Although the stark appearance of Craters of the Moon may initially create an impression of lifelessness, many animals make their homes here. Birds and some rodents are seen most frequently. The changing weather and seasons play a large role in determining which animals are active at any given time.

Night and Day

Arid land animals have a variety of adaptations for dealing with the temperature and moisture stresses present at Craters of the Moon. Most desert animals are nocturnal, or mainly active at night. Nocturnal behavior is an adaptation to both predation and hot summer daytime temperatures. Nocturnal animals at Craters of the Moon include woodrats (also called packrats), skunks, foxes, bobcats, mountain lions, bats, nighthawks, owls, and most other small desert rodents.

Animals that are most active at dawn and dusk, when temperatures are cooler than mid-day, are called crepuscular. The subdued morning and evening light helps make them less visible to predators, but is bright enough to allow them to locate food. Some animals are crepuscular mainly because their prey is also. Crepuscular animals include mule deer, coyotes, porcupines, mountain cottontails, jackrabbits, and many songbirds.

Some desert animals are diurnal, or primarily active during the day. These include ground squirrels, marmots, chipmunks, lizards, snakes, hawks, and eagles.

pronghorn in snow
Pronghorns migrate through Craters of the Moon in the spring and fall.

NPS Photo

Adapting to the Seasons

Many animals have a specific temperature range in which they are able to be active, and so their active times of day vary with the seasons. Snakes and lizards hibernate during the winter months, are diurnal during the late spring and early fall, and become crepuscular during the heat of summer. Many insects and some birds also alter their times of activity. Some animals, like ground squirrels and marmots, have one or more periods of estivation, a summer hibernation that allows them to avoid the hottest and driest periods.

Finding Water

Since there are few sources of water at Craters of the Moon, animals must get the moisture they need directly from their food. Mule deer munch bitterbrush leaves. Violet-green swallows snatch insects from the air. Rattlesnakes swallow rodents whole. Each of these foods contains water essential to life. A few rodents such as pocket mice and kangaroo rats do this so efficiently that they go their entire lives without drinking water.

Found Nowhere Else

Some animals are unique to Craters of the Moon and the surrounding area. Subspecies of Great Basin pocket mouse and yellow pine chipmunk are found nowhere else in the world. A unique population of pikas makes its home among the lava flows. Lava tube beetles and many other cave animals are found only in the lava tubes of eastern Idaho.

a white weasel peeking out from dark rocks

Craters is home to mammals both big and small.

a small, green bird with a white belly perched on a sign with the text "craters of the moon"

Over 200 species of birds are found in the park.

a brown snake coiled up on moss

Several snakes and lizards are found at Craters of the Moon during the warm months.

a brown spotted toad with a light line down its back

A handful of amphibians have been found in the park despite the harsh environment.


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Last updated: November 10, 2023

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve
1266 Craters Loop Road
P.O. Box 29

Arco, ID 83213


208 527-1300

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