Park Reptiles and Amphibians

The bullsnake is the most frequently seen snake in the park.
When provoked, a bullsnake can dislocate its jaw to change the shape of its head, swell with air to increase its size, coil and and hiss. These convincing gestures make it look and sound just like a rattlesnake.

NPS Photo - Cookie Ballou

Snakes - suborder Serpentes

The Bullsnake (Pituophis melanoleucus) is the most frequently seen snake in the park. It lives both in desert flats and in the Bowl. As with most snakes, it is active in the early morning and late afternoon.

The Coachwhip (Masticophis flagellum) may be found from desert lowlands and grasslands to the base of the escarpment. This fast snake avoids areas of dense vegetation and hides in underground burrows if disturbed.

The Mountain Patchnose Snake (Salvadora grahamiae) lives in rocky areas and canyons at intermediate elevations. This common snake was believed to use its patchnose for burrowing.

Five species of rattlesnakes occur in the park. The largest is the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox), frequently seen on the McKittrick Canyon Road and rocky washes in the lowlands. The attractive Black-tailed Rattlesnake (Crotalus molossus) is usually found on slopes, particularly at higher elevations. It is the most commonly seen rattlesnake in the park. The Rock Rattlesnake (Crotalus lepidus) prefers rocky areas in the highlands. A rare inhabitant of the grasslands at Dog Canyon is the Prairie Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis); the Desert Massasauga (Sistrus catenatus edwardsii) also occurs in the area around Dog Canyon.

Rattlesnakes are highly venomous, but they reserve their poison for prey unless threatened into a defensive action. Make sure to allow plenty of space for the snake to escape if you encounter one of these beautiful reptiles.
Earless lizards are among many species found in the park.

NPS Photo - Cookie Ballou

Lizards - suborder Sauria

Numerous lizards inhabit the Guadalupe Mountains from the desert to the high forest. Lizards are diurnal, and though most blend in well with their surroundings, their daytime activities and quick movements make them much easier to spot than other wildlife in the park.

The most commonly seen lizard in the park is the Prairie Lizard (Sceloporus undulatus). As a good climber, it lives between rocks, in sotol, shrubs and trees.

Look for the Chihuahuan Spotted Whiptail (Cnemidophorus exsanguis) near its burrows along the Smith Spring Trail. All members of this species are females and thus reproduction is by asexual means. This leaves a new generation to be an exact clone of the mother.
The Mountain Short-Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma douglassi) blends perfectly with surrounding rocks and it is well protected by numerous spines along its neck and sides.

Collared Lizards (Cratophytus collaris) can be spotted running for refuge. Its distinctive black band on the neck gives its name.
Western Box Turtle

NPS Photo - Cookie Ballou

Turtles - order Testudines

The only common member of the order testudines (turtles) in the park is the Western Box Turtle (Terrapene ornata), a terrestrial burrowing species. It is most active in the morning or after heavy rainfall. Often it will remain underground during the intense heat of summer days, and hibernates in the cold winter months. Box turtles eat a variety of insects, including beetles, but they also like berries and carrion. Male turtles have red eyes, while females can be identified by their yellow eyes.

Last updated: September 11, 2018

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