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Animals of Arizona

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Arizona is indeed a beautiful place. It is very hot and dry and has animals in it that match the wildness and remoteness. Not only are there dangerous bears and mountain lions, but Arizona is home to some very dangerous and venomous much smaller animals too.

For some, some of the scariest animals are the creepy crawly ones, and Arizona has its share of those too. We are giving you a list of 10 animals, or insects that are part of Arizona and that will make you want to go and see them amongst the incredible landscapes of Arizona.

Have a look at some of Arizona’s most moat notable wildlife in our Animals in Arizona list:

Ringtail cat

The ringtail cat is the official mammal of Arizona. It’s not really a cat at all. It’s actually related to the raccoon. It is also called a bassarisk. When you see the ringtail cat, you will realize that it is also smaller than the average pet cat. Its tail is noticeable with black and white rings – where it gets its name from – and its tail is almost as long as its body. It’s a sleek cunning animal with a unique appearance; kind of like a small fox, mixed with raccoon and yes, a bit of the domestic house cat as well. They weigh around 3 pounds as adults.

You won’t see this animal a whole lot because it is active more at night. During the day it sleeps, and at night, it will hunt. It nests in a den in the rocks or in logs, maybe even in nearby buildings. Long ago, ranchers and miners would allow them to come into their barns to control the rats. It likes to make its home in the desert areas, in hard-to-get places like rock piles, canyon walls, and large boulder outcrops. It’s got solitary habits and chooses to be alone.

They are very skilled at climbing, scurrying up and down the rocks, boulders, and trees; even cactus. They can descend from any of them at a steep angle. Their diet mainly comprises small mammals, birds, and reptiles. They also enjoy plants and fruit. Their main predators that they have to watch out for are coyotes, bobcats, and foxes, as well as large owls.

Gila Monster

The Gila monster is a large lizard living in Arizona. It can grow very large too. It is no small lizard that scurries off when it sees you. This one can be about two feet long; not in all cases though. It has bright colors which look intriguing and fascinating to get up close to see. Be careful, because they are also venomous. When they bite you a neurotoxin gets released that gets into your body. It can cause irritation and swelling, sometimes paralysis, and even death. 

They are specially designed for desert life in the arid countryside. There are some state parks that suit the habitat of the Gila monster. Did you know that the Gila monster stores fat in its tail? This helps it during lean times or when they have their annual hibernation. When they find prey to eat, they will immobilize it. Their prey could be birds or mammals, and other reptiles. They have large claws and these help them to dig out prey and underground eggs. During the day, the Gila monster will lie in shallow burrows that they have dug out. They do live underground for most of their lives, 95% of the time. 

Africanized bee


It is not a good idea to disrupt the Africanized bee colonies that you might see in Arizona; they can turn out to be fatal – that’s what the experts say. A few people, each year, are killed because of sometimes unintentionally disturbing the Africanized honey bees. Don’t try and exterminate bees without calling a professional to do it for you. These bees have also become known as “killer bees,” and they become very defensive when the protection of their hives is at stake. The Africanized bee is a lot more aggressive than the average honey bee. The bees love the warmer climates; areas like southern California and Texas. Arizona is the perfect area for these bees to make their home.

They make their nests in hollowed-out tree trunks, the eaves of buildings, or in any other cavities. Their hives or nests consist of wax which is produced from the glands of the worker bees. They make vertically hanging combs. These combs will have hexagonal-shaped cells that have eggs in them, larvae, pupae pollen, and honey. The bees themselves feed on pollen and nectar from flowering plants, making them outstanding pollinators. The queen bee is produced from fertilized eggs.

She will be the largest honey bee in the colony. The minute she hatches she fees on the royal jelly, enabling her to become the queen. The queen can live as long as five years, but she is usually replaced within 2 years.

Bark Scorpions


Bark scorpions can glow in the dark, but you wouldn’t want to disturb a bark scorpion in the dark. The sting of one of these scorpions can cause really severe pain and also swelling. You can expect to feel horribly ill for around three days. Not many people die from the sting, but it is possible, particularly children, because they are so much smaller than adults. The scorpion is small in size and light brown in color. They enjoy the more arid and semi-arid areas to set up home. They hunt at night, searching for their favorite food which would be spiders, cockroaches, and crickets, for example.

When they select their prey, they will use their stinger to disable the prey and then begin feeding. They don’t need a meal every day; in fact, they can go for days without eating. During the day they will retreat to their hiding places, cracks in walls, rocks in the garden, and any nooks and crannies in the home, or out in the wild. They can also be found in trees. The bark scorpion is not aggressive and will avoid human contact, but if it is threatened it will sting as a way of protecting itself.

The bark scorpion has a unique protein in its body that causes them to glow a bright blue color when they are exposed to UV light.


The female tarantula has a stockier body than the male. She is covered in light brown or tan hair and sometimes she is even called The Arizona Blond Tarantula! The male appears thinner and lankier and he has black hair covering most of his body with reddish hairs on his abdomen.

The spiders are very sensitive to vibrations around them on the ground because these can often indicate that there is danger or prey around. In Arizona, the tarantula loves well-drained and dry soil in open areas in the grassland and desert areas. All the North American tarantulas live in the ground, although there are some species that live in trees, caves, cliffs, or in crops like bananas and pineapples. Some species of tarantula are already on the endangered lists because their habitat is being destroyed. They are also being collected by humans for the pet trade.

