Petkeen is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commision. Learn More

10 Scorpions Found in California (With Pictures)

Quincy Miller

There are few things as horrifying as picking up a blanket, shirt, or one of your shoes, only to find a fierce-looking scorpion staring back at you.

But by now, it’s common knowledge that scorpions are more scared of you than you are of them.

In any case, they’re not a big problem for most residents of the United States. If you have a fear of scorpions and you live anywhere other than Arizona, California, and New Mexico, you likely have little to worry about.

If you do live in California, especially the desert regions, you’ve probably seen scorpions out in nature and near your home. Here is a list of 10 of the most common scorpions in California, so the next time you see one, you can identify them!

new scorpion divider

10 Scorpions Found in California

1. California Common Scorpion

Species: P. silvestrii
Longevity: 10 years
Good to own as a pet?: Yes
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: 2 – 3 inches
Diet: Carnivorous

These little arachnids may not look like much, but they can still pack a formidable sting. Fortunately, their venom isn’t that dangerous (but we still recommend avoiding them, if at all possible).

As you might expect from the name, this is the most commonly found species in California. They’ve adapted to a variety of environments, including the coast. That said, they’re more commonly found in the southern region of the state.

They mostly eat soft-bodied insects, spiders, and other scorpions, while they’re preyed upon by birds, spiders, other scorpions, and raccoons. Fun fact about these scorpions: Like many species, their young are born live and ride around on the mother’s back until they mature.


2. Stripe-Tailed Scorpion

Species: P. spinigerus
Longevity: 8 years
Good to own as a pet?: Yes
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: 1.5 – 2.5 inches
Diet: Carnivorous

This species is also known as the “devil scorpion.” A burrowing species, they’ll look for any enclosed space that they can find: rocks, trees, shoes, sleeping bags, etc. As you might expect, they’ll protect those spaces from invaders. Fortunately, their sting isn’t life-threatening.

They use vibrations as a way to find a mate, so if you go stomping around near your sleeping bag before you get inside, you might get a surprise in your shoes later!

They prefer humid areas, and they’re not as prolific as some of the other species on this list — they’re mainly found in Arizona and New Mexico. Like most scorpions, they eat smaller bugs and other scorpions, and they can be eaten by snakes, spiders, centipedes, birds, and some mammals. You can identify them by the tan stripes on the back of the tail, which is usually thicker than their pincers.


3. Bark Scorpion

Striped Bark Scorpion on ground
Image Credit: Sari ONeal, Shutterstock
Species: C. sculpturatus
Longevity: 7 years
Good to own as a pet?: Yes
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: 2 – 3 inches
Diet: Carnivorous

If you see one of these crawling around, you might want to think twice about grabbing a shoe or a can of Raid — they’ve actually survived nuclear blasts. These small, light-brown scorpions were found, completely unharmed, near nuclear testing sites in Arizona, so your Birkenstocks may not do much damage.

While they’re commonly known as “Arizona bark scorpions,” they can also be found in the extreme southwest part of California. They love breaking into houses, and all they need is a crack that is 1/16th of an inch wide to gain entry, so double-check your insulation.

This is the most poisonous scorpion in North America, and there have been two fatalities associated with their sting. Most people are more likely to suffer symptoms like severe pain, vomiting, shortness of breath, temporary dysfunction in the stung area, and “sensations of electrical jolts.”


4. Arizona Hairy Scorpion

Species: H. arizonensis
Longevity: 10 years
Good to own as a pet?: Yes
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: 4 – 6 inches
Diet: Carnivorous

This scorpion, also known as the “giant desert hairy scorpion,” is easy to identify, given that they’re absolutely massive and covered in tiny hair (although the hair is hard to spot without getting close, which we don’t recommend). Despite their size and aggressive nature, their venom is fairly weak, although allergic reactions can occur (and can be fatal).

Arizona hairy scorpions can be found in southern California, and they like living in elaborate burrows in washes and valleys. They’re largely nocturnal, so you can likely avoid them during the day. They eat most of the things that smaller scorpions eat, except they can also feast on snakes, lizards, and giant desert centipedes.


5. California Forest Scorpion

Species: U. mordax
Longevity: 6 years
Good to own as a pet?: Yes
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: 2 – 3 inches
Diet: Carnivorous

These little creatures live in the forests, and they can be found as far north as Washington. They’re not terribly aggressive, preferring to hide or play dead rather than attack, although they will certainly lash out if threatened. Fortunately, their sting is only about as painful as a bee’s. They’re extremely common, especially in the Bay Area.

