Common Reptiles of the Rocky Mountains

Reptiles are scarce in the mountains due to the cool summers there. Despite that, there are about 20 kinds of reptiles in the Rocky Mountains.  Of those, there are many snakes in the Rocky Mountains, but only one poisonous snake, the Western Rattlesnake, which lives mainly below 8,000 feet.

There are four orders of reptiles, but only two of them are represented in the Rocky Mountains:

  • Snakes and Lizards
  • Turtles
  • Crocodilians (not in the Rockies)
  • Tuataras (not in the Rockies; actually these are only found on some islands off New Zealand)

dog 2Did you know? Reptiles are different from amphibians because they can live away from water. Their scales help them keep moisture in their bodies.

Here are some of the common reptiles found in the Rocky Mountains:

western terrestrial garter snakeGarter Snake

Size: 30 inches

Lifespan: 2 years, but up to 12 years.

Description: Body has squarish, dark brown spots. Yellow stripe on each side and on the back from neck to tail

Habitat: Watersides, forests, and grasslands

amphibians gopher snake 2.jpgGopher Snake

Size: 5 feet

Lifespan: 12 to 15 years.

Description: Head is yellowish brown; body is brown with yellow bands.

Habitat: Lives below 9,000 feet in forests, grasslands, and deserts.

Notes:   This is a large snake. This snake is not poisonous, but it’s bite can hurt very badly.

amphibians painted turtle.jpgPainted Turtle

Size: 5 – 8 inches

Lifespan: Up to 40 years.

Description: Head is black with yellow stripes on the sides. The legs and bottom of the shell has red markings.

Habitat: Lives at low elevations in ponds, wetlands, or slow moving streams.

Notes: This is the most common turtle in North America. It can be seen sitting on logs soaking up the sun during the day.

amphibians western rattlesnake 2Rattlesnake (Western Rattlesnake)

Size: 4 feet

Lifespan: 16 – 20 years

Description: They have a triangular head and rattles on their tail. It is grayish with dark brown spots that become almost bands towards the tail.

Habitat: Grasslands, sagebrush, forests, and canyonsides. Lives mainly below 8,000 feet.

Notes:   Rattlesnakes add a rattle on their tail each time they shed their skin, which happens between 1 and 3 times a year.

amphibians sagebrush lizard 2.jpgSagebrush Lizard

Size: 5 ½ inches

Lifespan: 3 – 4 years.

Description: Striped brown and grayish white on the top of its body and head. Throat and belly are bright blue.

Habitat: Sagebrush deserts and juniper and pine forests.

Notes: This is the only lizard in Yellowstone and Grand Teton N.P.’s.

amphibians horned toadShort Horned Lizard

Size: 2 ½ – 6 inches

Lifespan: 5 – 8 years

Description: They have a crown of horns on their head and across their back. Yellowish, gray, or reddish-brown.

Habitat: Up to 9,000 feet in rocky, sandy areas or juniper and pine forests.

Notes: They eat mainly ants, but also grasshoppers, beetles, and spiders.

amphibians western skink.jpgWestern Skink

Size: 3 – 8 inches

Lifespan: Up to 10 years.

Description: Smooth scales and slim body. They are brown on top with two long black stripes from head to tail along sides of body.

Habitat: Lives under bark, logs, and rocks. Lives in grasslands, woods, and rocky streamsides.

Notes:   Young ones have a bright blue tail.