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Wild Animals in Arizona (Native, Invasive, Endangered)

Arizona is a hot and humid state that’s home to the Grand Canyon and is full of desert sands with a diverse range of wildlife. Several of these animals can pose serious danger to people and should be avoided at all costs. Other animals are relatively harmless but still shouldn’t be approached if you stumble across their path. Locals and tourists alike should have some kind of knowledge of the creatures calling Arizona home.

Types of wild animals in Arizona

You can find a wide range of animal species in Arizona, from large mammals to small reptiles and amphibians. Some of these creatures are native to the state and a few cause active harm by being invasive. It’s safe to assume that most animals in Arizona want to hurt you, but some are actually endangered and on the brink of extinction.

1. Native animals in Arizona

There are several wildlife species that are native to the desert state of Arizona, though some are more common than others. While some of these native species can be harmless, many of them have been known to threaten people.

Sonoran Desert Toads

Scientific name: Bufo alvarius

The Sonoran Desert Toad, often called the Colorado River Toad, is native to Arizona, New Mexico, and Central America. They release dangerous toxins through their glands, and have been known to kill full grown dogs that get their mouths around them.

Giant Desert Centipedes

giant desert centipede | image by Bettina Arrigoni via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Scolopendra heros

These large centipede species can be found across the southern United States and Northern Mexico. Giant desert centipedes are one of the most commonly found in Arizona, and often find their way into houses.

Bark Scorpions

Scientific name: centruroides sculpturatus

These small scorpions are common in Arizona, the southwest United States, and Mexico. They barely reach 8 centimeters long, with females of the species only reaching 7. It isn’t hard for these scorpions to become a pest in Arizona homes.


2. Dangerous animals in Arizona

Arizona is full of a number of dangerous animals that can cause serious harm to humans. Not all of these animals pose as much of a threat as others, while running into some could mean instant death.

Rattlesnakes

Scientific name: Crotalus

There are 14 species of rattlesnakes in Arizona, and all of them are venomous. Three species of these snakes are protected in the state, including the Arizona Ridgenosed Rattlesnake. This rattlesnake is the state reptile.

Black Widows

black widow spider

Scientific name: Latrodectus

Black Widows are a widely distributed spider, and they are commonly found in Arizona. They can be identified by a vibrant red marking on their back. These spiders are extremely poisonous and can cause death.

American Black Bears

Scientific name: Ursus americanus

This medium sized bear species is the smallest and most widely distributed species of bear in North America. They are omnivores that enjoy eating fish and berries, but they can be dangerous if you come across one in the wild.


3. Endangered animals in Arizona

There are some species of animals in Arizona that are either endangered or threatened. In 2019, it was reported that 49 species found in the state were being threatened.

Mexican wolves

Scientific name: Canis lupus baileyi

This subspecies of gray wolf is native to Arizona, and can also be found in other regions of the southern United States and northern Mexico. Efforts to conserve this rare wolf species were started in the 1970s, with action still being taken today to protect them.

Ridge-nosed Rattlesnakes

ridge-nosed rattlesnake | image by Bettina Arrigoni via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Crotalus willardi willardi

This rattlesnake is one of three rattlesnake species that is protected in Arizona, due to their endangered status. The ridgenosed is a relatively small snake, only reaching about two feet long. It was also named the Arizona state reptile.

Sonoran tiger salamanders

Scientific name: Ambystoma mavortium

This type of mole salamander can be found across the southern United States, northern Mexico, and southwestern Canada. While Arizona has the Sonoran tiger salamander listed as a species of concern, they don’t have any protected habitat in the state.


4. Invasive animals in Arizona

A few of the animal species in Arizona are considered invasive and actively harm the state’s natural ecosystem. They do this by having no natural predators, so their populations easily grow to outnumber native creatures.

American Bullfrogs

American bullfrog

Scientific name: Lithobates catesbeianus

This large amphibian is native to North American and commonly found throughout the United States. Even though it is a native species, it has become invasive in western regions like Arizona. They don’t lose any harm to humans and have few natural predators.

Crayfish

Scientific name: Cambarus sp.

Also known as crawfish, these fresh water creatures are not native to Arizona. They are considered one of the worst invasive species in freshwater habitats because of the harm they can cause.

Carp

Scientific name: Cyprinus carpio

Carp can easily become an invasive species when introduced into new habitats, and that is exactly what it has done in Arizona. The lack of natural predators allows them to run rampant in the state’s lakes and rivers. They can also eat three times their weight each day, which causes a negative impact on other fish populations.


5. Arizona state animals

Arizona has more than one state animal, including a state mammal, state amphibian, and state bird. Arizona’s state animals were chosen as the best to represent the state and all it stands for.

Ringtail

Scientific name: Bassariscus astutus

The ringtail, commonly referred to as the ringtail cat, is closely related to the racoon. It was deemed the state mammal of Arizona in 1986. The ringtail is a small carnivore that looks like a fox with a racoon tail.

Arizona treefrogs

Arizona treefrog | image by ALAN SCHMIERER via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Hyla wrightorum

The Arizona tree frog became the state amphibian in 1986. This species of treefrog was chosen by Arizona school children in 1985 as part of a wildlife awareness program.

Cactus wrens

Scientific name: Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus

Arizona also has a state bird, the Cactus wren. Cactus wrens reach between 7 and 8 inches long and are known for being brown with white spots. They will build their nests inside of cactuses in order to keep predators away.


Summary of Arizona’s wild animals

Arizona is home to a diverse range of wildlife, many of which should be avoided if you happen across their path. Some of the state’s native species are harmless to people and benefit the natural ecosystem, while others are invasive or beginning to die out. Knowing more about the wildlife found in Arizona can lead to a deeper appreciation for the state.

Written by OutdoorMotives

At outdoormotives.com we talk about all types of outdoor activities. We answer common questions and recommend the best products to help you enjoy the outdoors as much as possible.

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