9 Common Reptiles in Utah (W/Pics!)

Are you wondering what reptiles you can find in Utah?

Types of reptiles in Utah

 

This is a great question! Although these reptiles are widespread, they can be difficult to find. Most reptiles, including snakes, turtles, and lizards, are secretive and shy. But observing and finding reptiles is a really fun experience!

 

Below you will find a list of the most common and interesting reptiles that live in Utah. In addition, you will find detailed pictures, along with range maps for each species to help with your identification!

And if you’re looking for a more comprehensive list of specific reptiles like snakes, lizards, or turtles, check out our ID guides to these fascinating creatures!

 

9 COMMON Reptiles in Utah:


#1. Prairie Rattlesnake

  • Crotalus viridis

Common reptiles in Utah

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults typically range between 3.3 and 5 feet in length.
  • Coloration is highly variable and can be greenish-gray, olive green, greenish-brown, light brown, or yellow. All variations have dark blotches on the body that turn into rings near the tail.
  • They have a broad triangular head, elliptical pupils, heat-sensing pits between the eyes and nostrils, and a tail rattle.

 

Prairie Rattlesnakes have a more varied habitat than many reptiles in southeastern Utah. These venomous snakes can be found in open prairies, grasslands, semi-desert shrublands, and forested environments. They can even be found at elevations up to 9500 feet!

Prairie Rattlesnake Range Mapprairie rattlesnake range map

The Prairie Rattlesnake hibernates during the winter, often in communal dens. These dens are typically rock crevices, caves, or old mammal burrows. Individual snakes return to the same den each winter and migrate up to seven miles to their hunting grounds in the spring.

 

When they feel threatened Prairie Rattlesnakes may also quietly crawl away to cover. If approached, they coil and rattle their tail as a warning before striking. Their potent venom has both hemotoxic and neurotoxic properties and, although rare, can be fatal to an adult human.

 


#2. Terrestrial Garter Snake

  • Thamnophis elegans

Utah reptiles

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 18 to 41 inches in length.
  • Most adults have three yellow, light orange, or white stripes; one down their back and two down their sides.
  • Coloration is widely variable. Individuals may be brownish or greenish. Some have red and black spots between the stripes, and occasionally all black individuals are found.

 

Although they’re common in the western United States, these reptiles can be difficult to identify!

 

Even trained herpetologists have issues! Its coloration varies widely, and there are believed to be six subspecies, although scientists still debate this.

 

Terrestrial Garter Snakes occupy various habitats, including both grasslands and forests. They can even be found in mountainous areas up to 13,000 feet above sea level. As the name suggests, they’re primarily found on land. But interestingly, these reptiles are great swimmers!

terrestrial garter range map

 

This species is the only garter snake with a tendency to constrict prey! Most garter snakes grab their prey quickly and just swallow, rubbing their prey against the ground if necessary.

 

Terrestrial Garter Snakes aren’t aggressive or dangerous, but they possess mildly venomous saliva! It can cause a muscle infection or even kill some muscle tissue. Most bites on humans just cause pain and some swelling.

 


#3. California Kingsnake

  • Lampropeltis californiae

Reptiles in Utah

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 36 to 48 inches in length.
  • Most individuals are black or brown, with whitish bands running down their bodies.

 

California Kingsnakes are among the toughest reptiles in southern Utah!

 

Most of the year, these California Kingsnakes are found out during the day, except during cold weather when they retreat underground to enter a hibernation-like state called brumation.

California Kingsnake Range Map

california kingsnake range map

Do you know how kingsnakes got the name “king?”

 

It refers to their ability to hunt down and eat other snakes! Incredibly, California Kingsnakes will even go after venomous rattlesnakes.

 

This species has the incredible adaptation to constrict its prey. In fact, California Kingsnakes have the strongest squeeze compared to their body’s size! It’s thought they evolved this trait since their main diet consists of other reptiles, which don’t require as much oxygen as mammals.

 


#4. Western Whiptail

  • Aspidoscelis tigris

Types of reptiles in Utah

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 2.5 to 5 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
  • Body coloring is gray-brown to yellowish, with dark bars or spots that form a web-like pattern.
  • Skin folds are present on the neck, making the throat appear wrinkled.
  • Rust-colored patches are often present on the sides of the belly.

