Safety Tips: Cactus and Desert Critters


Watch where you place your hands and feet.

  • Rocky areas are great spots for some rattlesnakes.
  • Caves are great places for rattlers and assorted desert critters.
  • Be careful when stepping over brush, sidewinders love to curl up under brush.
  • Try not to take too many chances.


In addition to the more obvious cactus plants, watch for pieces of cactus lying on the ground. Spines of a cholla cactus can go right through the sole of a boot when accidentally stepped on.


Some of the critters that you will find in Southern Utah:

Contrary to some people’s thinking, rattlesnakes are not out to hunt you down and do you in. If you have spent time in the desert, you have probably walked right past one or two and never knew it (they don’t always rattle). Carry a walking stick, not to beat the poor snake to death, but to alert any number of critters of your presence.  Attach a small bell to your walking stick for even better results.

Most scorpion stings are not going to be a problem with the exception of the “Bark Scorpion”. The Bark Scorpion can be life-threatening to children, elderly, or people with existing medical conditions. Scorpions and other insects like cooler, damp places so make sure you check boots and clothing very carefully before putting them back on.

Gila Monster:
Not often seen and it is our only poisonous lizard. They are heavy-bodied lizards with a fat tail, and are black, orange, red, and yellow in color. The venom is neurotoxic, free flowing, and chewed into the wound.

Africanized Bees:
The so-called Killer Bees have made in-roads into Southern Utah recently.  If on a hike and you see bees going in and out of a small opening, it would be a good idea to give it a very wide berth just to be on the safe side. If you are attacked by bees, cover your head, do not flail your arms around (it will only antagonize them more), and run towards your vehicle if possible, or just keep running. Some reports state that the bees will pursue what they perceive as a threat up to a half mile. Think about it, if you are in a rocky canyon, you will not be able to run a long distance without major injury to your body. Play it safe and when hiking give all bees a wide berth. Some other hints are to wear light colored clothes and avoid wearing scented lotions.

Visit the Utah Department of Agriculture site for more information on the Africanized Bees, including a video.

Bites are rarely fatal, just normally painful.  This is another one of those “shake out your gear and clothing before putting them back on.”

Any critter with young:
Give them a wide berth. Common sense says TRY NOT TO GET BETWEEN THE YOUNG AND THE ADULT.