Did you know that Arizona is home to more than 800 native bird, reptile and mammal species, ranking us among the top five states in the nation as a place for wildlife viewing opportunities? Arizona offers more than 30 defined wildlife areas and parks plus a fantastic collection of zoos, observatories, aquariums, sanctuaries, museums and festivals—all designed to connect visitors and wildlife.
“Whether you want to take a guided trip, interact up close at a zoo, or catch the sights throughout our national and state parks, Arizona has a fun experience that fits the bill,” says Debbie Johnson, eirector of the Arizona Office of Tourism. “With guidance from our AppreciateAZ responsible tourism program, visitors can have safe and fun wildlife experiences.”
In honor of National Wildlife Day on Sept. 4, Arizona Office of Tourism is sharing a few of Arizona’s animal-inspired attractions and experiences.
Lamar Haines Memorial Wildlife Area north of Flagstaff offers 160 acres to explore conifer forest, aspen, wet meadows and perennial springs. Deer and elk are common sights here, as are a long list of resident birds including woodpeckers and Mexican-spotted owls. This is an excellent location for nature photographers and birdwatchers.
Kofa National Wildlife Refuge is located just southeast of Quartzsite. Over 80 percent of the refuge’s 665,400 acres are designated as wilderness, offering excellent opportunities to explore and enjoy the desert. The state’s second-largest wildlife preserve is home to a large population of bighorn sheep, while the basin below is inhabited by badgers, foxes, ground squirrels, pocket mice and kangaroo rats.
Southern Arizona features 55 Sky Islands, which are mountains that create vastly different ecosystems as they stretch skyward. With more than 7,000 species of plants and animals, they offer some of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world. One even turns red-orange each summer as ladybugs swarm the area. Other resident species include cougars, black bears and desert owls.
The Ash Canyon Bird Sanctuary is located in Southern Arizona near Sierra Vista, which is officially the Hummingbird Capital of Arizona and widely considered the hummingbird capital of the world. Its numerous hummingbird feeders and those for other bird species help make this a birder’s paradise. The site also includes naturalistic water features, a pollinator garden and a photo blind available by reservation.
Experience North American wildlife up close from the comfort of your vehicle at Bearizona in Williams. Animals range from rugged mountain goats and stealthy wolves to majestic bison and comical black bears. However, if you really want to stretch your legs, then Fort Bearizona is for you. It is a separate walk-through area where the shows occur, food is available and where visitors can find the Bearizona Barnyard petting zoo.
Out of Africa Wildlife Park is located in Camp Verde. The first thing you notice about this place is that it isn’t a zoo. Here, exotic animals from all over the world roam in natural, spacious habitats, providing the chance to see these beautiful creatures and their natural behavior.
Of course, the family-friendly Phoenix Zoo inspires curiosity, imagination and discovery in visitors of all ages. It features over 3,000 animals, including Sumatran tigers, Bornean orangutans, Asian elephants, Komodo dragons, Andean bears, American alligators and many more.
While exploring Arizona in honor of National Wildlife Day this month, remember that the best way to enjoy our state is to respect its wildlife and beauty. People naturally form lasting connections with nature when they understand how to protect it. Our responsible and sustainable tourism program, AppreciateAZ, provides a few suggestions to help along the way. Simple guidelines such as respect wildlife and stick to trails help everyone do their part!