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Wildlife

Reptiles in Southern Utah

Lizards and snakes flourish in Zion Canyon. Chances are, as you walk the many trails, you'll see one of the 16 species of lizards or 13 snake species.

Lizards and snakes flourish in Zion Canyon and other Utah national parks. Chances are, as you walk the many trails, you’ll see one of the 16 species of lizards or 13 snake species.

Lizards in Southern Utah

A lizard in Zion National Park. Photo by Elisabeth Kwak
A lizard in Zion National Park. Photo by Elisabeth Kwak

Lizards are cold-blooded or ecotherm species, who use the sun’s heat to get blood and muscles moving so they can catch prey or avoid being caught themselves. Too much heat is bad, as is too little — the park’s reptiles adjust body heat by moving in and out of shade and sunshine.

Park biologists say the plateau lizard (Sceloporus tristichus) is the most common species — distinguished by blue patches on its belly.

Plateau Lizard by by Paraflyer [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Plateau Lizard by by Paraflyer [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The only lizard that might harm people is the Gila Monster (Heloderma suspectum), a foot-long, swollen package of sluggish irritability, sharp teeth and venom — the only venomous lizard in North America. Bites are extremely painful, but not fatal.

Snakes in Southern Utah

zion-park-snakes

Most snakes found in Utah are harmless to people — only the Western rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus) packs a venomous bite. The other snakes hunt mice, frogs, lizards and birds or other snakes.

Tortoises

A desert tortoise hatchling in Zion National Park. It is 2 inches in length. Photo by NPS Cassie Waters
A desert tortoise hatchling in Zion National Park. It is 2 inches in length. Photo by NPS Cassie Waters

You might be lucky enough to spot the lumbering desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii). A big one could be 80-100 years old. Best advise for all reptiles — look, don’t touch.