Tarantulas are nocturnal creatures feeding mainly on insects such as grasshoppers, small spiders, and beetles. Sometimes they will eat lizards. They use venom to immobilize their prey. They kill prey with their fangs, secreting digestive enzymes into it before eating it. Their predators are snakes, birds, foxes, coyotes, and lizards. The desert tarantula lives in deep burrows covered with their silk webbing. This prevents their burrows from caving in.  The males lives for quite some time, up to about 12 years and the females can live twice as long! Out in the Sonoran Desert where they are to be found, they can grow to about 4 inches long! To date, there are 14 types of tarantula that have been spotted in Arizona. 


One of the most well-known killer snakes in Arizona is the rattlesnake. And there are plenty of snakes around in Arizona. Already, there are 13 different species of rattlesnakes in Arizona! And all of them have a deadly bite. The state reptile of Arizona is the Arizona ridge-nosed rattlesnake. It’s to be found in the “sky island.” This is just where Mexico and Arizona meet. It’s not big, only about 2 feet maximum in length. It has ridged scales along its nose – that’s where it gets its name from.

But the most deadly one is the Mojave Rattlesnake. It lives around 12 years and its length is around 137 cm. They have a kind of greenish color so people are known to call them “Mojave greens” in some areas. They’ve also got a diamond-like pattern along their back.

They are found in other parts of the USA and cover most of the Arizona area. They like the desert area and you will find them near scrub bush and cacti, Joshua tree forests, or grassy plains. They don’t usually cover the densely vegetated areas, preferring to move in open, dry habitats. Being nocturnal, they avoid the heat of the day by burrowing in burrows that other mammals have made.

On cooler days, they might come out to bask in the sun. They defend themselves vigorously when they are disturbed. When they are frightened they will shake their tail and produce a buzzing sound – this is to warn intruders before they strike. They are not afraid to come toward humans and chase them when frightened or provoked. This poisonous snake is a carnivore. He will eat toads, birds, lizards, and small rodents, like mice, rats, and rabbits.

Cactus Wren

No wonder Arizona chose the cactus wren as their official state bird. It is completely at home among prickly plants such as cactus and cholla.

To begin with, it is found in Arizona but it also has a very unique bird call as well. It’s got a white eye stripe that starts at its eyes and extends to just before his back. His throat and breast have plenty of dark brown and black spots. His wings consist of white, brown, and black feathers.  It has just a slightly curved beak. Fortunately, this lovely bird is not on the endangered list, but it is protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

For his diet, he searches on the ground for fruit pulp, ants, grasshoppers, arthropods, beetles, and seeds. Sometimes when they have their nests in the cactus, whip snakes or coachwhips will glide up and steal their eggs. As an adult bird, coyotes foxes, hawks, domestic cats, and bobcats will take them for food. They can live to about 10 years old and as a member of the wren family, he will grow about 8 inches in length.

Apache Trout

The Apache trout is the official fish of Arizona. This golden trout you will find in lakes and streams of White Mountain. There are other species of trout that have been introduced into Arizona, but this particular one, the Apache Trout, is just one out of two that is native to Arizona.

The other one is the Gila trout. The golden body also has moderate-sized black spots that are evenly spaced across its head, body, and fins. The fins are tipped with white or orange flecks. There are two black spots located near the eye. This fish can grow to around 20 inches in length and weigh up to around 5 pounds. The ones in the wild grow to be about 9 inches in length.

This magnificent fish was close to extinction, but now it is finally returning to its place in the wilds of Arizona – only due to recovery efforts and cooperative protection. It’s no wonder it is a hugely protected fish, it is found nowhere else in the world! To flourish, apache trout need clear, cold streams with gravel at the bottom. They can’t withstand changes to their habitat. They enjoy eating insects near their rivers as well as plankton, and also invertebrates. They will vary their eating habits based on what food is available on the surface of the water.

American Bison

Aren’t American bison a wonderful sight? – Those huge shoulders, their quick feet, and their bad tempers. They are prone to stampede as well. They might look slow and docile at times, but don’t be misled; they are mighty, strong beasts, and have been known to ram cars and gore anybody they consider a threat. The Yellowstone herd is a pure herd, genetically free of any cattle genes.

People love to see them as the iconic symbol of the western frontier days. They are part of American history. In Arizona, there are two bison herds that are managed by the Game and Fish Department. One herd is found at the Raymond Wildlife Area and the other is located on the North Kaibab and House Rock Wildlife Area. Bison primarily eat grasses, weeds and leafy plants; they will forage for 9-11 hours a day. The bison can live to be about 20-years old. Bison are North America’s largest land animals and mature bulls can weigh as much as 2,000 pounds. 

Mountain Lions

You will find the mountain lion throughout Arizona. They are more likely to be found in mountainous and rocky terrain areas. They are shy animals and quite reclusive so you can’t expect to see or find them around a whole lot. They are solitary except with you see the female with her kittens.

You will know a mountain lion has been around if you see droppings and food catches of a partially eaten kill that has been covered with leaves or brush, etc. They are a tan to reddish-brown color, sometimes slate grey color. They weigh around 150 pounds and live for about 13 years. They can jump high in the hair – about 20 feet! They like to eat deer, rabbits, javelin, domestic animals, and livestock. You don’t want to confront a mountain lion if you come across one because they are dangerous wildlife and can kill or injure humans. This magnificent creature is also known as a puma, cougar, panther, or catamount. They hunt at night, lying in wait of their prey, and silently stalk it before pouncing on it from behind.

They kill their prey but delivering a lethal bite to the spinal cord, which paralyzes their prey. They are strict carnivores and hardly eat vegetation. There was a time when they were hunted and almost eradicated from the USA and conservation efforts have managed to save them. They might be classified as large cats, but they cannot roar like the mighty lion. They growl, hiss, shriek, or purr, much like house cats. 

Summary on Animals of Arizona

If you loved learning about the animals in Arizona, you might also enjoy our blogs about wildlife in North America and South Dakota.

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