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Arizona near top of venomous creatures list, experts say

From snakes, Gila monsters, bees, scorpions and more, here's a look at a few of the venomous animals that make their home in Arizona.

ARIZONA, USA — If you’re starting to count them, Arizona’s venomous animals add up.

“If you count scorpion species we’re already at 30,” Amy Burnett, Information and Education Program Manager at Arizona Game and Fish said.

Add in the 17 venomous snakes, various arachnids, insects, bees and more, it puts Arizona among the top in the United States when it comes to how many venomous animals make their home here.

“We are definitely top five maybe top three possibly number one,” Burnett said.

At Game and Fish’s office in Mesa, Burnett is handling most of the handful she’s brought to show as education animals. 

“We have so many different species of venomous animals in Arizona, I think it’s really cool we have bragging rights,” Burnett said.

While holding the various creatures, Burnett is the first to say that we don’t need to be afraid of the venomous animals in Arizona.

“There’s a difference between fear and respect have a healthy respect for these animals,” Burnett said.

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The Gila monster spends 90 percent of its life underground.

A unique find in Arizona is the only venomous lizard in the U.S.: The Gila monster.

“You have to try really hard to get bitten by one,” Burnett said.

Gila monsters have a different way of releasing venom than rattlesnakes, Burnett said.

“It takes a little while for the venom to get into your system if you get bitten by a Gila monster but he is going to hold on like a bulldog during that,” Burnett said.

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A tiger centipede sits in a container at the Arizona Game and Fish Department. The species is one of two venomous centipedes known to live in Arizona.

What Burnett doesn’t physically hold are the tiger centipede, one of two venomous centipedes in Arizona, and the bark scorpion.

The bark scorpion is the common one in the Valley that could possibly send someone to the hospital, but Burnett said it’s probably not going to.

“Everyone says that it’s the little ones that are the most venomous. It’s the species and that’s it,” Burnett said, referencing the bark scorpion as the one to watch out for.

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The bark scorpion is one of the more dangerous scorpions in Arizona. However, all scorpions are venomous, Burnett said.

As for the desert blonde tarantula, Burnett said has a venomous bite, but it’s a mild venom.

The one Burnett holds in her hands is named Hermione. Burnett said if you come across one the best thing to do is gently move them along, as they are a little fragile.

“She’d rather flick these little irritating hairs on you than bite you,” Burnett said.

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A desert blonde tarantula sits in a tank at the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

In addition to other venomous animals in Arizona, like the rattlesnakes, Burnett said Sonoran Desert toads are also poisonous.

The difference between a poisonous and venomous animal, Burnett said, is venom is injected, whereas poison is ingested.

“He has what looks like a loaf of bread behind his eyes, those are his poison glands if you touch those you are not going to be getting sick you just don’t want to lick them,” Burnett said.

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While not venomous, the Sonoran Desert toad is considered poisonous. The poison can be potentially lethal if ingested.

So again, Burnett said, it comes back to respect.

“They’re mostly overrated. Most of the venomous animals in Arizona are not going to send you to the hospital, and if you’re not handling them, they’re not going to send you to the hospital,” Burnett said.

VERSIÓN EN ESPAÑOL: Arizona es uno de los estados con la lista de criaturas mas venenosas en el país, según los expertos

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