Is it Venomous or Poisonous?

by Dan Weisz

Web presentation by Douglas Everett at Hummingbird Market

During summer nights, Sabino Canyon comes alive with a variety of interesting creatures.  Many are either poisonous or venomous- do you know the difference?  Both venomous and poisonous animals produce a toxin that is either injurious or even lethal to other organisms.  The difference in the two terms is in how the toxins are delivered.  Venomous organisms deliver or inject venom into other organisms using a specialized apparatus of some sort (usually fangs or a stinger).  Poisonous organisms do not deliver their toxins directly.  Their entire body or parts of it may contain a poisonous substance that is harmful when eaten or touched.

The important thing to remember is that none of these animals want to attack humans.  While all of these are present in the Foothills, they all just want to be left alone us so they can go about their normal routines.

Black Widow spiders are distributed throughout the United States. This one was living inside of a restroom at Sabino Canyon.  It is a shiny black spider with that telltale red hourglass figure on her abdomen.  It has a highly toxic venom but your chances of being bitten by one are extremely minuscule.

Red-spotted Toads have come out since the summer monsoon rains.   The bulges behind their eyes are the parotoid glands, which contain poison.  But red-spotted toads are so small they really aren’t much of a concern.  Their color may vary but they all have many small reddish warts.

This red-spotted toad is a different color from the first one, a more green color than gray, but that red-spotting is ever present.  You can readily see the bulge of the parotoid glands.

Upon returning to the Visitor Center around 9:00, we came across this Western Diamondback rattlesnake.  Based on the signage, it was either heading towards the shuttle area or perhaps off to get some refreshments.

Yes, it has diamonds on its back!

It made its way off of the sidewalk and to a more natural area and then curled up for the evening, perhaps waiting for a small rodent to run by.

And, no, you cannot tell the age of a rattlesnake by the number of rattles it has.  Rattlers add one rattle every time they molt, which may be several times a year as it is growing.  In addition, rattles can break off as you can see at the end of this rattle!

And finally, a resident tarantula edges out of its hole.