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Life in Arizona: An Environment Trying to Kill You

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Tell someone you live in Arizona and they immediately think about resort life, retirement, year-round golf, moderate winter temps, and sunshine for 350 days a year (even Arizona gets clouds a few days each year).

The only thing that is better than our daily intake of Vitamin D is our freeway art – we do have some of the most beautiful freeways in the world.

What people don’t always know, however, is that life in the desert can be a challenge. Mostly because we have the only environment in the world that is actively trying to kill you.

I’m sure you think I’m exaggerating, so let’s compare your state to Arizona…

 

Other places have plenty of vicious animals. Florida has alligators, Alaska has grizzly bears, New York has suicidal deer that hop in front of cars (probably so they don’t have to live in New York).

However, Arizona animals are slightly different. Not only will they playfully lure you, your kids, and your pets into the desert for the sole purpose of killing you; they’ll lounge on your patio and play in your pool when they’re done with the meal. Meet the bobcat, black bear, coyote, and mountain lion.

[photo_gallery style=”4″ source=”media: images/Wildlife/coyote1.jpg,images/Wildlife/coyote2.jpg,images/Wildlife/coyote3.jpg, images/Wildlife/bobcat1.jpg,images/Wildlife/bobcat2.jpg,images/Wildlife/bobcat4.jpg”]

It’s true that we don’t have water moccasins floating down the river in tightly woven packs of lethal snake balls like Texas. No, our reptiles include 17 species of Rattlesnakes, all of which are [tooltip style=”green” title=”lethal” text=”.

It is estimated that there are somewhere between 5-8,000 bites from venomous snakes every years in the USA, resulting in 5 deaths. ” rounded=”yes” close=”yes”][button]lethal[/button][/tooltip], including the Mojave rattlesnake.

The Mojave rattlesnake is so territorial and aggressive, it will not only bite you, but will chase you through scrub for a quarter mile to bite you again. (Okay, slight exaggeration, but they really are pretty aggressive).

[youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vaSeSIZ9Fgw”]

Arizona is also home to one (of only two) venomous lizards in the world – the elusive Gila Monster. The [tooltip style=”green” title=”Gila Monster” text=”Arizona poison centers treat 12-16 Gila monster bites a year. ” rounded=”yes” close=”yes”][button]The Gila Monster[/button][/tooltip] will injure you just the same as a rattler, but you’ll probably need a bite stick to remove the Gila Monster from your leg.

However, the big difference between your state and my state, is that my state protects these beautiful, but lethal, creatures. It’s very illegal to injure, harass and especially hunt a Gila Monster in Arizona. So, when you do use the bite stick to remove the Gila Monster from your leg as you writhe in pain, be certain he has all four feet on the ground and a steady footing so you don’t hurt him (seriously).

 

[calltoaction title=”Listen To The Call Of A Gila Monster” button_text=”Listen” button_link=”http://www.desertmuseum.org/books/audio/gila_monster.mp3″ target=”blank” button_background=”#c6c0a3″ color=”#ffffff” background=”#6e5d12″]What does a Gila Monster say? This is what one sounds like in the wild.[/calltoaction]

 

You have frogs, but in Arizona, our amphibians are toxic. Meet the Sonoran Desert Toad, which emits a neurotoxic venom called [tooltip style=”green” title=”Bufoteine” text=”Bufotenin is a tryptamine related to the neurotransmitter serotonin. It’s an alkaloid found in the skin of some species of toads; in mushrooms, higher plants, and mammals” rounded=”yes” close=”yes”][button] Bufotenin[/button][/tooltip] which induces serious hallucinations (and not the good kind). The Sonoran Desert Toad may not kill you, but it could kill your pets.

Watch for these cute little guys any time it rains.

[youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1l3s2UKoEIA”]

 

Think suicidal [tooltip style=”green” title=”deer” text=”Statistically speaking deer kill more people in North America than any other animal – around 200 human deaths every year. ” shadow=”yes” rounded=”yes” close=”yes”][button]deer[/button][/tooltip] are dangerous? Meet one of our many lethal herbivores: the temperamental javelina boar (aka peccary).

These surly, short-tempered wild pigs have razor-sharp tusks and have taken down many a hiker who stumbled upon their trail.

Black bears are another big plus of living in Arizona. Sure, grizzly bears are big and scary, but [tooltip style=”green” title=”black bears” text=”Black bears are actually responsible for more attacks than grizzly bears. The main reason is there are more of them and they live closer to populated areas. ” rounded=”yes” close=”yes”][button]black bears[/button][/tooltip] are actually responsible for more attacks than grizzlies.

