Arizona Black Rattlesnake on a rock.
Arizona Black Rattlesnake

NPS Photo/ M. Stewart


Under appreciated and sometimes feared, reptiles play an important role in the Sonoran Desert ecosystem. Lizards and snakes help control insect and rodent populations. In turn, these reptiles become potential meals for birds and mammals. Tonto National Monument is home to at least 32 species of reptiles. Learn more about the Monument's different lizards and snakes.

To survive living in the arid environment of the Sonoran Desert, each animal has developed its own set of adaptations to heat, water, and vegetation conditions. Many animals change their activity times with the seasons and the heat. During the winter, they may be active during the day, but during the heat of the summer, only active during the coolness of early morning and evening hours. Others may be most active during evenings and mornings in the summer, but hibernate in the cold of winter. Body temperature may be regulated through special body parts. Reptiles, whose bodies do not regulate temperature, depend on a strategy of moving from shade to sun and back again to self regulate their body’s temperature.

While most of the animals found here are not considered dangerous, it is worth remembering that any animal may bite if it feels threatened. Please leave all wildlife alone, and enjoy them from a safe distance.

Last updated: January 3, 2021

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