While there is no shortage of wildlife in Arizona, there are a few species roaming the desert that are incredibly rare. Due to Arizona’s booming population as well as environmental factors, many predators that were once a common sight in the Southwest are now only seen once in a blue moon. While we can’t guarantee you’ll see any of them on your visit, we wanted to go over our top three so you know what to watch for.
While still endangered, there are twenty-two separate wolf packs roaming Arizona and New Mexico so it isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility that you might spot one. The species was almost hunted to extinction, but the United States and Mexico took the drastic step of capturing every single wild Mexican Wolf and carefully working to build up the population in captivity before releasing groups back into the wild, therefore saving the entire species. There are still twice as many wolves in captivity as in the wild, however, so if you really want to spot one, visiting a zoo might be your best bet.
Over the last few years, there has been an influx of ocelot’s into the Huachuca mountains of southern Arizona. While still not as populous as the Mexican Wolf, there are still some of these cats in the wild of our state and the government is working hard to return their species back to the level they were at before the fur trade. While this may be a lofty goal, anyone who has seen these predators in the wild knows they are worth saving.
Out of this list, the one you are least likely to see walking in the mountains of Arizona is the jaguar. The last known living jaguar in Arizona, known as “El Jefe” was last spotted in 2017 and many in the scientific community believe it was captured, based of photos of a jaguar pelt. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep your eyes peeled, however, because jaguars frequently come up from Mexico seeking food in Arizona.
While seeing these animals in the wild may be a challenge, there are plenty of incredible zoos and wildlife habitats in the Phoenix area to visit that have desert species. And while a trip to the zoo may not be enough to convince you to visit our great state, the sheer number of things to do in Phoenix, Scottsdale and Arizona as a whole is astounding. The wild animals are certainly amazing but they’re even better when you see them while riding through the desert on an ATV.