Are Sloths Dangerous? Is This Even Possible?

When I look at pictures or watch videos of sloths, I see an adorable, gentle, lovable, wonderful creature that moves so slowly that I can’t imagine it would ever be dangerous to anyone or anything. However, I also see claws on them that remind me of the Marvel Comics characters Wolverine, Venom, and Romulus. So, are sloths dangerous?

In this article, I will dig deeper and discuss whether or not sloths are dangerous when they’re around humans, whether or not they’re dangerous when they’re being touched or held by humans, whether or not they’re dangerous when they’re around other animals, and whether or not they’re dangerous when they’re amongst other sloths. At the end of it all, I will have (hopefully) answered our question and given you a few things to think about. So, let the journey begin…..

 

Are Sloths Dangerous When They’re Around Humans?

Generally speaking, sloths are not dangerous when they’re around humans. However, they are wild animals and regardless of how gentle and harmless they may usually be, they are still wild animals nonetheless. As such, they will instinctively defend and protect themselves if they feel threatened or if they feel that they are in danger. Some of the ways that sloths could defend and protect themselves are as follows:

  • Sloths have claws that are long, curved, sharp, and strong, which enables them to hold securely onto tree branches. It is these same claws that can grab onto you if the sloth feels threatened or feels that it is in danger.
  • Some sloths have an ability to turn their heads almost 360 degrees. So, if you are approaching the animal from behind, there is a good possibility that it will see you coming, and may feel threatened and take appropriate defensive actions.
  • Sloths only “do their business” once or twice a week (which three-toed sloths do on the ground). While sloths are on the ground, they are vulnerable to attacks from other animals during this time. Being acutely aware of this vulnerability that they face, they will be more “on edge” during this time, and so the possibility exists that this heightened sense of fear could result in a surprising defensive maneuver on their part.

 

Are Sloths Dangerous When They’re Being Touched Or Held By Humans?

Two good reasons to admire sloths from afar are:

  • There are a lot of parasites, as well as fungi, on a sloth’s fur. These parasites and fungi are reported to cause Chagas disease (which can cause a variety of symptoms, some of them serious). These parasites and fungi are also reported to cause malaria. The sloth might be just fine and stay healthy with these things living on it, but it could be a totally different situation for humans that touch the sloth’s fur. Plus, sloths hate being touched by humans, anyways (although, every once in awhile they will have some fondness for humans).
  • When humans touch or hold sloths, the sloth may become disoriented and do something unexpected, like bite you or swipe their claws at you. The fact that sloths have terrible eyesight makes things that much more difficult for them (and that much more unpredictable for humans).

Sloth in Tree

Yes, sloths look so cute and so adorable (and they are), but always remember that they are wild animals (and always will be wild animals). The Sloth Conservation Foundation says that, “Sloths might look fluffy but they are not teddy-bears – they are wild animals and they have big teeth.”

 

Are Sloths Dangerous When They’re Around Other Animals?

As the slowest-moving mammal (and one of the slowest-moving animals) on the planet, sloths are not built to be aggressive predators and do not attempt to be like that at all. If they are attacked by other animals, they will use their claws and teeth in an attempt to defend themselves, but their best defense is to be high in the trees, staying still, and using the algae that grows on them as camouflage.

 

Are Sloths Dangerous While Amongst Other Sloths?

According to The Sloth Conservation Foundation, “The only time males will fight is over access to female (sic) for mating.”

The founder of The Sloth Conservation Foundation, Dr. Rebecca Cliffe, states that “Male sloths will move through the canopy towards her and fight over mating rights.”

 

The Gentle And Not-So-Dangerous Sloth

Sloth Hanging Around

So, are sloths dangerous? Generally, the answer is, “No.” However, as this article discussed, they are wild animals that have instincts to defend and protect themselves if they feel threatened or if they feel that they are in danger.

This article dug deeper and went on to discuss whether or not sloths are dangerous when they’re around humans, whether or not they’re dangerous when they’re being touched or held by humans, whether or not they’re dangerous when they’re around other animals, and whether or not they’re dangerous while amongst other sloths.

Like all animals, the sloth deserves to be given respect. By viewing sloths from afar, that respect can be shown to them. This is an even more important consideration when they are in their natural habitat.

Sloths have a number of predators in the rainforests, and there are also humans that are involved in poaching and illegal trafficking of them. For more information about sloth predators from the animal kingdom, take a look at my article titled, “Sloth Predators – There Are Several Of Them“. For more information about sloth predators from the human kingdom, check out my article titled, “Are Sloths Endangered? The Sad Reality“. Those predators (animals and humans) are far more dangerous to sloths than sloths could ever be to them.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I hope that you learned something new from it and that you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed researching for it and writing it. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to submit them below and I will be sure to reply.

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6 comments

  • Sloths are so cute, I can’t imagine them being dangerous. Except if attacked, of course. Great article! Thank you for sharing!

  • I always thought sloths are super cute and cuddly but forgot that they are not teddy bears! Lol
    They too as any other wild animal can bite you or scratch you with their claws.
    As well as the fungi on their fur could be another factor to stay away from them and just watch them from far.

    Many thanks for sharing this factual post with us all to help us learn more about sloths.

    Best Regards

    • As cute and cuddly as sloths are, they are indeed still wild animals – and always will be.

      I agree with you that watching them from a distance is the best, both for us as well as for them.

      Thank you for your comments and best regards to you, too.

  • A very well written post on the topic of sloths and if they are dangerous or not. I really like your explanation and how you said everything about where they are from and all that. I feel like people should not have the wrong impression about this lovely animal and I’m happy you are so specific about writing about them.

    • Michael Christmann says:

      I agree with you that sloths are lovely animals and that some people may have the wrong impression about them.  Thank you for your comments.

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