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Reptiles of Sedona

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Arizona is home to more than 107 native species of reptiles. Many of these reptile species are found in Sedona, which is located just north of Central Arizona. Sedona provides reptiles with diverse living environments, from grassy plains to dry desert landscapes, which allows for such a broad distribution of species.

Environment and Behavior

Reptiles are ectotherms, meaning they regulate their body temperatures through the environment rather than use their metabolism to regulate body heat like mammals do. As a result of their dependence on the environment to stay warm and active, reptiles are often found living in warmer climates. In Sedona, Arizona, where winters can be chilly, most reptiles that inhabit the area hibernate underground in the wintertime to keep warm, since colder temperatures cause ectotherms' heart and breathing rates to slow.


Sedona is home to numerous species of snakes of varying levels of venom toxicity. Not all of Sedona's snakes are venomous, but those that are, such as the western diamond-back rattlesnake, should not be handled. Snakes like the striped whip snake and Sonoran whip snake will not hesitate to bite you if you try to handle them, while the ground snake and glossy snake are less likely to become aggressive with you. Most of the snakes in Sedona eat small mammals like mice and rats, small snakes, lizards, insects and birds. Snakes such as the narrow-headed garter snake are experiencing population declines due to increased predation and recreational use of their natural habitat.


Many of Sedona's lizards, such as the madrean alligator lizard, live where water is readily available. In contrast, lizards like the tiger whiptail and desert grassland whiptail are found in dry areas, spending most of their days sunning on rocks. Sedona's lizards are very unique in their appearance. Although most lizards are less than half a foot long, the gila monster, one of Sedona's largest lizards, grows up to 14 inches. As for coloring, lizards are either basic in color to blend in with their surroundings, like the common lesser earless lizard, or they flaunt bright blue, purple and green scales -- as seen in plateau fence lizards, desert grassland whiptails, desert spiny lizards and greater earless lizards -- to attract mates and deter predators. The type of habitat that a lizard lives in plays a role in the type of food it eats. For example, the many-lined skink and Bezy's night lizard, who both live under rocks, eat mostly insects; while the plateau striped whiptail consumes organic matter as a ground-dweller.


The number of turtle species in Sedona is lower those of snakes and lizards. Sedona's turtles are found along streams, rivers and ponds. The turtles are active day and night, and hibernate when the weather begins to cool down in the fall by burrowing under the soil of river beds. The Sonara mud turtle and the spiny softshell turtle both rarely travel on land, preying upon snails, worms, fish, frogs and insects. In contrast, the Sonoran desert tortoise is solely a terrestrial animal who lives in burrows, eating only plant materials like grass and cactus.