a tarantula hawk wasp, with a beautiful blue abdomen, sits on small white flowers

13 Most Dangerous Animals In Grand Canyon National Park (2023)

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If you are curious about the most dangerous animals in Grand Canyon National Park, you’ve come to the right place!

We’re absolutely sure you’ve heard about the breathtaking beauty of the Grand Canyon.

But did you know the area also has some potentially dangerous animals?

As a couple who have visited the Grand Canyon several times, frequent national parks, and enjoy wildlife photography, we are here to tell you about which creatures you should look out for on your next visit.

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Dangerous Animals In Grand Canyon: Mammals

Other than spot #1, the wild animals in Grand Canyon National Park on this list are not in any particular order in terms of danger.

1. Rock Squirrels – the MOST DANGEROUS!

Believe it or not, rock squirrels are considered the most dangerous animals in Grand Canyon National Park.

You will often find them scurrying around the rocky terrain, where they get their name.

a rock squirrel peaks out from a crevice between rocks, the rock squirrel is the most dangerous animals in grand canyon

These squirrels are generally active during the day and are omnivorous, which means they eat plant and animal matter. They have a varied diet, including seeds, nuts, fruits, insects, and even small animals like lizards and birds.

While it may look cute and harmless, this small mammal has been known to attack humans, particularly if it feels threatened or if you try to feed it.

Why is the rock squirrel the most dangerous animal in the Grand Canyon?

While it’s not entirely clear why rock squirrels have become so aggressive toward humans, it’s likely due to a combination of factors.

One possible reason is that they have become accustomed to humans feeding them, making them less afraid of people.

In addition, they may feel threatened if a person approaches too closely or tries to touch them. You don’t need that cute squirrel selfie that badly!

If you do encounter a rock squirrel in the Grand Canyon, it’s important to keep your distance and avoid approaching it. And definitely don’t try to feed it.

If the squirrel feels threatened, it may lunge at or bite you. Rock squirrel bites can be dangerous, as they can transmit diseases like rabies.

๐Ÿ‘‡ This video shows a mild rock squirrel attack because it never truly bites the woman. But these are dangerous creatures who can get aggressive when they have been previously fed, like this one…

๐Ÿ“Ž Note: The National Park Service does warn visitors not to approach or try feeding wild animals in the park, including rock squirrels.

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2. Mountain Lions

Mountain lions, also known as cougars, pumas, or panthers, are large predatory cats found throughout much of North America.

While it’s rare to see a mountain lion in the Grand Canyon, these large cats live in the area and can be dangerous if provoked.

a mountain lion perches on a rock with green forest background

Mountain lions are generally solitary animals, most active in the early morning and late afternoon. They typically prey on deer but also hunt smaller animals like rabbits.

Avoid hiking alone in the park, and keep small children close.

If you encounter a mountain lion in the wild, remain calm and avoid running, as this may trigger the animal’s instinct to chase.

If a mountain lion approaches you, make yourself appear larger by raising your arms and standing on your toes. Make noise to try and scare the animal away, but avoid making direct eye contact, as this may be interpreted as a threat.

If the mountain lion attacks, fight back aggressively using any weapons or objects you have at your disposal.

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3. Elk

Elk, also known as wapiti, are sizeable members of the deer family and can be one of the most dangerous animals in Grand Canyon.

While they are generally not hostile to humans, they can become aggressive if feeling threatened or perceive you as a potential rival.

a bull elk laying in the tall yellow grass with a lush treeline behind, elk are some of the most dangerous animals in grand canyon

During the fall mating season, known as the “rut,” male elk can become particularly aggressive as they compete for mates. They may charge at humans who get too close, and their antlers can cause serious injuries.

Know the signs of an aggressive elk. If it displays signs of aggression, such as lowering its head, flaring its nostrils, or pawing the ground, it’s best to move away quickly and avoid further confrontation.

While we didn’t see any issues in Grand Canyon National Park during our visits, we saw the aggression firsthand in Jasper National Park in Canada during the rutting season. A large bull chased after a woman who got too close. Thankfully, she was close enough to her car to find protection.

So it’s vital to give them plenty of space and avoid getting too close. Never approach an elk; if an elk approaches you, slowly back away while keeping your eye on the animal.

๐Ÿ‘‰ Now that we are scaring you with talk of dangerous animals, are you wondering if visiting the Grand Canyon is worth it?

4. Bison

Bison are the largest land mammals in North America and can weigh over 2,000 pounds.

They are known for their massive size, strength, and touchy temperament.

close up of a bison's head and horns leaning over to eat grass

Bison are a beloved symbol of the American West, but it’s essential to treat them with respect and give them plenty of space.

While they may appear docile to the general observer, bison can be unpredictable and dangerous if provoked. When threatened, bison can charge at speeds of up to 35 miles per hour, using their massive horns to defend themselves.

If you aren’t following “touronsofyellowstone,” on Instagram, first, you are missing out. Second, you will very quickly see just how dangerous bison are, as they are regular features on the page.

๐Ÿ“Ž Tip: Respecting wildlife and giving them plenty of space is important. Getting too close can be disruptive to them and unsafe for you.

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5. Javelina

Javelina, also known as collared peccaries, are often mistaken for pigs but are actually a species of wild pig-like mammal native to North, Central, and South America.

a side view of a javelina wandering thru the grass, javelina can be some of the most dangerous animals in grand canyon

They typically weigh between 35 and 60 pounds and are usually about 2-3 feet long.

Javelina are social animals and travel in groups of up to 20 individuals.

And they are most active at dawn and dusk and spend the hottest parts of the day resting in the shade.

While they are not typically aggressive towards humans, they can become defensive if threatened or cornered.

To avoid coming into contact with javelina, it’s important to respect their space and watch them from a distance. If you find yourself closer than you should be, avoid sudden movements or loud noises that may startle the animal.

Signs of aggression include bristling its hair, baring its teeth, or making low growling sounds.

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6. Coyotes

Coyotes are common in the Grand Canyon area, as with almost anywhere in the US. In fact, we once had one living in our neighborhood sewer system in the Midwest.

a coyote stands behind a small shrub surrounded by green

They are typically small to medium-sized canines and can be recognized by their bushy tails and pointy ears. They are sometimes confused with wolves or foxes.

Coyotes are naturally curious and may approach humans out of curiosity, but remember that they are wild animals and should be treated cautiously.

Coyotes are not highly aggressive and prefer to run if given the opportunity. But they can become defensive if their territory is invaded.

Also, they are opportunistic hunters and scavengers and may become more aggressive if they associate humans with a source of food. Once this association occurs, the coyote becomes too comfortable around people and loses its fear.

This can lead to a dangerous situation.

If you encounter a coyote, make yourself look as large as possible and make loud noises to scare it away.

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7. Black Bears

Black bears are among North America’s most iconic and beloved animals and are also considered one of the most dangerous animals in Grand Canyon National Park.

They are typically found in forests but can also be found in various habitats, including mountains, swamps, and deserts.

a black bear younster sitting with one leg out to the side in front of green pine trees, bears are some oft he most dangerous animals in grand canyon

In the Grand Canyon area, black bears inhabit the forests and wilderness areas surrounding the canyon, particularly in the park’s northern region.

Black bears are omnivorous and opportunistic feeders. They will often scavenge for food in campgrounds and other areas where humans are present.

This can lead to conflicts between bears and humans, particularly if bears become habituated to human food and lose their natural fear of people.

When in bear country, carry bear spray, travel in groups, and make noise to avoid surprising a bear. If you are camping, be sure to follow all posted regulations regarding food storage and disposal.

If you encounter a black bear up close, remain calm and avoid sudden movements.

Slowly back away while facing the bear and speak calmly but firmly. Do not run away or climb a tree; black bears are excellent climbers who can easily follow you.

If the bear stands on its hind legs or charges you, this may be a bluff, and it is important to stand your ground, make yourself appear larger, and make loud noises to deter the bear.

If all else fails, use your bear spray when the bear is within range and fight back with all available means.

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Grand Canyon Dangerous Animals: Reptiles

Let’s discuss the scaly residents you might spot on your visit.

8. Rattlesnakes

The rattlesnake is one of the most well-known and feared animals in the Grand Canyon.

Rattlesnakes get their name from the rattle at the end of their tails, which they use as a warning sign when they feel threatened.

close up of a speckled rattlesnake's face with its tongue flicking out

Several species of rattlesnakes are found in the Grand Canyon, including the western diamondback, the prairie rattlesnake, and the speckled rattlesnake.

These snakes are typically active during the warmer months and can be found in various habitats, from rocky areas to grasslands and forests.

Rattlesnake bites can be dangerous, so knowing how to avoid encounters with them is crucial.

One way to minimize your risk of encountering a rattlesnake is to stay on established trails and avoid walking through tall grass or other areas where snakes may be hiding. You should also wear long pants and closed-toe shoes when hiking to protect yourself from potential bites.

If you hear the rattle of a rattlesnake’s tail, move away slowly and calmly. And if you happen to get bit, seek medical attention immediately.

9. Gila Monsters

The Gila monster is a venomous lizard native to the Southwest region of the United States, including the Grand Canyon area.

Because of its bite, it is considered one of the most dangerous animals in Grand Canyon National Park.

an orange and black gila monster hiding between rocks with its purple tongue out

They are easily recognizable by their thick, stocky build, black and pink or orange coloration, and distinctive beaded skin.

Gila monsters are slow-moving and spend most of their time underground in burrows, under rocks, or in crevices.

They are most active during the daytime, especially during the year’s cooler months.

Please do not attempt to handle or catch a Gila monster; they have a powerful bite, and their venom is toxic. They are not generally aggressive but will bite in self-defense.

Gila monster bites are rare but can be severe if left untreated. The venom from a Gila monster’s bite can cause pain, swelling, and in severe cases, can lead to respiratory failure or death.

If a Gila monster bites you, make sure you get medical attention as soon as possible.

Dangerous Animals In The Grand Canyon: Insects & Scorpions

Our last category is all the smaller creatures in the park that pack a big punch.

10. Tarantula Hawks (Wasp)

Tarantula hawks are large colorful wasps.

And despite their name, tarantula hawks do not actually prey on tarantulas but use them as hosts for their offspring.

a tarantula hawk wasp, with a beautiful blue abdomen, sits on small white flowers, their painful sting makes this wasp one of the most dangerous animals in grand canyon

Female tarantula hawks will hunt down a tarantula, paralyze it with a nasty sting, and lay an egg on its body. The larva hatches and feeds on the paralyzed tarantula until fully grown.

While the tarantula hawk’s sting is not generally lethal to humans, it is considered one of the most painful stings in the insect world.

The pain has been described as similar to a shock from an electric fence and can last for several minutes to several hours. The sting is so painful that some people have compared it to being struck by lightning.

If you encounter one of these wasps during your trip, avoid touching or disturbing them. They are generally not aggressive and will not sting unless provoked.

11. Bark Scorpions

The bark scorpion is a small, venomous arachnid native to the southwestern US.

They are typically light brown and are identified by their long, thin pincers and segmented tails with a curved stinger at the end.

a light colored scorpion with its stinger up sitting on a flat grey rock

Bark scorpions are nocturnal animals that hide during the day, often under rocks or in crevices. They become more active at night and may be attracted to homes or campsites where there is light.

If camping in the Grand Canyon area, check your shoes, clothing, and sleeping bag before putting them on or using them, as bark scorpions may seek shelter in these items.

While bark scorpions are venomous, their stings are generally not fatal and are often similar to bee or wasp stings.

