Reptiles Index


Western Diamondback Rattlesnake


Bleached Earless Lizard


Western Box Turtle


Gopher Snake, Bull Snake


Great Plains Skink


Lyre Snake


Prairie rattlesnake


Tiger Salamander


Texas Banded Gecko


Western Chorus Frog
Environmental Science Field Guide to New Mexico Page Author:
Jon Perez


Species common name(s): Western Diamondback Rattlesnake, Coontail, (Spanish) vibora, and cascabel

Scientific Name: Crotalus atrox


Range- Central and Southern New Mexico 


Habitat- The snakes like to live in the low deserts to coniferous forests, especially brushy and rocky areas from sea level to about 7,000ft.


Behavior- Their pits are heat receptors, so they can track down their prey, even in complete darkness. They thermoregulate in the sun because they are cold blooded.


Physical description- The rattlesnake has diamond all the way down the back, it is the second longest snake in the U.S., very dangerous, and the size of the snake is about 30 to 84 inches.


Food- they eat mice and kangaroo rats, rabbits, and other small creatures

Niche- Carnivore, that reduces the rodent population.

Interaction with other species- The interaction with other animals is usually death for them, but occasionally the snake gets defeated.

Species threat- The only threat listed is the Habitats Destruction  



                  50 Common Reptiles and Amphibians by: Jonathan & Roseann Hanson 



Environmental Science Field Guide to New Mexico     Page Author: Stephen Bontly


Species common name(s): Bleached Earless Lizard, B.E. Lizza

Scientific Name: Holbrookia maculata ruthveni (NM)               

 Range: This very cool lizard lives in a desert enviroment. It is located in The White sands area including the National Monument and the Missle Range. Found in Dona Ana and Otero counties in NM.


Taxonomy: Kingdom - Animalia, Phylum - Chordata, Class - Reptilia, Order - Squamata, Family - Phrynosomatidae, Genus - Holbrookia, Species - maculata.


Habitat: It only lives in very sparsely vegetated sand dunes only.


Physical Description: Bleached Earless Lizards are normally white with a line down their back. They use their color as a camoflage to guard against predators. They can get up to 6 inches long including the tail.


Main foods: This lizard eats many differnet types of insects. These insects include spiders, bees, beetles, and flys.

Behavior: These lizards live quite a boring life. They eat, sleep and lay in the sun all day. If they sense trouble they get get away quickly though.

Niche: Since There are so few of the lizards they live down low on the food chain. They can control the bug problem to a certain extent in the are they live. They provide food for snakes and birds of the area.

Interactions with other species: Bleached earless lizards normally retreat to already dug holes when approached by a threat, these holes are inhabited by pocket mice and pocket gopher.


Threats to the species:  The major threats that these lizards have are human contact. Cattle gaurds, trenches, and pitfalls. Livestock also pose a threat to many of them.



Environmental Science Field Guide to New Mexico Page Author: Nick Giron

Scientific Name: Terrapene Ornata                                                                                                         


Range: The subspecie Terrapene Ornata luteola is widely distributed throughout New Mexico, absent only in the northwestern region of the state. Terrapene Ornata commonly  range from southern Wyoming to western Indiana, southern Louisiana, southeastern Arizona, and north-central Mexico.


Habitat: Box turtles are most common in grassland bioregions, areas where soil quality makes for easy burrowing. Typically not found in elevations above 2100 meters, box turtles can occupy a wide variety of habitats (don’t rely on free water sources).


Physical Description: Average length at maturity: 10 – 13 inches, females larger than males. Dark-brown and red-brown skin coloration, yellow or orange spotting. Typically four toes on hind foot. Eye color: bright red in males, yellowish-brown in females. Shells are typically a dark green-brown, with a yellow hue in some individuals.


Main foods: Desert box turtles are omivorous, consuming insects, birds and eggs, reptiles (even same species), earthworms, crayfish, carrion, cactus fruit, melons, and a wide variety of other consumable organisms in its environment.

Behavior: Retreat to shells when threatened; snapping jaws and urine keep most predators at bay. Terrapene Ornata emerges from its shell at sunrise and typically cease activity after mid-morning, where it then avoids heat in its burrow or shade. Box turtle becomes active again around sunset. Known to occupy burrows of other small animals. Can swim when occasion calls for it. Some subspecies migrate to water sources when drought is prolonged. Hibernate annually. Has ability to retain eggs (clutch) for about 30 days, until a suitable (and safe) nesting area and laying conditions are obtained, increasing the likelihood of a successful offspring.

