Here are some of the more common reptiles you may see in Joshua Tree. The reptiles of Joshua Tree National Park include 1 tortoise species, 18 lizards, and 25 varieties of snakes.
Poisonous animals use their venom to stun the creatures they plan to eat, and will only attack humans when provoked. Bites and stings usually happen when people place their hands or feet into crevices or when they disturb or threaten the animal. Even then, most bites and stings, while painful, are not fatal. Always remember to look first before placing your hands or bare feet anywhere, especially into crevices, debris, piles of stuff like wood. And if the worst should happen, be safe rather than sorry and head for medical attention right away.It's a good idea to shake out / inspect clothing, shoes (especially), linens, towels, etc. before putting them to use. You never know when a scorpion will decide to spend the night in your favorite sneakers!
Like many desert creatures, desert tortoises spend most of their lives "holed up." In spring and summer, they roam grazing on grasses and wildflowers, then head for their burrows when it gets too hot. In fall and winter, when it is cold and there is not much to eat, they stay burrowed in for six months or more at a time.If you see a desert tortoise, you are seeing an endangered species. Please watch out for them on the roads. Tortoises live in washes and valleys where the soil is soft enough for them to burrow into, yet stable enough so they do not collapse. Remember, desert tortoises are protected under the Endangered Species Act and may not be handled or removed.
Desert Banded Gecko
Coleonyx variegatus variegatus
Most common in sandy flats; occasional in canyons and rocky areas
Northern Desert Iguana
Dipsosaurus dorsalis dorsalis
Most common on sandy flats, dunes, and washes but also along rocky washes and on alluvial fans
Mojave Collared Lizard
Rocky slopes, rock outcrops of gullies, and boulder-strewn alluvial fans
Long-nosed Leopard Lizard
Gambelia wislizenii wislizenii
Open sandy or gravelly flats and plains; less commonly in rocky areas
Sauromalus ater obesus
Rocky outcrops, rocky canyons, rocky slopes, and alluvial fans
Mojave Zebra-tailed Lizard
Callisaurus draconoides rhodostictus
Open areas of sandy and gravelly desert flats, sandy washes, and alluvial fans
San Diego Horned Lizard
Phrynosoma coronatum blainvillii
Northwest section where loose, fine soil with high sand content is present
Southern Desert Horned Lizard
Phrynosoma platyrhinos calidiarum
Sandy flats and canyon bottoms
Yellow-backed Spiny Lizard
Sceloporus magister uniformis
Most abundant in the Joshua tree woodland Occasional on rock outcrops
Great Basin Fence Lizard
Sceloporus biseriatus longipes
Rocky outcrops above 3,000 feet
Mojave Fringe-toed Lizard
Wind-blown sand of dry lake beds, washes, and large dunes
Western Brush Lizard
Urosaurus graciosus graciosus
Bushes and small trees; also in clumps of galleta grass, Pleuraphis rigida
Desert Side-blotched Lizard
Uta stansburiana stejnegeri
Open, sunny ground Usually some rocks and loose soil are present
Desert Night Lizard
Xantusia vigilis vigilis
Most common in Joshua tree woodland, especially within fallen branches of Joshua trees and yuccas
Great Basin Whiptai
Aspidoscelis tigris tigris
Most common in areas where vegetation is densest
Western Red-tailed Skink
Eumeces gilberti rubricaudatus
Prefers moderately damp areas; northwest section
San Diego Alligator Lizard
Elgaria multicarinata webbii
Prefers moderately damp areas; northwest section
Silvery Legless Lizard
Anniella pulchra pulchra
Sandy or loose loamy soils with some moisture; northwest section
A half dozen kinds of rattlesnakes make their homes in California's deserts, but few folks ever see one. Only one guest in 11 years has run into a rattlesnake on the property, and spent a good amount a time trailing the snake from a safe distance and taking pictures. When rattlesnakes and people do meet, it is a scary moment for both. But just remember: they are not looking for trouble. If you back off (allow them an exit), they will gladly take their leave.
