Skip to Content

What Are the Most Dangerous Creatures in Joshua Tree?

What Are the Most Dangerous Creatures in Joshua Tree?

This arid climate of Joshua Tree National Park is inhospitable to humans, but thousands of animals gladly call it home. In fact, many of the world’s most dangerous creatures choose to reside here.

The park inhabits two colliding desert ecosystems in California. It’s the meeting point of the Colorado Plateau and the Mojave Desert, both carved by wind and limited rains.

Joshua Tree’s unique biodiversity is what attracts so many animals, reptiles, and insects.

Let’s take a look at some of its most dangerous creatures!

What Makes a Creature Dangerous?

Most people consider poisonous animals pretty dangerous. Others think of dangerous animals as those that can harm humans.

Joshua Tree National Park has several dangerous creatures, including mountain lions, rattlesnakes, and some spiders. But size or speed isn’t always a designator of a dangerous creature. Take, for instance, scorpions. They kill more than 3,200 humans around the world per year. And some of the largest ones live in Joshua Tree.

Dangerous wildlife exists virtually everywhere on earth. The secret to coexisting with these animals is to respect them. In this park, you’ll share space with bats and bobcats, brown recluses and bears, skunks, and skinks.

Not all of them seem scary, but any one of them can hurt a human, especially if they carry a disease. Realizing that you’re the visitor in their world and acting accordingly will help you to enjoy Joshua Tree and remain safe at the same time.

Woman sat on road in Joshua Tree.
When exploring Joshua Tree, make sure to keep an eye out for the dangerous wildlife.

The Most Dangerous Mammals in Joshua Tree

There are more than 50 species of mammals within the park. Here are just three that require your respect:


Most of the time, coyotes aren’t a threat to humans. However, if they run in a pack and come across an injured or otherwise hindered hiker, in some rare instances, they might attack.

And like any other mammal, mama coyotes don’t like interference with their pups. 

Mountain Lions

Lone hikers and runners should have a very healthy respect for mountain lions. These cats can easily take down a human, as they weigh between 120 and 220 pounds and are extremely fast. If you come across one, back away from it while looking it in the eye and making yourself appear big.

Don’t ever run from a mountain lion, and keep children close to you as you hike.

Rabid Animals

Any mammal can carry rabies, but the most common ones are skunks, raccoons, foxes, and bats. They transmit the disease through their bite, so by keeping your distance, you’re avoiding a battle with rabies.

Pro Tip: Apart from the dangerous wildlife, these are 5 Reasons to Avoid Joshua Tree National Park.

The Most Dangerous Snakes in Joshua Tree

This desert environment is home to many non-poisonous snakes, but there are seven or eight to avoid.


The first animal visitors think of when coming to the desert is rattlesnakes. What makes Joshua Tree National Park even more dangerous is its collection of seven different rattlesnake species.

Those seven slippery creatures are the Mojave Desert sidewinder, Colorado desert sidewinder, Mojave green rattlesnake, southern Pacific diamondback, western diamondback, speckled rattlesnake, and red diamond rattlesnake.

Of course, rattlesnakes aren’t the only serpents found in this park. The mildly venomous California lyre snake is an avid rock climber in this desert environment.

Most of the other varieties are harmless sun worshippers.

Close up of the rattle tail on a rattle snake.
Snakes, spiders, coyotes and more. This is all that Joshua Tree has in store!

The Most Dangerous Creepy Crawlies in Joshua Tree

If creepy crawly things aren’t your favorite critters, keep an eye open for these spiders.

Black Widow Spiders

Black widow spiders live all over the country, but most people don’t get close enough to actually identify them. If you see a relatively plump black spider and get a view of its underbelly, you’ll immediately know its identity by the red hourglass.

These arachnids like to hide in dark spaces, so don’t put your hands or feet into rock crevices without looking first. 

The bite of a black widow can render you helpless, with violent stomach cramps, muscle stiffness, nausea, and possible paralysis. You’ll have difficulty breathing, and your blood pressure will increase to extreme levels.

However, treatment is available.

Recluse Spiders

Brown recluse spiders can do more damage to humans than black widow spiders.

The venom from these rather common-looking arachnids can kill a human, and at the very least, cause tissue death around the bite. It’s easy to see why brown recluses are considered the most dangerous spiders in America.

Are These Creatures Protected in Joshua Tree?

Yes, dozens of creatures living in Joshua Tree are protected. Some include the Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard and the desert tortoise. Since our National Parks provide safe zones for wildlife, visitors shouldn’t disturb any animal, protected or not. 

Some parks and preserves offer limited hunting, mainly as a source of food for indigenous tribes. Joshua Tree National Park isn’t one of these parks, however. So you can’t hunt anything here, endangered or not.

Pro Tip: If snakes and spiders won’t deter you from visiting Joshua Tree, try camping at The Best Free Camping Near Joshua Tree National Park.

Couple sat in back of car in Joshua Tree.
Be careful when camping in Joshua Tree to avoid all dangerous wildlife.

Staying Safe in Joshua Tree

Always view wildlife from a safe distance, if possible. If hiking at Joshua Tree National Park, watch where you place your feet and hands. And don’t feed any animals. It’s not good for their health, and it encourages them to approach humans, sometimes leading to aggressive behavior. 

If you have the stamina and courage to share the same acreage with many of the world’s most dangerous creatures, a visit to Joshua Tree National Park should be on your bucket list.

Its beauty lies in the unique trees that dot the landscape and the amazing variety of wildlife. Just use caution and common sense. Have you ever encountered a dangerous animal?

Discover the Best Free Camping Across the USA

To be honest with you, we hate paying for camping. There are so many free campsites in America (with complete privacy).

You should give it a try!

As a matter of fact, these free campsites are yours. Every time you pay federal taxes, you’re contributing to these lands.

Become a FREE CAMPING INSIDER and join the 100,000 campers who love to score the best site! 

We’ll send you the 50 Best Free Campsites in the USA (one per state). Access the list by submitting your email below:

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *