Discover The 8 Largest Animals In Arizona, and Where You’ll Find Them

Wolf quiz
© Nagel Photography/Shutterstock.com

Written by Volia Schubiger

Updated: January 17, 2023

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The species of wildlife that live in Arizona are as diverse as the habitats they inhabit. Arizona is full of surprises, as the land’s geography changes so much depending on where you are. After all, where else can you go to find desert landscapes, high mountains, and plateaus? Would you like to learn more about the amazing wildlife in “The Grand Canyon State”? Let’s explore all there is to know about the 8 largest animals in Arizona.

1. Mule Deer

Mule deer are so named because they have ears that are shaped like mule ears and cover about 3/4 of their heads.

©iStock.com/Kerry Hargrove

There is no doubt that mule deer are one of the most iconic wild animals in western North America. Unlike other species of deer, mule deer are not restricted to a particular type of terrain and can be found roaming sparse, low desert landscapes as well as high mountain ranges covered in forest. There is, however, a general preference for rugged terrain for them. Among Arizona’s deer, the mule deer is the largest. At the shoulder, adult bucks can reach a height of 42 inches and weigh more than 200 pounds. The average female mule deer weighs about 125 pounds.

2. Coyote

Arizona is home to many coyotes in both rural and urban areas.

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It is not uncommon for humans to mistake coyotes for small to medium-sized dogs in Arizona. This can be attributed to the fact that they possess a long, bushy tail with a black tip, pointed ears, and narrow, pointed faces. The presence of coyotes in the state is widespread, regardless of whether you live in the city or in rural areas. The most frequent time for them to be observed is either at night or close to sunrise. It is not uncommon for coyotes to reach a length of 24 inches to 36 inches and a height of 24 inches. Depending on the size, they can weigh between 30 and 50 pounds.

3. Mexican Wolf

Wolf quiz

The Mexican wolves are also known as ‘Lobos’ or ‘El Lobo’ which means ‘wolf’ in Spanish.

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Mexican wolves (Canis lupus baileyi) are the rarest and most genetically distinct subspecies of grey wolves in North America. An average wolf weighs about 50 – 80 pounds and measures about 5 feet from nose to tail. They also stand between 28 and 32 inches tall at the shoulder. In the mid-1970s, Americans wiped these wolves out, leaving just a handful of them in zoos. Today, they are found in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico due to conservation efforts.

4. Bighorn Sheep

Male bighorn sheep ram with large horns on a cliff.

The bighorn sheep are easily recognized by their large horns, which weigh up to 30 pounds on the males.

©Georgia Evans/Shutterstock.com

Bighorn sheep are named for their enormous horns that make them easy to identify. Male sheep known as rams have large spiral horns that continue to grow throughout their lives. The horns of female sheep, usually called ewes, are straighter and can reach 10 inches in length. According to estimates, Arizona’s bighorn population consists of both desert and Rocky Mountain races. A desert bighorn’s adult weight ranges from 150 to 200 pounds, while the female’s weight ranges from 100 to 125 pounds. The Rocky Mountain bighorn rams tend to be heavier, with an adult weighing between 160 and 250 pounds and occasionally even more than 300 pounds.

5. Bobcat

Exotic Pet Ownership Bobcat

Bobcats (Lynx rufus) are easiest to identify owing to their short bob-tails, which are 2 to 8 inches long.

©Jack Bell Photography/Shutterstock.com

In Arizona, bobcats can be found at all elevations. They are especially found in the Sonoran desert, rimrock, and chaparral regions, as well as in suburban areas with abundant food sources. The average weight of a bobcat is between 15 and 30 pounds. As a general rule, the males are much bigger than the females. It is estimated that their body length ranges from 20 to 50 inches. Despite the fact that bobcats do not appear to be among the largest animals in Arizona, they are still quite intimidating animals! The fact of the matter is that they often ambush their prey by remaining motionless for some time before leaping on it.

The next animal on our list is one of the largest animals in Arizona whose path you might not want to cross.

6. Black Bear

Arizona’s only bear species is the black bear, which is one of the smallest species of bear in the world.

©Diane Krauss (DianeAnna), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons – Original / License

Even though black bears are among the smallest bear species in the world, they are not small animals. The black bear can be found in many different habitats in Arizona. These include wild forests, woodlands, grasslands, and riverbank areas, mostly at elevations between 4,500 and 10,000 feet. The bears in Arizona weigh between 125 and 400 pounds, and the males tend to be larger than the females. Overall, taking into account their massive size, these bears are definitely one of the largest animals in Arizona!

7. Elk

Bull Elk bugling for does.

Elk once dominated North America’s deer family and were found everywhere except for the Great Basin desert and Southern coastal plains.

©Wesley Aston/Shutterstock.com

Arizona’s current elk population can be credited to Yellowstone National Park. Elk were transplanted from Yellowstone to other areas in the West, including Arizona, from 1912 to 1967. This has led to population growth of nearly 35,000 elk in Arizona. These animals are by far one of the largest in Arizona. In fact, it’s not uncommon for bulls to weigh 1,200 pounds. However, they usually range from 600 to 800 pounds. A mature cow will weigh between 450 and 600 pounds. You may be surprised to learn that elk evolved in order to run long distances. For short periods, elk can reach speeds of up to 40 mph, while for long periods, they can reach speeds up to 30 mph.

8. Bison

Bison can be found in two wildlife areas in Arizona: the Raymond Wildlife Area and the House Rock Wildlife Area.

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North America’s bison are truly majestic creatures. Furthermore, the bison is not only the largest land mammal in the state of Arizona but also the largest land mammal in North America. It is estimated that they can reach heights of 60 to 78 inches and weigh between 1,700 and 2,500 pounds. These American bison eat over 30 pounds of grass a day to stay so big. The sheer size of an adult bison makes it virtually impossible for them to be preyed upon by other animals. There are, however, times when mountain lions prey upon the young bison.


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About the Author

Volia Schubiger is a freelance copywriter and content editor with a passion and expertise in content creation, branding, and marketing. She has a background in Broadcast Journalism & Political Science from CUNY Brooklyn College. When she's not writing she loves traveling, perusing used book stores, and hanging out with her other half.

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