They eat a diet of mostly crickets and beetles, and they’re often snacks for birds and some mammals. As far as scorpions go, this is a fairly benign species.


6. California Swollen Stinger Scorpion

Species: A. pococki
Longevity: 8 years
Good to own as a pet?: Yes
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: 2 – 3 inches
Diet: Carnivorous

These tiny little bugs are easily identifiable, thanks to the sacs of venom near their tails that make their stingers look swollen. Despite all that extra ammo that they’re carrying around, their stings aren’t dangerous to people (although they are fairly painful).

Surprisingly enough, they don’t use venom to hunt that much at all. The problem is that they live in constricted burrows and can’t actually swing that massive tail around very well. As a result, they usually eat by grabbing an unsuspecting cricket with their claws and just munching on it while it’s still alive.

Found in the southern part of the state, they mostly keep to themselves, preferring to stay in their burrows except when it’s time to feed. In fact, only males tend to leave the burrows, and they only do so when it’s time to find a mate. They’re not ambush predators, though, as they wait for unsuspecting insects to trespass inside their holes before consuming them.


7. California Dune Scorpion

Species: S. mesaensis
Longevity: 6 years
Good to own as a pet?: Yes
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: 2.5 – 4 inches
Diet: Carnivorous

These scorpions are extremely fast, so it’s hard to get away from them if they come after you. They’re also incredibly aggressive.

The good news about these scorpions is that they’re truly desert creatures, so as long as you’re not traipsing around on a sand dune, you’re unlikely to encounter them. It’s estimated that they spend as much as 97% of their lives in burrows.

They’ll eat just about anything unlucky enough to wander in their general vicinity, provided that it’s size appropriate. They’re even prone to cannibalism, and females often dine on males after mating.


8. Sawfinger Scorpion

Species: S. gertschi
Longevity: 8 years
Good to own as a pet?: Yes
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: .5 – 1 inches
Diet: Carnivorous
This species is often described as “extremely aggressive.” Luckily, they’re extremely small and their venom isn’t particularly potent, so the worst that you’ll experience if they sting you is mild irritation.

They get their name from the sawblade-like appearance of their claws, and while this may help them grasp tightly onto prey, it’s not used to actually saw fingers off. These little brown arachnids are common everywhere from San Francisco to the Big Bend region of Texas, and they favor rocky areas and cliffs.


9. Superstition Mountains Scorpion

Species: S. donensis
Longevity: 6 years
Good to own as a pet?: Yes
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: .5 – 1 in
Diet: Carnivorous
While this species has an awesome name, it’s merely based on the fact that they were discovered in the Superstition Mountains around Phoenix. They have dark brown bodies with bands of black running across their backs.

They tend to make their homes under rocks in deserts or on rocky, mountainous terrain. There have been a few reported instances of people being stung by these scorpions, but there’s little reason to believe that their venom is particularly worrisome. Still, we wouldn’t recommend testing it out for yourself.


10. Northern Scorpion

Species: P. boreus
Longevity: 7 years
Good to own as a pet?: Yes
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: 1.5 – 2 inches
Diet: Carnivorous

This species can survive in just about any climate, including extreme cold, and they’re the only scorpion species that’s also found in Canada. They’re typically pale yellow or an orangish-brown color, and their backs tend to be much darker than the rest of their bodies.

Since these scorpions can tolerate climates that other species can’t, they favor environments in which they’re the only scorpion species around. This includes high elevations, and they’re one of the few species that isn’t commonly found in deserts.

You might also want to know:

new scorpion divider

Conclusion

California is home to a surprising number of scorpion species, and these little arachnids are extremely plentiful across the entire state. That said, they’re fairly easy to avoid — just be aware of your surroundings while in the desert, and don’t pick up rocks, sticks, or the like when you’re out in the forest.


Featured Image Credit: Ernie Cooper, Shutterstock

Quincy Miller

Quincy has been around mutts his entire life and has been writing about them for the past nine years and now consists of sharing a house with three spoiled pups who couldn’t hold down a job to save their lives. Quincy never intended to be a cat person. When his wife brought home a kitten one day, he told her she had one week to find it a new home. That week turned into 10 years (his wife moves very slowly), and that kitten turned into three (they got two more, the kitten didn't self-replicate). After a decade of sharing his home with the dogs and three cats, one horrifying realization finally set in: oh God, he's a cat person now too, isn't he???