Mojave Desert Sidewinder
Crotalus cerastes cerastes
Sandy deserts, occasionally in rocky areas
Sidewinder rattlesnakes are one of the desert's most infamous characters. Named for their weird way of travel, sidewinders move forward by going sideways! It may look loopy, but it is a good way for a snake to travel across the loose sands on the washes and dunes. Sidewinders are nocturnal, hunting by night for desert rats and mice. Come day, they bury themselves in the sand, leaving only distinctive rows of parallel tracks to mark their travels.
Colorado Desert Sidewinder Crotalus
Sandy, south-facing canyons; southwestern section
Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake
Crotalus mitchelli pyrrhus
Rocky slopes, canyons, rock outcrops
Red Diamond Rattlesnake
Crotalus ruber ruber
Brush shrouded granite boulders and cactus patches; western section
Desert flats; northwestern edge only
Southern Pacific Rattlesnake
Pinyon-juniper woodland communities; northwestern section
Areas with fairly thick vegetation; southern section
SNAKES OTHER THAN RATTLESNAKES
Southwestern Blind Snake
Leptotyphlops humilis humilis
Moist areas in canyons, rocky slopes and boulder piles, and among the roots of shrubs; northern section
Desert Blind Snake
Leptotyphlops humilis cahuilae
Sandy hills and rocky slopes where soil moisture is present; southern section
Desert Rosy Boa
Lichanura trivirgata gracia
Rocky hills and canyons
Mojave Glossy Snake
Arizona occidentalis candida
Prefers sandy areas, but also occurs on hard pan or in rocky areas; northern section
Desert Glossy Snake
Arizona occidentalis eburnata
Sandy flats; southern section
Mojave Shovel-nosed Snake
Chionactis occipitalis occipitalis
Sandy desert, creosote bush and dune areas Occasionally in rocky canyons and on rocky slopes
Desert Night Snake
Hypsiglena torquata deserticola
Most common in rocky areas
Lampropeltis getula californiae
Found in all communities; most common in canyons with water
Red Coachwhip or "Red Racer"
Masticophis flagellum piceus
Prefers open areas with high visibility
We've seen this little red guy around the ranch. This is the most commonly viewed snake in the Mojave Desert. It can be seen on roads sunning itself in the early to late morning hours. It is the fastest snake in the desert moving at up to 7mph and can reach up to 6 feet long with a thin, whiplike body. It has a small head with large eyes and round pupils. They vary greatly in color, but most reflect a proper camouflage for their natural habitat, from grays and tans to pink/red with black crossbars always present on the neck. A the snake gets older it begins to take on a more distinct reddish appearance. It’s diet consist of lizards, small snakes, mice and birds.
Red Coachwhips were given their name because specimens frequently, but not always, have some red in their coloration. Coachwhip scales are patterned so that, at first glance, the snake appears braided. Adult sizes of 4-6 feet are common. They are diurnal (active during the day), hunting lizards, small birds, rodents, other snakes (including rattlesnakes), small turtles, bird eggs, and insects.
They are curious snakes with good eyesight, and are sometimes seen raising their heads above the level of the grass or rocks to see/hunt what is around them. They use scent trailing as well as vision to seek out prey. When confronted by a potential enemy they normally flee, but if this is not feasible, then they will coil up, hissing loudly and vibrating the tail, and may strike repeatedly.
Coachwhips are good to have aeround because they include pest rodents and venomous snakes in their diet. However, these are active, mean tempered, aggressive snakes, and should not be handled. Although not poisonous, its bite can tear the flesh and should be avoided.
California Striped Racer
Masticophis lateralis lateralis
Most common in pinyon-juniper woodland; northwest section
Western Leaf-nosed Snake
Phyllorhynchus decurtatus perkinsi
Areas of mixed sandy and rocky soil
Sonoran Gopher Snake
Pituophis catenifer affinis
Creosote bush scrub; southern section
Great Basin Gopher Snake
Pituophis catenifer deserticola
Creosote bush scrub, pinyon-juniper and Joshua tree wood- lands, desert riparian community; northern section
Western Long-nosed Snake
Rhinocheilus lecontei lecontei
Creosote bush and pinyon-juniper woodlands
Desert Patch-nosed Snake (rare)
Salvadora hexalepis hexalepis
Creosote bush scrub, desert washes; southern section
Mojave Patch-nosed Snake
Salvadora hexalepis mojavensis
Most common on sandy valley floors; northern section
Smith’s Black-headed Snake
Desert riparian, pinyon-juniper and Joshua tree woodland; creo- sote bush and alkali scrubs; perennial grassland
California Lyre Snake
Trimorphodon biscutatus vandenburgh
Rocky foothills, canyons, and mesas
Most are 24"-36" long.
