Reptile Season


Desert iguana using it’s tail as a stilt to forage some creosote flowers. Desert iguanas are not only one of the world’s fastest reptiles, but they can tolerate warmer temperatures than any other lizard on the planet! Saguaro NP West, AZ.

It’s warming up quickly in the valley! The heat means many things for Tucson residents: swimming, cranking up the a/c, daytime activity limitations and, most importantly, reptiles!

Over the last few weeks, rattlesnakes (primarily western diamondbacks) have been popping up all over the place. After emerging from such a chilly winter slumber, they are fervently in search of not only food, but love as well. Rattlesnakes aren’t the only creatures looking for mates, however. Cloaked in their elegant breeding coloration, male lizards of many species, loaded with testosterone, can be seen chasing females and fervently performing territorial “push-ups.” There have even been a number of local gila monster reports!

Large zebra-tailed lizard performing territorial “push-ups.” Saguaro NP East, AZ.


Large zebra-tailed lizard performing territorial “push-ups.” Saguaro NP East, AZ.
Tiger whiptail courtship. The male (left) is trying to initiate coitus.

Over the last few weeks, alone, I’ve counted at least 9 different lizards and (roadkill included) 4 different snake species in and around Saguaro West. This activity boom isn’t just limited the valley, either. At the end of March, several Yarrow’s spiny lizards were encountered in Ramsey Canyon, in addition to an alligator lizard that was recently observed in Madera Canyon.


Yarrow’s spiny lizard basking on cool day.

As May and June deliver dry, scorching temperatures, however, many of the snakes will yet again vanish, driven to shelter by the harsh elements. The lizards will continue their territorial rivalries, albeit perhaps earlier in the morning. This period of reduced activity will most likely continue until rainfall once again visits the Sonoran Desert. The real action, however, will await the summer monsoons!

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