When I grew up, I was a Tomboy. I loved the outdoors. Growing up in New England I learned to deal with mosquitos, ticks, black flies, deer flies, horse flies and the other nuisances that I encountered. They could make life outdoors miserable, but I didn’t know any different.

Then I moved to Arizona and learned that outdoor critters weren’t just a nuisance, they could be downright dangerous.

Fast forward to this past weekend. We had the opportunity to photograph live critters, the poisonous and dangerous kind.


Take rattlesnakes for instance. They hiss, rattle and their venom is extremely poisonous.


Jeff developed a paranoia of rattlesnakes after we encountered a Mohave Rattler while hiking on the trail. Who wouldn’t? With over 13 types of rattlers found in Arizona, natives becomes extremely cautious when the rattlers come out in the spring.

Sidewinder rattler, check out those horned eyes

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. He’s posing with his rattle.

Arizona Black Rattlesnake

Arizona Black Rattler – check out those blue eyes!

How about this colorful cutie? A non-poisonous King Snake. They can eat rattlesnakes making them our friends (although it doesn’t happen often enough). He also looks a lot like a Coral Snake which is highly poisonous. Apparently there are rhymes to keep one safe: “”Red next to black is a friend of Jack” (King snake), “Red next to yellow can kill a fellow” (Coral snake).

Arizona Mountain King Snake (one of the good guys)


My scorpion paranoia manifested itself after I was stung by a bark scorpion while walking across the carpet in our bedroom. Afterwards I seriously considered putting the house on the market (3 years later we did move, mostly due to scorpions).

There are over 30 species of scorpions in Arizona with the Bark scorpions being the most poisonous.  They do glow with a black light, which has enabled me to get my revenge. Each night after I was stung I would go on a rampage, black light in my left hand, killing device (shovel) in my right hand. Every night I made my pilgrimage. After many months I evened the score, the finally tally was about 300 to 1. Word must have gotten out, as we haven’t seen any scorpions at our new house.

Bark Scorpion, most dangerous, their venom is injected from their tail while the pinchers hold their prey 

Gila Monster

There is only one poisonous lizard in the US, the Gila Monster. Fortunately they are extremely shy and thus, very rare to see. It also requires a good bit of provocation to get them to bite.

The Gila monster is slow moving and shy. Check out his devilish purple forked tongue.


Over 30 types of tarantulas are said to exist in Arizona. Although they look scary (and hairy), they rarely bite and they are not that poisonous.  I encountered my first one years ago on a trail in New Mexico. For some reason, having to share the trail with him gave me the heebie jeebies. Since then, I’ve become fond of these hairy giants. I even saved one by relocating it from the road in front of our condo.

Common Arizona Tarantula, often called a Blonde Tarantula

The Pepsis wasp, also known as the Tarantula Hawk.  It holds the distinction of delivering the most painful sting of any animal in the world. And they are common in southern Arizona. They prey on tarantulas, paralyzing them with a sting and then planting their eggs in the tarantula’s still live body so their young have something to feed on as they grow. 

Tarantula Hawk, known for hunting tarantulas to use to grow their larvae.

Desert Sonoran Toad

I can’t tell you how many frogs and toads I caught and kissed as a young girl. Yet, no prince appeared. Thank goodness I didn’t try this maneuver here as I would have never grown up and met Jeff.

Sonoran Desert Toad, whose venom can be deadly especially for pets and is apparently trending as a psychedelic drug. This fellow was a good 8 inches wide.

Visiting Arizona

I mentioned to Jeff that if I posted this article, we’d probably never have another visitor. Don’t worry, these critters are not common. Most people never see them. 


**All these critters were cared for and handled by Jerry Schudda (and his partner Tom). Yes, Tom and Jerry.  Despite Jerry handling these critters for years on a daily basis he is still alive and well.