And if you’re a white male over 65 years old, you’re probably doomed, for sure. The statistics state that if you are a white male aged over 65 and living in the southern states of the USA then you are more likely to be attacked by an animal, be it wild or domestic…

Believe it or not, even our plants are toxic. Yes, even our plants will try to kill you. Sure, they’re beautiful – and the vast majority of them are filled with highly-toxic venom and/or millions of thick needles that have the capability of attacking you if hazard a step within a 3 foot radius (meet jumping cholla, everyone).

(Note: Some language, but this tourist’s first experience with cholla is worth viewing)

[youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gfjV4BbXfZU”]

 

The insects are just as surly as the mammals. Sure, other places have lots more insects – far more than we’ll ever have. However, our insects are highly toxic, super aggressive and not only will they sting you and steal your blood, they’ll give you a fatal disease while they’re doing it. They may even kill you if they’re feeling particularly feisty.

Meet the Africanized bee (many animal and human deaths with more attacks happening each day – there were four attacks this week alone), mosquitoes (West Nile Virus and Zika), and the impervious and deadly flea (happily transmitting Bubonic plague since… well, since the [tooltip style=”green” title=”Black Plaque” text=”The bacterium, Yersinia pestis, persisted for centuries, causing three major outbreaks: the Justinian plague, the Black Plague and the Modern Plague. ” rounded=”yes” close=”yes”][button]Black Death[/button][/tooltip]).

We’re also home to the Black Widow ([tooltip style=”green” title=”deadly” text=”The venom of the black widow is the second strongest of all spiders. As little as 0.05mg of the powerful neurotoxin can be deadly and 36 deaths were recorded from black widow spider bites between 1965 and 1990.” rounded=”yes” close=”yes”][button] deadly [/button][/tooltip]), the Bark Scorpion ([tooltip style=”green” title=”deadly” text=”During the 1980s more than 800 people were killed in Mexico by the bark scorpion” rounded=”yes” close=”yes”][button]deadly and painful[/button][/tooltip]l), and the [tooltip style=”green” title=”deadly” text=”The venom of these spiders is necrotic (aka, ‘flesh eating’).” rounded=”yes” close=”yes”][button]Brown Recluse[/button][/tooltip](fast and aggressive).

We have cockroaches the size of Texas, and a little beetle called the Hualapai tiger (a conenose species of bug who feeds on the blood of reptiles, animals and yes, humans) at night. You probably won’t wake up if you’re bitten, but you’ll know they were feeding.

[photo_gallery style=”4″ source=”media: images/Insects/bee-610446_1280.jpg,images/Insects/mosquito-illustration_360x286.jpg,images/Insects/widow-i-q.jpg,images/Insects/scorpion.jpg,images/Insects/uv-lighting.jpg”]

The thing you might consider safe is our water supply. But you would be wrong because even our water is toxic. We have a river that contains a flesh eating bacteria and most of our water companies have been cited for some thing or another (usually involving toxic chemicals or raw sewage). See that beautiful pond over there on the golf course? Don’t get in there to find your ball – it’s just sewer grey-water.

Water contaminants range from uranium (!) to Arsenic (with high levels in nearly every water supply). The mineral content is so high it will coat your sink and tub with a rock solid ring of white water.

Let’s not forget the latest Arizona weather wonder, the massive dust storms (aka, haboob). These apocalyptic-looking mile-high walls of dust bearing down on your home are becoming so commonplace, they don’t even make the news anymore. Pity, because they really are impressive…

[youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lrcVqtmugj8 “]

But not only will you get buried in dust, the dirt and dust itself carries along a fungus that lives in the dirt and causes a disease known as Valley Fever. If you’ve lived in Arizona for longer than a few months; you’ve either had it, will have it or have it now. Valley Fever can cripple your dog and ultimately result in death within days after exposure. It’s one of the biggest killers of dogs in the state and there’s nothing you can do to prevent it.

But the absolute worse part of Arizona is the summer heat (read our “7 Stages of Heat” article for a laugh). Heat kills more people each year than the cold. Heat will take out your plants, your pets, and yourself. Trip and fall on a summer day? You’ll find yourself in the hospital with 2nd and 3rd degree contact burns if you happen to land on the asphalt.

By now, you’re most assuredly asking yourself, “Why in the world would anyone want to live in such a God-awful place?” After all, almost 7 million people have chosen to live in that godforsaken state.

So let me explain why we choose to live in the Sonoran desert…

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