Wildlife in Arizona

Wildlife in ArizonaThe state of Arizona is home to diverse wildlife. Hikers can expect to encounter many different varieties of desert animals while out on the trail. Some common animals in Arizona are the javelina, rattlesnake, coyote and road runner. Identifying active Arizona wildlife species and understanding animal behaviors are important components of outdoor education and danger prevention.



Often considered a wild pig, the javelina is actually a hoofed mammal from the peccary family. It can be identified by it's muted coloring, long snout, hog-like attributes and sharp tusks. Commonly observed in herds in southern Arizona, shy javelina will rest during the day in empty river basins and feed on vegetation (such as prickly pear) at nighttime. Javelina have poor eyesight and a strong sense of smell. Javelina can weigh as much as 60 pounds and, although a docile animal, it will defend itself against potential predators. When encountering a javelina in the wild, move in the other direction and make loud noises (such as clapping) to alert the creature of your presence.




Many people fear an encounter with a rattlesnake. However, understanding of the reptile species can help alleviate concerns. Thirteen types of rattlesnakes thrive in Arizona, including the black-tailed, rock, western, black, diamondback and tiger varieties. While each type of rattlesnake differs in overall size, temperament, habitat and coloring, they have several characteristics in common. A rattlesnake is a cold-blooded reptile with venom-producing mouth glands and a keratin rattle on the tip of its tail. When threatened, a rattlesnake will commonly shake its rattle, emitting a low sound of warning to a nearby predator. Should the rattlesnake coil up, it could be in the strike position. A rattlesnake bite is poisonous, which can be potentially fatal to both animals and people. Hikers should exert extra caution when outside on a sunny day, especially if the trail meanders though territory with plentiful snake-prey (such as birds, lizards and mice) and attractive habitat (like thick underbrush, rocky slopes and empty river basins). Never poke, prod or taunt a rattlesnake, as this will encourage aggressiveness. Should a snake bite occur, follow safety measures to immediately treat the snake bite and reduce symptom severity.



In Arizona, a coyote sighting is a common experience. Coyotes are highly adaptable, living in both urban and rural areas in search of food, shelter and entertainment. Recognizable by a grey, brown and white coat, this canine species can top 30 pounds, grow to 22 inches tall and run up to 40 miles per hour. Coyotes can be spotted alone, in pairs or with a pack (especially in areas where food is plentiful). A coyote has a natural curiosity, intelligent mind and scavenger-like characteristics, as they will get into neighborhood garbage cans, outdoor pet food and water bowls, cave-like sheds and lush, delectable gardens.

Road Runner (pictured top)

Road runners are a quick-footed desert bird species with abundant populations in the state of Arizona. Also called the "Chaparral" bird, this species is easily identified by its distinct head crest, long white tail, large bill, lean legs and over-sized feet. Growing to only 22 inches in length, the road runner is a curious, sure-footed bird with extremely swift movements. It has the ability to run up to 17 miles per hour, kill a rattlesnake and catch a hummingbird in mid-flight. Additionally, a road runner has a solid carnivore diet, eating mainly insects, rodents, lizards, snakes and other birds.


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