Spiders, Snakes and Monsters …Oh My!

Written by on March 23, 2013 in The Southwest - Comments Off on Spiders, Snakes and Monsters …Oh My!

Visitors to the southwest often expect the area to be crawling with spiders, snakes, scorpions and more … all of them deadly. In point of fact, most of the creepy crawly things in the Four Corners states are shy around humans and very few are actually deadly.

The Rattlesnake (of which there are about 15 species throughout the Four Corners states) is the only venomous serpent in the Southwest. The bite is extremely painful to humans and can be fatal (although this is rare). Luckily, these critters give you plenty of warning. The distinctive buzzing rattle that the horny growths on their tail make is sounded, usually long before you are in the danger zone. It can be found living in deserts, grassy plains, forests, rocky hillsides and areas along the coast and lives in elevations from below sea level up to 6500 feet. Once nighttime temperatures begin dropping into the 50s at night, this snake finds a nice warm lair for the winter, which means that about 7 months of the year, you won’t even see it. If you do encounter one on the trail, give it a wide birth and it won’t bother you.

Scorpions abound in the Desert Southwest, but only one species is dangerously venomous. The Arizona Bark Scorpion, so called because it lairs in wood piles and tree bark, is the most venomous scorpion in the United States. Even then, its bite, while terribly painful (like electric shocks to the bite area), is rarely fatal. The bark scorpion is only active during the summer months, but stays out of the heat during the day, coming out to hunt only at night. These tiny creatures prefer forested areas.

There are plenty of spiders in the Southwest, including many species of Black Widow, Recluse and Brown Spiders. The Tarantula, the largest of the spiders in the Southwest, is not considered dangerous to humans. The smaller spiders are a different matter. While the bites of most of these spiders are painful, they are rarely fatal. Happily a very effective anti-venom exists to combat their bites, but hospitalization is nearly always necessary with these bites. The writers at SeeTheSouthwest suggest you be careful about the underneath side of picnic tables, which seems to be a favorite place for these spiders to hang out.

Gila Monsters can also deliver a painful, though not fatal, bite. Only about 5 human cases of Gila Monster bites are treated each year in Arizona. The Gila Monster is shy, secretive and rarely seen. That being said, the writers at SeeTheSouthwest have witnessed an aggressive Gila Monster attack on our group. We suspect it was a female guarding its young. Oh, and by the way, these critters are fast, so don’t be shy about getting the heck out of the way!

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