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The Most Dangerous Creatures in Southern Arizona

You might be thinking that the most dangerous creature in southern Arizona is the saguaro cactus. Getting cozy next to this mighty plant would most definitely not be good for your health.

However, it’s not on our list of the most dangerous creatures in southern Arizona – and it shouldn’t. We’re talking wiggly, flying, and squiggly creatures that slither across the desert floor. 

Keep reading to learn about a few dangerous creatures that call southern Arizona home.

What Is Southern Arizona Known For?

For many people, the first word that comes to mind when thinking of Southern Arizona is “hot.” And while that may be true, it’s also a beautiful and unique place. From the towering saguaros of Saguaro National Park to the bustling city of Tucson, there is something for everyone in Southern Arizona.

The Sonoran Desert is one of the most beautiful and diverse deserts in the world, and the historic towns of Bisbee and Tombstone are full of rich history and culture. 

Southern Arizona is also home to the Chihuahuan Desert and the Catalina and Mule Mountains, which offer stunning views and plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation. These outdoor sites also offer something more than just fun. They’re home to diverse wildlife, some of them dangerous.

Are Animal Attacks Common in Southern Arizona?

We’re willing to bet you are now a bit curious about these dangerous animals and if you should be cautious when visiting. As with any adventure, being cautious is good, especially when it comes to creatures in the desert.

Animal attacks in southern Arizona do occur, but they’re less common than you think. One of the most common animals seen on trails and in the wild is the rattlesnake. Another is the javelina – a mammal similar to a wild pig. If you ever come in close contact with either, stop and back away slowly. Remind yourself that they don’t want to see you, either.

As humans increasingly encroach more into animal habitats in an attempt to get out of cities, there’s bound to be more animal/human contact. And this could result in increased animal attacks on humans, but it doesn’t have to be that way. By using common sense, like being aware of your surroundings, keeping your distance from animals, and knowing what to do when encountering wildlife, humans and animals can enjoy the natural world.

10 Most Dangerous Creatures in Southern Arizona

Nature or city lover, in Southern Arizona, you’re bound to come across some scary creatures. And some of these scary creatures can actually be dangerous. We’ve got 10 of the most dangerous creatures in Southern Arizona listed right here for you. We hope you can avoid them, but this is their home as much as yours.

1. Bark Scorpion

Bark scorpions are one of the most dangerous types of scorpions out there. They’re small, only reaching 2 inches to 3 inches in length, but their stings pack a powerful punch. They’re a light brown to brownish-yellow color and have elongated, thin pincers. They’re nocturnal creatures that love to hide under rocks, tree bark, and bricks. You can also find them on trees and walls, in closets, sinks, bathtubs, and anywhere that is cool and moist. 

If you’re ever stung by a bark scorpion, you’ll know it. The sting is excruciating and can cause tingling, numbness, vomiting, and convulsions. In young children and the elderly, this is one of the rare stings that could result in death. So if you’re ever unfortunate enough to get stung by a bark scorpion, seek medical attention immediately.

2. Black Widow Spider

The black widow is one of the most feared and easily recognizable spiders, thanks to its sharp fangs and the females’ characteristic glossy black body and red hourglass-shaped underbelly. Most bites come from female spiders, but they’re not usually fatal. They can hurt quite a bit, though. Their toxins can cause excruciating pain, weakness, hypertension, and muscle cramps.

You’re more likely to find a black widow spider outdoors than indoors. You’ll find them in temperate forests and woodlands all around the world. If you see a black widow, it’s best to just leave it alone.

3. Brown Recluse Spider

Arizona is home to a variety of creepy crawlies, and the brown recluse spider is one of them. Also known as the fiddleback spider or violin spider, this arachnid gets its name from its brown color and violin-shaped markings. It’s relatively small, only about 1 centimeter long and half a centimeter wide, but it can pack a punch. 

The brown recluse is naturally shy and prefers to stay in dark, man-made spaces like closets and under porches. If a brown recluse bites you, you may see a small red mark that can be itchy. In some cases, the bite may also cause a small white blister that turns into a lesion. If this happens, it’s essential to keep the area clean to avoid infection. 

Preventing a bite by being aware of your surroundings is your best defense against this Southern Arizona creature.

4. Kissing Bug

They are called kissing bugs but don’t let the name fool you. You’ll know these pests by their brown or black wings, often with an edge of reddish-orange color. Measuring only about the size of a coin, they are blood-sucking nocturnal creatures. You’ll find them almost anywhere in Arizona, including in animal dens and under leaves, wood, and porches. 

