Well-adapted to the often dry environment of Petrified Forest National Park, reptiles play an important part in maintaining the health of the ecosystem. Over sixteen varieties of lizards and snakes make Petrified Forest their home. Reptiles occupy a variety of habitats ranging from grassland to rocky slopes. They consume large quantities of insects, spiders, scorpions, other reptiles and small mammals thereby preventing infestations of any single species. Respecting the entire reptile community helps to preserve this vital link.
All reptiles are "ectothermic," or cold-blooded, regulating body temperature via external sources rather than internal metabolism. The metabolic rate of a reptile is very low, but so are its energy needs. Keeping warm in the Arizona sunshine does not require much work, so energy generated can be used for reproduction and finding food instead of for heating and cooling. Of course, there are limitations to this type of adaptation. Since they cannot pant or sweat, reptiles are not able to endure extremely high temperatures without shade. They also cannot endure freezing temperatures. When it is cold, they hibernate or enter into an inactive torpor.
When lizards are seen scurrying across a rock or path, please resist the urge to catch them. Lizards can have a mean bite and some will actually shed a tail to escape capture. Though the tail will grow back, a great deal of body energy is used in the process and population dynamics will be affected. Enjoy them from a respectful distance.
The following is a list of the reptiles known to occur in the park. Help protect this important park ecosystem by observing our reptile inhabitants from a distance.
Arizona elegans Glossy Snake
Crotalus viridis viridis Prairie (Hopi) Rattlesnake
Lampropeltis getula Common Kingsnake
Lampropeltis triangulum Milksnake
Masticophis taeniatus Striped Whipsnake
Pituophis catenifer Gophersnake
Thamnophis cyrtopsis Black-necked Gartersnake
Aspidoscelis pai Pai Striped Whiptail (formerly A. inornatus Little striped whiptail)
Aspidoscelis neomexicana New Mexico Whiptail
Aspidoscelis velox Plateau Striped Whiptail
Crotaphytus collaris Eastern Collared Lizard
Holbrookia maculata Common Lesser Earless Lizard
Phrynosoma hernandesi Greater Short-horned Lizard (formerly P. douglasii Short-horned lizard)
Sceloporus graciosus Sagebrush Lizard
Sceloporus tristichus Plateau Lizard (formerly S. undulatus Eastern fence lizard)
Uta stansburiana Common Side-blotched Lizard
Terrapene ornata Ornate Box Turtle