Niche: The box turtle consumes prey such as the newt (an animal with few predators), keeping species population and balance in check. Because of the turtle’s superb defense mechanisms, they aren’t common snacks for predators.Interactions with other species: The most interesting interaction concerning box turtles is their tendency to occupy the burrows of other animals. They are predators to basically any organism smaller than themselves (and worth consuming). Box turtles are popular pets, thus many are collected from the wild for the purchase of humans.  

Threats to the species: Commercialization as pets and habitat destruction are the two main threats to Terrapene Ornata. The construction of roads near Terrapene Ornata’s natural habitat and population fragmentation are also threats to this species.


Source: William G. Degenhardt, Charles W. Painter, Andrew H. Price. Amphibians and Reptiles of New Mexico. 1996. University of New Mexico Press. Albuquerque, NM





Environmental Science Field Guide                                 Page author: Matt Turning

Species common name: Western Box Turtle

Scientific name: Terrapene ornata

                                   distribution map


Range: This species is mainly located in the lower Southwest region of the United States and the upper region of Mexico.

Taxonomy: Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Family: Emydidae

Habitat: Found in open pastures and prairies. It is also found in open woodlands. Its habitat stretches from S. Dakota and E. Illinois south to Louisiana and Texas.

Physical description: The Western box turtle has a hard shell that covers its body. It is covered with yellow lines and has a solid yellow bottom shell. It is 4 - 5 3/4 inches (10.2-14.6 cm).

Main food: This species is terrestrial and feed primarily on beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars, cicadas, mulberries, slugs, and carrion in the wild.

Behavior: The Western box turtle spends most of its active time basking and is usually hidden in thickets or brush. They can also obtain body temperature well over the air temperature.

Niche: Western Box Turtles eat both plants and other animals. It is a low level predator and is eaten by other higher-level predators in the food web.

Interaction with other species: The Western box turtles main predators are crows, owls, hawks, foxes, coyotes, wolves, snakes, and raccoons.

Threats to the species: Habitat destruction and collection for the commercial pet trade have led to a decline in the number of western box turtles in the wild.

 Source: Environmental Science Field Guide to New Mexico       Page Author: Steve Kang


Species common names: Gopher snake, Bull snake.

Scientific name: Pituophis melanoleucus.

Range: The gopher snake is a most common species in desert places. Also found in Florida, California and New Mexico.


Habitat: The gopher snakes are found in the very dry desert elevation at 900m to 2800m. They live in shrublands, sandhills, marshes, and cultivated field.


Physical description: Gopher snake’s length may be over 250cm and it’s known as longest snake in New Mexico. Their lengths are between 90cm to 180cm. They have light brown  to dark brown, cream or yellow colors. Most of them have a dark band from the eye to the angle of the jaw.


Main foods: Usually bull snakes eat small mammals or birds and their eggs. They also eat small lizards.


Behavior: They are slow moving. They change their activity patterns, frequently. They become nocturnal during strong summer heat. They sun themselves on the rocks during the day to warm up for active nights.  They shake their tails like rattlesnakes to scare away predators.


Niche: The gopher snakes are carnivores. But they are in the low-levels of predators. Gopher snakes are taken by other predators such as predatory mammals, predatory birds and other bigger snakes.


Interaction with other species: The gopher snakes main predators are rat snakes, hawks, king snakes and hawks. And their interaction with other species of snake is unknown.


Threat to the species: Their habitats are destroyed by human works. Such as, construction house or buildings.


Sources: From book ‘Amphibians& Reptiles of New Mexico’ author W. Degenhardt,  C. Painter & A. Price



Environmental Science Field Guide to New Mexico       Page Author: Hayden C.


Species common name(s): skink, Great Plains skink, and lizards

Scientific Name: Eumeces obsoletus


 Range: The Great Plains skink lives all over New Mexico except in the Mogollon and Colorado plateu.


Habitat: These animals are found in creosote bush desert, desert grassland, near rivers and sometimes in the mountains. 


Physical Description: This animal is a about 8-13in in length. They are often mistaken for lizards. They are very slick and shiny their and legs are very thin and meant for digging. 


Main foods: There main food is grasshoppers, small lizards, insects, and spiders.

Behavior: They often live in rodent burrows. They often bite and are very aggressive. They bask in the sun  to thermalregulate their body temperature. When it is  cold they hibernate. 

