Signage at the trailhead of each unit within Salinas Pueblo Missions informs visitors of the presence of reptiles in the monument, "Respect the Rattlesnakes privacy, please stay on the trail." There are approximately 12 reptiles reported at Salinas. From the poisonous Western Rattlesnake to the non-poisonous Collared Lizard, you may encounter a snake sun bathing on the walls of the monument, or a lizard darting to its location.
Probably the lizard is the most likely a visitor might encounter, not only because they are abundant but also because they are most active during visiting hours. Usually they feed as temperatures rise above 65˚ F, when it becomes too hot they return to cooler crevices, and come out again in the late afternoon. Their diets are variable. Smaller lizards are either insectivores or herbivores; the larger spiny lizards are both carnivores and omnivores.
While the lizards might be controlling the insect population, the snake also eats insects. You may add rodents, lizards, and rabbits to their diet. The snake usually will swallow its prey whole. Snakes can live in the wild as long as twenty years. Because they cannot regulate their body temperature they tend to get their body heat from sunning on the rock walls or along the trail. During really hot temperatures you may find a snake in a shaded grassy area, becoming more active in the late afternoon.
Because both snakes and reptiles are an important part of the ecosystem they are protected at Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument.
Last updated: February 24, 2015