However, some people may have an allergic reaction to their venom, causing more serious symptoms such as numbness, difficulty breathing, and even death in rare cases.

Take precautions to avoid being stung by a bark scorpion. And if you are stung, seek medical attention right away.

12. Black Widow Spiders

Black widow spiders are easily recognizable by their shiny black bodies and red hourglass-shaped marking on their abdomens. They are one of the most dangerous animals in Grand Canyon National Park in terms of spiders.

a black widow spider on a web, the photo is from the underside of the spider and the red hourglass is clear

They can typically be found in dark, secluded areas such as woodpiles, sheds, and caves. When hiking or exploring, be cautious when reaching into or around these areas.

If camping, shake out clothing and bedding to ensure no spiders are hiding inside.

Black widow spider bites are rare, but they can be serious and even life-threatening in some cases.

Symptoms of a bite may include pain, muscle cramps, spasms, and even seizures or paralysis. Get medical treatment immediately if bitten, even if it initially seems ok. Symptoms can develop unexpectedly.

Never attempt to handle this spider. Instead, if you see it, move away and alert others in the area so that they know to be careful.

13. Africanized Bees

Africanized bees, also known as “killer bees,” are an aggressive species of bee that was introduced to the US in the 1950s.

They look very similar to other species of bees, but their combative behavior sets them apart, as they are much more likely to sting than other bees.

a honey bee sits on a blue and red object, africanized bees are some of the most dangerous animals in grand canyon due to their aggressive nature

They are highly territorial, behave unpredictably, and aggressively defend their hive if they perceive a threat. And they can sense carbon dioxide from a distance and are known to swarm in large numbers to protect their hive.

To avoid attracting bees of any kind, avoid wearing bright colors or floral patterns, as these can be mistaken for flowers. Also, avoid wearing perfume or scented lotions in the park, as these can attract bees.

If you come across a hive of Africanized bees in the Grand Canyon, remember that this species is easily agitated and will swarm and attack in large numbers if they feel threatened.

So do not swat at the bees, which can make them more prone to attack. Instead, remain calm and avoid making sudden movements.

If Africanized bees happen to attack you, seek shelter and cover your head and face until the swarm has passed.

Stings can be painful and may cause allergic reactions. Seek help if you experience issues like difficulty breathing or swelling of the face or throat.

Bonus: Mosquitos

Mosquitoes are a common nuisance worldwide; the Grand Canyon area is no exception.

a mosquito hangs from a green leaf with more green leaves in the background

We all know that mosquito bites can be itchy and uncomfortable, but they can also transmit serious diseases.

Take precautions to reduce these bug bites in a national park or even in your own backyard.

Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants during high season and use insect repellent. Stay inside if possible during periods of high mosquito activity, such as dawn and dusk.

Additionally, avoid camping or hanging out near standing water, a common breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Grand Canyon Tour

Are you looking for a tour of the Grand Canyon, where you can possibly spot some wildlife?

While there aren’t any tours specific to encountering wildlife at Grand Canyon National Park, ones that run at sunrise or sunset will give you the best chance to spot some creatures when they are more active.

We recommend the off-road sunset safari!

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Wild Animals In Grand Canyon: Safety Tips

Let’s discuss a few tips to remember when out in the wilderness, where wildlife is abundant. These don’t apply just to the Grand Canyon but whenever you are out in the wild.

  • Keep a safe distance: While getting close to wildlife to take a photo or get a better view may be tempting, keeping a safe distance is essential. For larger animals such as elk, bison, and mountain lions, staying at least 100 yards away is recommended. For smaller animals, such as squirrels and coyotes, a distance of at least 25 yards is recommended.
  • Never feed wildlife: Feeding wild animals can be dangerous for humans and animals and is illegal in a national park. So is whistling, calling, or any method to attract wildlife to you. Habituating animals leads to aggressive behavior and a higher risk of human-wildlife conflict.
  • Store food and trash correctly: When camping or hiking in the Grand Canyon area, store food and trash properly to avoid attracting wildlife. Use bear-resistant containers if required or follow the park’s rules for food care.
  • Be aware of your surroundings: Always be mindful of your surroundings when hiking or camping in the Grand Canyon area. Look for signs of recent wildlife activity, such as tracks, scat, or scratches on trees. Be alert for signs of aggression, such as raised fur, hissing, or growling.
  • Know what to do in case of an encounter: If you do encounter wildlife, know what to do. In many cases, staying calm and making yourself appear larger by standing on your tiptoes or raising your arms is best. Back away slowly and avoid turning your back on the animal.
a raven sits on the pavement of the parking area in grand canyon