Niche:  They keep the rodent population down and eat a lot of the inscets and spiders.    

Interactions with other species: Birds, snakes, and small mammals often prey on them.   


Threats to the species: Habitat destruction, collection as pets, and roads. 


Source: photo from,

50 Common Reptiles and Amphibians of the West  Jonathan and Roseann Beggy Hanson

Amphibians and Reptiles of New Mexico William G. Degenhardt, Charles W. Painter, and Andrew H. Price. 





Environmental Science Field Guide to New Mexico 


Page Author: Katie Rinehimer


Species common name(s): Lyre Snake

Scientific Name: Trimorphodon biscutatus



Range: They live in Northwest and southern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico, southern California and Nevada, southwestern Texas, south all the way through Baja California and Sonora, Mexico.


Habitat: They like to live in rocky areas in canyons, hills, and human-made structures, such as homes, commercial buildings and schools. They prefer elevations anywhere from sea level to about 7,400 ft.

Physical Description: They are about 18 to 45 inches (45 to 112cm.) in length. They are named for the V-shaped “lyre” on their head. They have a long, wide head with skinny neck that gives their head a triangular shape. Dark brown saddles looking designs appear on the light brown to light grayish-back skin. The ventral side is creamy-white or yellow with many scattered brown spots. The scales are smooth; the pupil is vertical, and elliptical, like those of a cat, so they can see better in the darkness.

Main foods: They hunt in crevices and small caves for their favorite types of prey: bats. They also hunt rock-dwelling lizards, mice, and birds. They subdue their prey by constricting them or injecting weak venom from their back teeth.

Behavior: They lay eggs any time from December to September. They are nocturnal and so, they hunt at night. They occasionally bask or lay dormant in the sun during the day.

Niche: They help keep the rodent and small mammal population down.

Interactions with other species: They interact with their prey and the animals they are prey to. They are prey to many bigger mammals, like coyotes, wolves, and wild dogs. They also tend to compete with humans for many things, including space and adequate food and water sources.

Threats to the species: The threats are mainly humans and the animals that they are prey to, like wolves and wild dogs, as stated above. They are often mistaken for rattlesnakes and are killed out of fear.



Environmental Science Field Guide to New Mexico           Page Author: Sydney Saitta


Species common name(s): Prairie Rattlesnake

Scientific Name: Crotalus viridis


 Range: The prairie rattlesnake is very common throughout the mid-western united states and very wide spread in South Dakota.


Habitat: They live in the open prairies, hay lands, croplands, or any area where there is food.


Physical Description: The color of the Prairie Rattlesnake varies from light brown to green, with a yellowish belly. In the middle of their backs they have dark oval blotches outlined with a light colored border. The blotches turn into crossbands on the back part of the body and rings around the tail. They are about 30-40 inches long and normally weigh about 1 pound.


Main foods: Prairie rattlesnakes eat small mammals such as mice, ground squirrels, and baby rabbits and prairie dogs. They also eat other snakes, lizards, birds and insects.


Behavior: They are cold blooded, and their body temperature is affected by the temperature of the ground. Prairie rattlesnakes move toward dens during the winter because the conditions are too extreme. They also use caves as dwelling sites, and return to the same den each year. They eat 2-3 times their own body weight during the spring and fall months when they are away from their winter den.They use their rattles when being threatened.


Niche: They are predators to the animals they eat. They also control the population of small mammals and insects.


Interactions with other species: The prairie rattlesnake’s diet is the same as other animals and snakes and probably houses dwelling sites that have also been taken by other prairie rattlesnakes. When they are encountered with humans, they quickly move away instead of attack them.


Threats to the species:  They take away food from other snakes and animals, and dwelling places from other snakes.


Environmental Science Field Guide to New Mexico           Page Author: Rachael Rembold

Species common name(s): Tiger Salamander

Scientific Name: Ambystoma tigrinum




 Range: The Tiger salamander is found all across North America. It can be found in almost any environment, and there are many subspecies of the Tiger Salamander. The sub-species for New Mexico is the Sacramento mountain salamander (Plethodon neomexicanus).


Habitat: The Tiger Salamander is found through out the U.S. and is the most common of the Salamanders. The Tiger Salamander is found throughout the US because of its ability to survive the drier climates in the US.  