Joshua Tree Tortoise Rescue
The Joshua Tree Tortoise Rescue, is a chapter of the California Turtle and Tortoise Club (CTTC), a national 501(3)(c) non-profit organization. We are a local grassroots organization permitted by the State of California Department of Fish and Game to rescue and rehabilitate the endangered California Desert Tortoise.
Our mission is dedicated to the survival of the desert tortoise through education and adoption programs, working closely with government and military agencies, schools, community groups and local businesses.
During the 1920s, there were 1000 California desert tortoises per square mile in our local Mojave desert. Within only 70 years, in 1990, the desert tortoise was listed as a threatened species through the US Fish and Wildlife Endangered Species Act. The tortoises' decline began primarily with loss of habitat from cattle grazing on the delicate desert grasses that are the base of the tortoise diet and then human encroachment on desert land.
Currently, the tortoises' main survival danger is raven predation on hatchlings and the upper respiratory disease syndrome (URDS) which is believed to have been introduced into the wild population in the early 1980's. According to the California Department of Fish and Game guidelines, it is unlawful to release a tortoise back into the wild after any length in captivity. This regulation is to prevent the spread of the disease.
And that is why the Joshua Tree Tortoise Rescue is in operation.
The Joshua Tree Tortoise Rescue's dedicated volunteers spend almost all their spare time in outreach programs teaching local residents – from pre-school children to seniors – not to handle or touch a desert tortoise they may find in their area.
If you do find a desert tortoise, DO take pictures, get down and look at it, watch it to see how it moves and what it eats, and then walk away knowing how fortunate you are to have seen a vanishing, regal creature.
While driving on desert roads, DO keep an eye out for tortoises crossing. If you encounter one and have plenty of room to pass, drive slowly and carefully around it. If you don't have room to pass, stop and let the tortoise move across the road of its own accord. If the tortoise is on a paved road and in immediate danger, pull over to a safe place. Walk over to the tortoise, letting it see you approaching. Lift it slowly and gently, keeping it level and low to the ground. Move it to a safe place off the road, no more than 100 yards away, in the same direction it was traveling. Carefully set it down, preferably in the shade of a shrub. It is imperative not to frighten the tortoise so that it does not void its vital internal water supply. DON'T take it home and DON'T feed it.
If you find a tortoise that is sick or injured (runny nose, hit by car, dog attack), please call the Joshua Tree Tortoise Rescue at 760-369-1235. We will come to the site and retrieve the tortoise. We begin medical treatment immediately, and after their complete rehabilitation, they are placed up for adoption to qualified caretakers. Again, please note that if a healthy tortoise is taken into your possession, it is in "captivity" and cannot be released back into the wild, and must be turned over to the Rescue and/or adopted by you. A tortoise can live to be 80 to 100 years old, so taking one in is more than a lifetime commitment. As you can see, when a tortoise cannot be adopted for some reason, the Rescue cares for the tortoise for life.
If you want a pet desert tortoise, DON'T take one out of the desert! Taking ("harassing, harming, pursuing, hunting, shooting, wounding, killing, trapping, capturing, collecting or attempting to engage is such conduct") violates the Federal Endangered Species Act and the State of California Department of Fish and Game regulations. Violating these laws can result in a substantial fine. There are already many displaced tortoises looking for a good home. DO call the Joshua Tree Tortoise Rescue for adoption information at 760-369-1235. Licenses, care sheets, and edibles information are available at the Rescue.
If you get tired of a pet desert tortoise, DON'T release it into the desert! Again, release of a captive tortoise is a violation of the Federal Endangered Species Act and the State of California Department of Fish and Game regulations. Violating these laws can result in a substantial fine. Instead, please call the Rescue at 760-369-1235, and we will find a great home for your tortoise.
Please contact the Joshua Tree Tortoise Rescue. We are a non-profit organization solely dependent on private funding for it work. We are always in need of construction materials, office supplies, heating pads and hot lamps, and monetary donations to assist in the purchasing the much-needed medication for tortoise rehabilitation.