made-up urban legend that native Australians are entirely too happy to propagate.
Do Koalas Protect Their Territory?
Not usually. A koala that is run up a tree, with no other tree within easy reach, might become aggressive but as a rule they are not terribly territorial.
Do Koalas Act Aggressively Toward Each Other?
Yes, definitely. Most koalas don’t want anything to do with other koalas unless it’s a mother taking care of her young, or males courting females during mating season.
Even then, mating rituals between koalas are typically brutal. There’s plenty of combat, submission, injury, and mayhem.
At other times koalas are known to protect their preferred trees and sources of food from interlopers. As mentioned above, you generally will not see too many koalas hanging around together.
Do Koalas Threaten People?
Yes, although this is rare. Koalas might growl and make pseudo-barking sounds if people come too close, or if a mother is attempting to protect her young.
In almost all cases, koalas will only threaten people when people are encroaching on their territory or antagonizing them.
Have There Been Recorded Koala Attacks on People?
Yes, although these are very rare and fatalities virtually unheard of. Attacks have occurred as recently as the 2020s, though most of these resulted from people getting too close to koalas in the wild.
In a few instances, though, koalas that were injured or stranded either in the wild or in swimming pools attacked their rescuers in panic.
What Will Trigger a Koala Attack on a Person?
Getting too close to a koala in a tree or on the ground, especially when it has no other avenue of escape can provoke aggression.
Koalas have been videotaped going on the offensive when they’re pushed too far, charging toward people and slashing or biting their leg and latching on.
Another great way to get a koala enraged to violence is by antagonizing a mother with young, or messing with a young koala that has been separated from its mother.
Males are also highly aggressive and amped-up during mating season, and might fly off the handle for seemingly no reason at all.
Just How Strong is a Koala?
Koalas are stronger than you might think, although they lack the brute force that other, larger wild animals have.
Koalas can easily haul themselves and their babies straight up trees, and hang from branches, so they’ve got some muscle. That means they can easily hurt you with their claws or teeth.
Just because they look like lazy little sacks of fluffy fur doesn’t mean they can’t put the hurt on you!
Can Koalas Bite?
Yes, and they will! Although koalas eat nothing but plants and most of their teeth are optimized for the purpose, they have a set of larger frontal teeth that are basically incisors.
These teeth can easily inflict a nasty puncture wound, and in several recorded encounters between koalas and people the koalas have been shown to bite people and basically hang on.
That’s no good, and you definitely don’t want to risk a bite from one of these nasty little critters.
What Does a Koala Attack Look Like?
Koalas attack by charging and then clawing or biting. That’s all they can really do, and most victims that aren’t trying to reach out and touch them suffer wounds on their legs and lower extremities.
Contrary to the urban legend, koalas do not lurk out of sight in the treetops waiting for people to walk underneath them before dropping on top of them.
Fortunately, or I guess unfortunately if you love cryptids, the tale of the “drop bear” is just that: a tall tale.
How Do You Respond to a Koala Attack?
The very best thing you can do to respond to a koala attack is simply run away. Any human being that isn’t crippled is going to have an easy time getting away from a koala on the ground.
The only time they’ll be able to effectively outmaneuver a human being is if you were climbing through the treetops with them.
But, if for whatever reason, you’re unable to get away from a koala or it is already on you before you can react, use any object you have at hand to shield yourself from the animal and try to fend it off.
Use a branch, backpack, tent pole, or anything else and if necessary strike the koala in order to drive it off.
More importantly than anything, avoid being bitten by a koala. Bites from pretty much every wild animal are highly prone to infection, and koalas are shockingly nasty. More on that in a minute.
Will a Koala Eat a Person?!
No. If, for whatever reason a koala came upon a dead body or was, unbelievably, able to kill someone, it still wouldn’t eat you.
Koalas are strict herbivores, and they only eat plant matter, not meat.
Can People Catch Diseases from Koalas?
Yes, indeed they can. Koalas are surprisingly nasty animals, even compared to all of the many dirty creatures running around out in the wilderness.
In fact, koalas carry one surprising, but truly nasty disease that people already catch all the time – Chlamydia!
As gross as it sounds, it is true. Koalas give no outward signs of being symptomatic, but the vast majority of the koala population carries this germ.
And before you ask, yes, it is the same kind of Chlamydia as the STD you learned about back in sex ed.
And, before some of you ask, no, it is not contracted by sickos forcing themselves on these creatures: it is transmitted via simple contact and especially through injuries.
Koalas typically transmit Chlamydia through their urine, and since koalas aren’t very clean, you can assume they have urine on their bodies.
Any open wounds or sores on your skin will be highly vulnerable to infection from Chlamydia.
In all cases, if you have close contact with a koala in the wild, whether or not it actually bites or scratches you, you’ll want to visit a doctor pronto in order to get tested, and receive preventative treatment.
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