When they bite – usually on the face or around the mouth and eyes – they leave half a dozen or so tiny red marks. And when they do, your skin may be irritated and itchy similar to other bug bites or general skin irritations. Unless you have an allergic reaction, they’re harmless. An allergic reaction could consist of increased red, swollen, and itchy skin, compared to just an annoyance. If you see one of these bugs, don’t panic; don’t let them give you a “kiss.”

5. Africanized Honey Bee

Southern Arizona is home to a large number of Africanized honey bees. These bees are a hybrid of the western honeybee and are smaller and darker than traditional honeybees. They are also much more aggressive and quick to attack. Africanized honey bees live in underground hives but can also be in other places where bees usually reside. 

In 1956, these bees were introduced in Brazil to increase honey production. However, several swarms escaped and spread this hybrid breed throughout the Americas. Although they are called “killer bees,” a sting from an Africanized honeybee is no more dangerous than a sting from a traditional honeybee. 

There may be localized swelling and pain, but death is not a common outcome. However, people allergic to bee stings should be cautious around Africanized honey bees just as they are around other bees.

6. Blister Beetle

Blister Beetles are dangerous but don’t bite or sting humans. Instead, touching one can cause pain and discomfort from the chemical released when threatened. This toxin is not dangerous but can cause blisters, welts, and irritation. Don’t fret – these usually disappear on their own within a week.

How do you know what beetle to touch or not to touch? None of them is our answer. The blister beetle is usually gray or yellowish and quite narrow in shape – almost sleek. They are often found in flower beds and high grasses and love the night’s artificial lights. In other words, they love the Arizona landscape as much as you do.

7. Tarantula Hawk

We know what you’re thinking. How can a bird that hunts tarantulas be a danger to humans? First, it’s not a bird. Second, its sting is not just painful – it’s excruciatingly painful. The tarantula hawk is actually a spider wasp that preys on tarantulas. They’re usually about 2 inches long and have blue-black bodies with rust-colored wings. They’re not aggressive, but will sting if provoked.

It’s their sting that’s dangerous. Not because it will kill you – there are no worries about that unless there is an extreme allergic reaction – but because the pain is intense. Thankfully, it only lasts about five minutes, and then you can go on with your day, unlike the tarantula it hunts. 

8. Mojave Rattlesnake

The Mojave rattlesnake is one of the most toxic species of rattlesnakes. It’s identified by its small size – less than 3 feet – and a brown to greenish tint, hence its nickname, “Mojave green.” While its bite may be very toxic, the likelihood of it being fatal is rare as long as you get to a hospital for treatment.

The Mojave rattlesnake resides in various habitats, such as desert sands, grasslands, and under rocks. They’re just as afraid of you as you are of them, so if you do come across one, they will likely back off. You should do the same. As long as you’re not reaching or stepping into hidden spaces, the likelihood of coming across one is uncommon.

9. Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

There are 13 species of rattlesnakes in Arizona, more than any other state (with the Mojave rattlesnake being the most toxic, as mentioned earlier). However, responsible for more bites is the Western diamond-backed rattlesnake. But don’t read too much into that. Western diamondback bites are rarely deadly. But to be safe, you still need to hightail it to the closest hospital for treatment if you get bitten by one.

This rattlesnake species averages 4 feet in length. Its body is a dusty-looking gray-brown color, but it may also be pinkish-brown, brick red, yellowish, pinkish, or chalky white. The tail has two to eight black bands separated by an ash-white or pale-gray colored gap. Similar to the Mojave rattlesnake, the western diamondback lives in a variety of habitats, too, including deserts, grasslands, and rocky hillsides, so be aware when wandering the desert.

10. Gila Monster

The Gila monster is the only venomous lizard native to the United States. It lives in the foothills, grasslands, washes, and deserts surrounded by palo verde trees and saguaros. These nocturnal creatures measure just under 2 feet long on average, with bright pink or orange and black skin and wart-like bumps. The characteristics definitely fit their name.

Gila monsters won’t attack unless they feel threatened. If they do attack, their bites are painful but rarely fatal. If you do find yourself on the receiving end of a Gila monster bite, symptoms may include swelling, intense burning pain, vomiting, dizziness, weakness, rapid heart rate, and/or low blood pressure. So if you’re hiking in Southern Arizona and come across one of these guys, back off and enjoy the view from a distance.

Is It Safe to Visit Southern Arizona?

When it’s time to enjoy the beauty of Southern Arizona, get close. But, while enjoying the view keeping your distance is good advice when it comes to these dangerous creatures. In other words, enjoy the stark beauty of Southern Arizona by getting out on the trails and surrounding yourself with all that Southern Arizona has to offer. 

Safety is never a guarantee, but by being aware of your surroundings within urban life and out in nature, danger isn’t something you’ll need to worry about too much. In fact, your worries should be more focused on how you can stay in Arizona longer.

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