Physical Description: The Tiger Salamander is a larger salamander that is black with yellow spots or stripes in no particular patterns.The head or the salamander is rounder with a distinct snout and has eyes far apart to either side of the head. There is usually thirteen costal grooves on the side of their body. There legs overlap about three of these grooves, and each foot has two tubercles (small round projections from their feet) on the sole.


Main foods: The Tiger Salamander mainly eats earthworms, small insects, mollusks, and occasionally a frog or baby mouse.

Behavior: The Tiger salamander spends most of the time under ground in small holes of abandoned hibernation spots. They will come to the surface near the beginning of night if after a rainshower.

Niche: Tiger Salamanders are carnivores, low-level predators, they eat animals very low in the food chain such a insects. Since they are low in the food chain themselves they are often eaten by larger animals.

Interactions with other species: The Tiger Salamander is a vicious animal that will eat anything smaller then itself. They rely on squirrels and other rodents for there “homes”.


Threats to the species:  The Tiger salamander is quickly loosing its habitats due to the construction and activities of humans. Parisites in the water are causing diformities in the salamanders and is also affecting there breeding status.




Environmental Science Field Guide to New Mexico           Page Author: Heather Wood


Species common name(s): Texas Banded Gecko

Scientific Name: Coleonyx variegates




Occur in the southern states close to the Mexican border they also extend into the southern region Of Mexico.



These animals are located in the deserts of, California, Arizona, southern Nevada, southwestern Utah, southwestern New Mexico, Southern California and the Northern part of Mexico.


Physical Description

The Texas Banded Gecko is about 4-6 inches long.  They have bands that extend their full body length, which turn into blotches as they get older.  Their skin is very smooth and slightly shiny.


Main food

The main diet of the Gecko is crickets, spider’s worms, ants, and any other insect that they happen to meet if it is small enough.  Their skin is also eaten when they shed; it provides the Gecko with plenty of nutrients.  Also if it cannot find any food it has a store of fat in its tail that can keep it alive for up to 9 months.



The Texas banded Gecko is mostly a Nocturnal animal and prefers to do its hunting and breeding at night.  During the day they find nice cool crevices to hide under to avoid the heat of the day.  These can be under rocks in empty houses or even just a crack in the ground.



Texas banded Geckos are carnivores and hunt insects that they happen to stumble upon, such as spiders or crickets.



Interaction with other Species

The predators of the gecko are snakes, skunks, and owls (sometimes hawks if in daylight) however they may get away by making a loud squeaking noise.  However it does have another self defense, it can either raise up on its hind legs and try to scare off the predator or the animal may become confused and take its tail instead of the head.



Page author: Ms. Magz Gronewald


Environmental Science Field Guide to New Mexico              


Species common name(s): Western Chorus Frog

Scientific Name: Pseudacris triseriata 

 chorus frog

 Range: The western chorus frog is found in the middle to eastern portions of the North American continent. It extends from southern Quebec and northern New York west to South Dakota, then south to Kansas and Oklahoma

Habitat: Chorus frogs can be found in a variety of habitats, including marshes, meadows, swales, and other open areas. Less frequently they can be found in fallowed agricultural fields, damp woods, and wooded swamps.

Physical Description: The Chorus frog has a pattern of longitudinal stripes, spots, or both, marks the back and sides of its bodies. Adults grow to only about 3.5 cm in length.

Main foods: Chorus frogs eat a variety of small invertebrates, including ants, flies, beetles, moths, caterpillars, leaf hoppers, and spiders. Newly formed froglets feed on smaller prey, including mites, midges, and springtails. Tadpoles are herbivorous, eating mostly on algae.

Behavior: Chorus frogs tend to remain close to their breeding grounds throughout the year. They often hide from predators beneath logs, rocks, leaf litter, and in loose soil or animal burrows. They will typically hibernate in these places as well.

Niche: Chorus Frogs help to control insect populations where they live; they also act as an important food source for their predators. The Chorus frog acts as an indicator species for the enviroment. This makes this species valuable in determining the overall health of both ecosystems. The permeable skin of the western chorus frog also makes it easy to contaminante. Changes in this species ecology might indicate high levels of pollution or other activity detrimental to their well being.

Interactions with other species: Chorus frogs are preyed on by large birds, small mammals, and snakes. Tadpoles and froglets can be preyed on by other frogs, crayfish, fish, turtles, and dragonfly larvae.

Threats to the species: The health of the stream is important to the western chorus frog. This frog has very sensitive skin so that if the water or area where it lives is contaminated, they are not present and just tells you something about the enviroment.