 

You can find this reptile in Utah in sandy, rocky, or firmly packed soil.

 

Their habitat preferences range from open forest to arid scrubland. Western Whiptails eat other reptiles, scorpions, spiders, termites, and beetles. As you can see, this lizard is anything but picky!

Their physical characteristics and habitats are so varied that there are sixteen distinct subspecies! As you can see in the map above, five subspecies are present throughout the Southwest.

 


#5. Common Sagebrush Lizard

  • Sceloporus graciosus

types of spiny lizards in the united states

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 1.9 to 3.5 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
  • Coloring is gray or brown with a light stripe on each side, a black bar at the shoulder, and blue patches on the belly.
  • They have unusually long, almost spidery back claws.

 

As the name suggests, look for this common reptile in sagebrush in the western United States.

Common Sagebrush Lizard Range Map:

 

Common Sagebrush Lizards eat a wide variety of insects and even scorpions! They hibernate during winter when temperatures drop, and food becomes scarce.

 

The easiest way to tell if you’ve found a Common Sagebrush Lizard is to look at its belly. The brilliant blue spots on its throat and abdomen are a dead giveaway!

 


#6. Western Fence Lizard

  • Sceloporus occidentalis

species of spiny lizards in the united states

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 2.25 to 3.5 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
  • Black, gray, or dark brown coloring with uneven lighter blotches.
  • The sides of the belly are blue, and the backs of the limbs are orange or yellow.

 

If you see a dark lizard on the ground or a fence, chances are you’ve found a Western Fence Lizard.

 

They’re the most commonly seen reptile within their range! They aren’t picky about their habitat and live in most ecosystems except the desert.

 

Western Fence Lizard Range Map:

 

A fascinating talent of Western Fence Lizards is that they can help lower YOUR risk of Lyme disease.

 

Here’s why:

 

This spiny lizard’s blood can kill the Lyme Bacteria that many ticks carry! So once an infected tick feeds on the lizard’s blood, they’re cured!

 


#7. Greater Short-Horned Lizard

  • Phrynosoma hernandesi

species of horned lizards in the united states

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 1.75 to 4.75 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
  • Coloring is beige, tan, or reddish, speckled with white. There are large brown blotches on the neck and sides.
  • Horns are short and stubby, located on the back of the head and each side.

 

Greater Short-horned Lizards prefer to live in shortgrass prairies and the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Their habitat is semi-arid, with long dry spells and infrequent rain.

Greater Short-horned Lizard Range Map:

 

Ants are a primary food source for Greater Short-horned Lizards, but they have a varied diet.

 

They are one of the few reptiles in Utah that gives birth to live young!

 

And you may not believe this, but they can produce up to 48 babies in one birth!


#8. Common Side-Blotched Lizard

  • Uta stansburiana

types of reptiles in the United States

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 1.5 to 2.5 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
  • Coloring is brownish, occasionally blue-gray, with a blue to black blotch on either side of the chest.
  • This species often has white speckles dotting its back in the light color phase.

 

Common Side-blotched Lizards are comfortable in many different habitats. They’re abundant in their range and easy to find by concentrating on the ground where they spend most of their time.

United States Geological Survey (USGS)

 

There are three separate morphs of the male Side-Blotched Lizard, and interestingly, this plays a huge role in the mating habits of this species.

 

They employ a Rock-Paper-Scissors mechanism, with one morph being dominant over the second (like paper over rock) but not over the third (like scissors cutting paper). This unique mechanism causes a “rotation” of the most common morph each breeding season! The three morphs are pictured below:


#9. Eastern Collared Lizard

  • Crotaphytus collaris

species of reptiles in the United States

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 3-4.75 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
  • Coloring is variable: greenish-blue, olive, brown, or yellow are common. Females are generally darker and less colorful.

 

You can find eastern Collared Lizards in desert shrubland, open forest, and grassland. They prefer areas with rocks, open space, and lots of sunlight. Like other reptiles in Utah, this species is cold-blooded and uses the sun to warm itself.

USGS – United States Geological Survey

The Eastern Collared Lizard is wildly territorial!

 

In addition, they’re also powerful predators! Their sharp teeth and strong jaws make catching a meal easy. As a result, they have been known to eat large insects, reptiles, and even other Collared Lizards!

 


What types of reptiles in Utah have you seen?

 

Let us know in the comments!

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