Grand Canyon Wildlife: Viewing Tips

Part of going to a national park is enjoying the wildlife. And even though we have talked about the most dangerous animals in Grand Canyon National Park, most of these animals can be viewed and appreciated without issue as long as you use common sense.

Let’s go over a few reminders.

Be Patient

Wildlife sightings can be unpredictable, so be patient and allow ample time for observation. Wildlife may be more active in the early morning or late afternoon, so plan your arrival/departure accordingly.

Bring Binoculars

Using binoculars or a spotting scope can allow you to observe wildlife from a safe distance without disturbing them.

Respect Wildlife & Their Habitat

When viewing wildlife, respect their space and habitat. Avoid approaching too closely or disturbing their natural behavior.

Don’t be the woman we watched walk to within 25 yards of a bear eating berries and then turn her back on it to yell to her friends. All so she could take a picture with her camera phone.

Use Designated Trails

Staying on designated trails can minimize your impact on wildlife and their habitat.

Be Quiet

When observing wildlife, it’s important to be quiet and still. Avoid sudden movements or loud noises, which can startle or disturb animals.

the grand canyon at sunset with some low lying clouds

FAQs: Grand Canyon National Park Animals

It’s time for a few questions about the animals in Grand Canyon National Park.

Are There Predators In The Grand Canyon

Yes, some of the predators in the Grand Canyon include mountain lions, coyotes, black bears, and bobcats. Visitors are advised to take precautions to avoid dangerous encounters with these animals, such as making noise while hiking and keeping a safe distance.

Are There Wolves In The Grand Canyon

No, there are no known wolf populations in the Grand Canyon. While the gray wolf historically roamed the area, it is believed to have been extirpated from the region. However, other predators, such as mountain lions, coyotes, and black bears, can still be found in the area.

Do Sharks Live In The Grand Canyon

No, sharks do not live in the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon is a land-based attraction located in the desert of northern Arizona, hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean. However, visitors can still enjoy the stunning views and unique natural features of the Grand Canyon, as well as the variety of wildlife that can be found in the area.

Are There Tarantulas In The Grand Canyon

Yes, tarantulas are in the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon black tarantula is a common species in the region, and visitors may encounter them while hiking or exploring the area. While tarantulas may appear intimidating, they are generally harmless to humans and will only bite if provoked. Visitors are advised to give these creatures space and avoid handling them.

Are There Wild Animals At The BOTTOM Of The Grand Canyon

Wild animals like mule deer, reptiles, and rodents live at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Some of these animals are adapted to the harsh conditions of the canyon floor and can survive in the extreme heat and aridity of the area. Visitors who hike to the canyon floor should take precautions to avoid disturbing them.

jenny, 1/2 owner of traveling in focus, with her dog Aramis, a black lab collie mix, in front of the grand canyon
Jenny and Aramis

To Finish – Dangerous Animals In Grand Canyon National Park

As one of the most breathtaking natural wonders in the world, the Grand Canyon attracts millions of visitors each year.

However, as we have explored above, you should know about the dangerous animals in Grand Canyon National Park. Not to scare you but to know the potential risks and to help you stay safe.

The chances of encountering one of these creatures are relatively low, and following the park’s tips and guidelines can help ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

Remember to always respect the wildlife and keep your distance. Most importantly, enjoy the park’s incredible beauty.