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14 Impressive Animals That Have Adapted to Living in Arizona’s Deserts

Animals that have adapted to Arizona's deserts
Image by sepavone via Depositphotos

Although Arizona’s deserts are scorching hot, it is still full of life. Any human would struggle to survive in this landscape, but these amazing animals that call Arizona’s deserts home have adapted in many clever ways and have hidden talents that allow them to cope with the intense heat.

1. Gila Monster

gila monster
Gila Monster. Image by jessiegirl413 via Pixabay

It’s not for nothing that this lizard is called a monster – it’s one of few lizards in the whole world that is venomous. Thanks to their ability to store fat and water in their tail, they can go months without needing water; without this clever adaptation they wouldn’t be able to handle the heat of Arizona’s deserts.

2. Coyote

Coyote Howling in the American Southwest. Image via Depositphotos

Coyotes do most of their hunting at night to avoid the scorching sun. In the desert they can’t be picky about they hunt either, they’re opportunistic feeders and much on rodents, rabbits, fruits, amongst many other things.

3. Desert Tortoise

desert tortoise
Large tortoise reptile walking on sandy ground through an arid desert landscape. Image by paulvinten via Depositphotos

To escape the overwhelming desert heat, the desert tortoise digs burrows underground where the temperature can be a whole 20°F less than above ground. Not only that, they can go for a whole year without drinking water.

4. Roadrunner

Roadrunner. Image by twildlife via depositphotos.

As their name suggest, roadrunner can run really fast – at an impressive 20 mph. This makes them great hunters, and they tend to feast on insects, lizards, small mammals and the odd rattlesnake.

5. Javelina

By Enrique Manuel González González – Museo Nacional de Historia Natural de Uruguay, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Because of the limited food available in the desert, javelinas consume a diet of desert plants, roots, and insects. They’re mostly nocturnal but also have thick skin with coarse hair that shields them from the sun.

6. Bobcat

Image via Depositphotos

The bobcat’s spotted coat provides camouflage in the desert landscape, making it a good predator. They are excellent climbers and maintain large territories marked with scent.

7. Desert Bighorn Sheep

More details Among the largest hoofed mammals in the park, the desert bighorn sheep, Ovis canadensis.
By Grand Canyon National Park – Grand Canyon Nat. Park: Desert Bighorn Sheep 3721, CC BY 2.0,

Desert bighorn sheep can go days without water by getting the moisture they need from their food and conserving water through minimal sweating.

8. Rattlesnake

Eastern diamondback rattlesnake
Head of an eastern diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus). Image via Depositphotos

Rattlesnakes have heat-sensing pits that allow them to detect warm-blooded prey in darkness. Having highly a highly venomous bite, they can subdue prey within seconds.

9. Harris’s Hawk

Harris's Hawk
Image by James Lee via Unsplash

Harris’s hawks have a unique social hunting strategy, which gives them a high success rate when it comes to hunting. They use thermal currents to soar and conserve energy while scanning the ground for prey.

10. Pronghorn Antelope

Image by David Thielen via Unsplash

Pronghorns are North America’s fastest land animals, capable of speeds up to 60 miles per hour, to make sure that they can escape predators. Similarly, their large eyes and wide field of vision are crucial for spotting threats.

11. Kit Fox

kit Fox
Kit Fox in Utah. Image by USFWS Mountain-Prairie, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The kit fox, North America’s smallest canine, uses its size to navigate burrows and escape the heat. They also have adorably large ears which helps to cool them down.

12. Horned Lizard

the most impressive displays of animal camouflage
Image by elliepeek via Pixabay

Horned lizards can almost blend perfectly with the desert floor because of their body shape and coloration. They can squirt blood from their eyes as a defense mechanism when threatened.

13. Desert Kangaroo Rat

desert kangaroo rat
Image by djmdep via Depositphotos

Desert kangaroo rats obtain all the moisture they need from seeds. This means they barely have to drink any water at all, a much-needed trait in the arid desert.

14. Elf Owl

elf owl
Elf owl sitting on perch at night. Image by Griffins_nature_photography via Depositphotos

As the world’s smallest owl, elf owls nest in the holes of saguaro cacti, keeping them safe from many predators.

Animals That Have Adapted to Arizona’s Deserts: Wrapping Up

animals adapted to Arizona
Image by Ganapathy Kumar via Unsplash

Each of these animals has their own set of survival skills that allow them to survive in the deserts of Arizona – one more ingenious than the other. Which one are you most impressed by?

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