Reptiles of Big Bend

Just the head of a snake pokes around the side of a tree.

NPS/R. Wonite


Big Bend's desert environment is a perfect place for reptiles. A reptile's cold-blooded or, more accurately, "ectothermic" metabolic rate is very low, but so are its energy needs. Since keeping warm in the desert does not require much work, reptiles are well adapted to this part of Texas. Energy that is generated is used for reproduction and finding food, rather than being wasted in heating and cooling.
The front half of a turtles body is in view, with the head partially pulled into the shell
Texas spiny softshell turtle

NPS/M. Landis


Turtles are characterized by a special bony or cartilaginous shell developed from their ribs that acts as a shield. There are only a few wet places in the park where turtles can be found. However, in the summer rainy season it is possible to find one in desert areas, wandering between wet spots. Big Bend National Park supports six species of turtles.
A large lizard with yellow feet and white spots across its body sits clings to the side of a rock
Eastern collared lizard

NPS/J. Jurado


Lizards are a widespread group of reptiles, with over 6,000 species, ranging across all continents except Antarctica. Big Bend is home to twenty-two species of lizards. These quick creatures are often heard but not seen as they scurry through the vegetation to the side of a trail. Those that are sighted are fast and fit easily into small hiding spaces.
The back half of a snake is visible, with a diamond pattern on the body and a completely black tail ending in a series of 7 rattles.
Black-tailed rattlesnake

NPS/C. Ballou


Thirty-one species of snakes, including four species of rattlesnakes, inhabit Big Bend. Snakes may be more active after summer rains. Keep in mind that all wildlife, including snakes, are protected in the park. Please do not harm, handle or otherwise disturb them.

Last updated: August 17, 2020

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

PO Box 129
Big Bend National Park , TX 79834-0129



Contact Us

Stay Connected