a field guide to amphibians and reptiles in arizona

A Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles in Arizona

Arizona is one of the most exciting areas in the world to observe and study amphibians and reptiles. With its massive and varied terrain, a wide variety of these creatures – including lizards, tortoises, snakes, toads, frogs, salamanders, and caecilians – can be found both in the deserts and the mountains of Arizona. Here’s a field guide to the most commonly-seen amphibians and reptiles in the state.


  • Desert Spiny Lizard: This large lizard has a wide variety of markings and colors, ranging in shades of yellow, orange, and red. It enjoys the sun, and can be found in parts of the Sonoran Desert.
  • Common Side-blotched Lizard: Found throughout the Grand Canyon, this little lizard can reach up to 4 inches long. It’s usually yellow or brown, and has a distinctive black or brown blotch on each side of its tail.
  • Common Chuckwalla: This large lizard is found in desert areas throughout the state, and can grow up to around 18 inches long. It loves to sunbathe, and is usually found on rock formations.


  • Sonoran Desert Tortoise: This large tortoise is typically found in the washes of the Sonoran Desert. It can grow up to 10 inches in length, and feeds on a wide variety of desert plants.
  • Gopher Tortoise: Found in the dry, western parts of the state, this tortoise is easily recognisable due to its large size and sandy coloration. It can reach lengths of up to 14 inches.


  • Western Diamondback Rattlesnake: Found in the low desert regions of Arizona, this rattlesnake is one of the most commonly-seen snake species in the state. It can reach up to 5 feet in length, and has a distinctive pattern of gray or brown diamonds along its back.
  • Arizona Lyre Snake: This snake is usually found in the mountains, but can also be seen in the desert regions. It typically has a light brown base color with strongly contrasting white bands, and can grow up to 4 feet in length.
  • Sonoran Green Rattlesnake: This rattlesnake is common in the Sonoran Desert and surrounding areas. It’s usually green in color, with black or brown bands and striking orange eyes.

Frogs, Toads, and Salamanders

  • Red-spotted Toad: This common toad resides in many parts of Arizona, and is easily recognisable thanks to its large, red eyes and red spots on its back.
  • Woodhouse’s Toad: This small toad typically lives in moist areas in the desert and forested areas in Arizona. It has bright green skin with a yellow or orange stripe on its back.
  • Northern Leopard Frog: This bright green or yellow-green frog loves to live near lakes, ponds, and streams. It’s usually found in the northern part of the state.
  • Western Tiger Salamander: Found in most of the western United States, this salamander can reach up to 8 inches in length. It’s typically black in color, with yellow or orange spots and stripes.

These are just a few of the many amphibians and reptiles which can be found in Arizona. By exploring the state’s varied terrain and taking the time to observe these fascinating creatures, you’re sure to have an amazing experience.

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