5 of the Desert’s Deadliest Animals

From barren lands to the sub-Saharan African desert, here are the world’s deadliest animals found in the desert. These dangerous creatures are extremely fatal.

5: African Wild Dogs

African wild dogs can be found in the vast space of the South Saharan desert. They can also be seen at the edge of the Sahara’s woodlands as well. These wild dogs are also known as “painted dogs” due to their dapper coat’s wide color patterns. Their furs are individually unique as the patches can range in mixtures of yellow, black, red, white, and brown. These canines live in packs dominated by a monogamous breeding pair. Its big, round ears are unlike any regular canine species, making them stand out from their species counterparts. Another difference is that African wild dogs only have four toes instead of five. Additionally, they hunt together in packs ranging from six to twenty canines. Some packs can even reach up to forty members large. African wild dogs are known to be excellent at communicating and socializing. This works to their advantage as it allows them to take down big prey such as wildebeests. But at the same time, these wild dogs don’t mind small- to mid-sized animals in their diets such as rodents, birds, gazelles, and antelopes. With incredible velocity, they can hit speeds of up to 44 miles per hour while weighing up to 70 pounds. The pack is known for sharing food with one another and taking care of their small pups. The highest ranking females can bear up to 20 pups per litter. Since more humans have settled in Tanzania and Northern Mozambique in the past few decades, the canines have learned to hunt for domesticated animals. Consequently, this has caused settlers to hunt down the wild dogs in order to save their own farm animals. The numbers of African wild dogs have dropped significantly over the last 20 years & thus, are now endangered, leaving their population at approximately 6,600 canines.

4: Lions

There are a few species of lions found throughout the plains of Africa. The lions are the second largest species in the feline family tree, second only to tigers, which are the largest. Lions are capable of reaching up to 250 pounds and lionesses can reach up to 180 pounds. Lions are the only species in the feline genus to have a distinct sexual dimorphism. Of the two sexes, only the males are able to develop what is called “a mane.” The mane is what gives the male lions its unique characteristic, differing from the female lionesses or any other felines in its family tree. This “mane” encircles the male’s entire head, acting as protective cover for its skull while at the same time, giving the lion its intimidating look. In some species of male lions, the mane’s color may change to more black and less blonde as it ages. Additionally, the changing of the mane’s color is directly related with the lion’s health at that present time. Lions may spend up to 20 hours a day resting and 3 to 4 hours walking and hunting. They’re normally solitary predators, but only until they find a mate. Once the lions breed, a social hierarchy is created, which is called a pride. A pride of lions consists of one dominant male who is seen often leading his pride with many related females as well as their offspring. If the pride happens to have two or more dominant males, it is then known as a coalition. A coalition can be created with exclusively the decisions of the two males. One dominant male may at times let another single male join his pride without having a prior pride. In another scenario, two prides are combined, which increases the total amount of females and cubs. Once the lions find their pride, a social unit within the female is quickly formed with a hierarchy of rankings. Lionesses are the hunters in the pride since they’re considered to be faster, more agile and smaller, making it difficult for their victims to react to their attacks. Related females work together in each hunt with a strategic plan of attack. Intelligently, lions want to save as much energy as possible; their first choice being a scavenge for dead carcasses killed by other predators that could not finish their meals. The lionesses usually hunt at dawn and will only hunt if it’s absolutely necessary. In the plains of West Africa, these beasts will eat a variety of animal diets such as zebras, wildebeests, warthogs, and buffalos. Within the last two decades, lion populations have dropped almost 50% in certain locations in Africa. This is mainly caused by conflicts with humans near new farms and villages. Lions are therefore hunted by these humans in order to save their own domesticated farm animals. Due to these factors, West African lions have been endangered for many years. Currently, wild lions are found in two places in the world: throughout parts of India and in the African sub-Saharan desert.

