Amphibians & Reptiles of National Parks

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK 

Lizards and frogs. Snakes and salamanders. Tortoises and toads. Grand Canyon National Park is home to a combined nearly 50 distinct species. There used to be more, but some species of frogs have gone missing from the region for various reasons.

Desert habitats are perfect environments for reptiles. They range up and down the food chain, from prey for mammals and birds to pinnacle predators that eat mammals and birds. Chief among these predators are the rattlesnakes and Gila monsters. Six different species of rattler live in and around the Grand Canyon, including some that are only found in this region. They can frequently be found under rocks and in shady reaches during the heat of the day. Always approach a snake with caution, and avoid the venomous ones when possible.

Four species of frogs highlight the amphibious occupants of the park. The Canyon Frog is an inauspicious looking creature that features heavily in the diet of several of its cohabitants. The Tiger Salamander is a widely distributed animal that is also found here. Since amphibians require water for life, the majority of the encounters with these creatures will take place along the Colorado River and its tributaries.

Preservation techniques are being taken to salvage the population of amphibians in Grand Canyon National Park. Other species that have been transplanted to the area have really taken a toll on their numbers. The Northern Leopard Frog, which used to be prevalent in the area, has not been found here for some time.

 

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK 

Blotched Tiger Salamander

This greenback, yellow bellied amphibian can grow to 9 inches long and is the only species of salamander present in Yellowstone. They are a hibernating species that migrates from a protected, generally dry space toward water upon breaking its sleep cycle. Pools and streams without fish are the habitat that predicates a successful continuation of the species, and Yellowstone has plenty of those to offer.

 

Columbia Spotted Frog

The tadpoles for the Columbia Spotted Frog can grow up to 3 inches long while mature members of the species max out at just over 3 inches long. They have a primary diet of aquatic plant species, but are well-known for eating local insects as well. These can be found in or around almost all small waterways within Yellowstone National Park.

 

Sagebrush Lizard

A rock and dry plant dweller of the West, these are bug eating, every other animal feeding machines. Mature males carry bright blue markings on their undersides, earning them the popular nickname of "blue bellied lizard." It is not uncommon, when scared, for the Sagebrush Lizard to break ties with the end of its tail. This leaves a twitching appendage behind to sidetrack whatever happened to be chasing it.

 

Prairie Rattlesnake

This is the only venomous snake in the park. They can grow to 48 inches in length and are found in the drier, warmer parts of Yellowstone. Only 2 snakebites from rattlers have been recorded in the history of the park. Primary food sources for Prairie Rattlesnakes in Yellowstone are mice, shrew, and lizards.

 

Bull Snake

This is the largest of the reptiles in Yellowstone National Park. Bull Snakes grow up to 6 feet in length. They are a defensive minded animal, often mistaken for rattlesnakes because of the way they coil and shake their tails against the ground to sound like their venomous counterparts. Small rodents and rattlesnakes are among other creatures on the Bull Snake menu.

 

BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK 

Bryce Canyon National Park is a high elevation piece of property. This means that the temperatures are a bit low for reptiles and amphibians to flourish, but there are some to be found. One of them must even be watched out for!

Though there is not much water to be found, there is enough for the rarely spotted Tiger Salamander. Heavy rains sometimes bring them out in the area of Swamp Canyon. There is nothing about them to be feared unless you happen to be an earthworm or insect.

Rattlesnakes, on the other hand, are to be dealt with carefully. Though the driving routes around Bryce Canyon National Park mean and help is never too far away, it is best to just leave these venomous creatures alone. People visiting lower elevations of the park during especially hot years are the most apt to encounter a rattlesnake.

The only commonly encountered reptile here is the common sagebrush lizard. It can frequently be found sunning itself on rocks and scurrying after its next meal of insects. One of its more recognized traits, leading to its more common name of blue bellied lizard, are the colored stripes on the under part of the abdomen. They may be enticing to chase, but please let nature alone while you enjoy Bryce Canyon National Park.

 

ZION NATIONAL PARK 

Frogs, toads, salamanders can all be found in Zion National Park. The Tiger Salamanders and toads are generally only seen after heavy rainfall. Some of these can grow over 5 inches long, while the frogs in the area generally run less than 3 inches, many much smaller than that. All 7 species are true amphibians, meaning they spend a required portion of their lives in water.

A much more diverse slate of reptiles exist in Zion. 16 species of lizard, 13 species of snake, and even one species outside of those classifications! The Desert Tortoise has a lifespan similar to human beings, ranging up to 100 years. Unfortunately, susceptibility to predators as juveniles, collection by humans for pets, and loss of habitat mean there are not many of these amazing creatures left to be found. Keep an eye out, though, in the lower elevations of the park and you might get lucky enough to see one!

Gila Monsters and Western Rattlesnakes represent the sum total of venomous reptiles in the park. It is frowned upon to physically handle any of the wildlife, these ones should be provided some extra caution. Reptiles in Zion National Park are known to hibernate during the approximately 4 months surrounding winter.