3: Hyenas

Originating from the Miocene period, hyenas are one of the oldest species in the feline phylogeny. While evolution has slowly killed off many species of hyenas since the beginning of time, there are still four types of these animals left in the world today. The four species are known as Spotted, Striped, Aardwolf, and Brown hyenas. These untamed animals are simply named after their physical appearances. Although their body structure and movements may be canine-like, they behave with personalities similar to that of lions and tigers as they also belong in the feline genus. Unlike the other three species of hyenas that devour all parts of their kills including the bones, hooves, and paws, the Aardwolf is only type that is not carnivorous. With its forelegs higher than its hind legs along with a neck built to aggressively attack & a powerful jaw, these vicious animals are bigger in the front half, allow thing them to easily chomp down on their victims during a hunt. In fact, since the core front of the hyenas have such profound strength like the rest of their feline family, they never have to use their claws to pin their meals down. Animals such as hippos, birds, insects, lizards, eggs, jackals, snakes, fish, foxes, porcupines, wildebeests, and antelope are all included as part of the hyena’s diet. They can sometimes be scavengers and eat off other’s kills, but they’re not lazy animals as 95% of their meals come from pure collaboration in their hunting kills. With a maximum speed of 37 miles per hour, they live and hunt within what scientists call a clan. Recorded clans in the past have reached up to 80 socializing members. They’re not scared of the lion’s territory either and will kill the lions’ cubs to show they mean business. The most commonly known species of hyena (the spotted hyena) can be found in the southern region of the Sahara dessert. Spotted hyenas are the only species that are led by a female in the clan. The reason is because the females are excessively aggressive when they attack their victims and are normally larger than the males. On the other hand, the most rare type of hyena is the brown hyena. There currently remains only 10,000 adults in this species. Some have a distinguished, special ability to communicate with other clan members using their famous human-like “laugh.” The laugh determines what is happening and which ranking member is speaking at the moment, showing a hierarchy within the clan. To communicate properly, each clan may have up to ten different vocalization sounds. Furthermore, hyenas’ ability to adapt allows them to inhabit a wide range of environments from savannas to deserts or grasslands and even mountains.

2: Gila Monsters

First discovered in the Arizona Gila Basin, the gila monster is the largest reptile that originates from the United States. These reptiles mostly reside in the deserts of Arizona, Southern Nevada, New Mexico, and the southern tip of California’s drylands. Some of them even prefer rocky foothills, reaching elevations of up to 5,000 feet. Individually unique looking, these reptiles’ bodies have a black base color with colorful patterns ranging from yellow, pink, and orange. Gila monsters can reach up to two feet in length and some can weigh up to four or five pounds. The reptile is one of the only few lizards left in the world with a venomous system, besides the iguana and the monitor lizard. Gilas hunt animals such as insects, smaller lizards, carrion, birds, and other small mammals. The most interesting fact about these reptiles is how they inject their venom into their targets. They do not inject their venom by biting their prey. Instead, it’s the gila’s chewing motion on its victim’s body parts that infuses the venom from their teeth into their soon-to-be meals. Once the neurotoxin is released into the prey’s body, it will start to paralyze. The gila monster’s venom toxicity can be compared to that of the diamond rattlesnake venom. These reptiles are known to be solitary animals who enjoy spending most of their time in their burrows throughout the year. Because they have a special ability of storing fat in their tails and bodies, they have the advantage of not having to eat as often as other animals. They become active again in the springtime in order to find their ideal mate, as they’re in a social mood during this time of the year for about three months. Another important factor on springtime’s arrival is its seasonal food. As birds are mating and building nests, gila monsters are able to raid and hunt again for their favorite type of food: bird eggs. Other animal diets may include small mammals, other lizards, insects, frogs, and carrion. Females can lay anywhere from 2 to 12 eggs per mating season and once she does, these venomous, large lizards will spend most of their winter underground nursing and protecting their eggs. In modern medicine, scientists have found a way to use an adult gilas’ saliva as part of a treatment for humans diagnosed with diabetes. Gila monsters are not endangered but nevertheless, are still protected under the United States’s animal conservation laws.

1: Snakes

With its stocky body, short tail, and camouflage ability, the desert horned snake is one of the deadliest animals to cross the dunes. It can be found in most North African countries surrounding the Sahara Desert such as Egypt, Mali, Sudan, Libya, and Tunisia. Other places which these snakes have inhabited are the Arabic peninsula near the Moroccan desert and the countries of Oman and Jordan. The snake got its name from the infamous horned eyelids attached above its eyes. These horned eyelids are a survival trait used to more efficiently navigate the sand dunes and rugged rocks surrounding. This feature gives the snake its unique characteristic and makes them stand out from other desert snakes. The next deadly snake found in the desert is the horned viper, whose body has the same color as the sand but with additional striped, golden-brown crossbars consistently running down from its neck to its tail. The sand-colored body is the snake’s natural camouflage, giving them an advantage over their prey. The horned viper’s natural defense and attacking mechanism is to side-slither itself down into the sand to a point where the snake completely blends in with its surroundings. It does this for three reasons. The first reason being that the sun is scorching during the day and reptiles need to maintain their body temperature. Therefore, they may hide themselves in other places as well such as under rocks, small holes, or caves to stay cool. The second reason is that it’s a perfect hideout for the snake to wait for its meal to pass by before they attack. The last reason is for mating purposes. A bite from horned viper will immediately inject 13 different types of toxins in its victim’s body. It is known that the venom creates a feeling as if someone is literally squeezing your heart. Fortunately for humans, horned vipers are not overly aggressive or protective of their territory. They’re a nocturnal animal and hunt only at night for rodents, birds, insects, and lizards. These snakes can reach up to 2 feet in length when full grown and their lifespan in the desert is about 14 to 18 years.


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