I'm aware there is a huge generalization which will have a lot of exceptions both in species as in microclimates, I'm looking for a general answer, yet specific for the region and time of year.

I'm aware that there are many reptile species which inhabit the deserts in the south west of the United States (California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico). During winter, do most of these reptiles go in some sort of hibernation, or can some/many still be found and seen during the day where there is some sun?

(any tips to find em/watch out for are also welcome. Not so much to avoid them, but to observe them)

  • 1
    I don't have much direct experience hiking in the southwest - just Philmont, New Mexico in 1978. But, reptiles probably have similar patterns across the US, and here in the Midwest they try to avoid people. They'll feel the vibrations of your footsteps and leave. Don't reach into holes where they might live, "step heavy" when you walk through places where the weeds are high bordering the trail, and that should do the trick. But, they are wild animals and are not entirely predictable. Oct 24, 2013 at 22:55
  • I live in Tucson and during the winter months the lizards disappear. And they come back out around March.
    – user8823
    Feb 12, 2016 at 23:29
  • I live in Tucson and have a lizard in my back yard that allows me to feed her. Over the past 3 years she dissappears during the winter but returns each spring😊
    – user9738
    Jun 22, 2016 at 13:26

3 Answers 3


Adding to what Don Branson said, Try not to dismantle or peep into a pile of stones, small cracks.
With reference to :"During winter, do most of these reptiles go in some sort of hibernation, or can some/many still be found and seen during the day where there is some sun?"

What I've observed is, It is most likely that you may come across a snake/serpent during the early hours of day. They do get out around their hibernation place for Basking. And when irritated during Basking times in winters, they are slightly more aggressive than usual conditions.

Apart from this, during bright day light, they tend to stay out of trouble. So I believe you need to be more careful during the early hours of day i.e 2-5 hours after the sunrise.

  • Ok, I was somewhat looking for a more specific answer for that region and time, have updated my question more explicitly. First few hours after sunrise I'm still expecting quite cold temperatures <10°C there.
    – Samuel DR
    Oct 25, 2013 at 8:46
  • @Sdry But the Sun can be powerful still.
    – gerrit
    Oct 25, 2013 at 11:29
  • @Sdry: may be you can take that up an an answer
    – WedaPashi
    Jan 2, 2014 at 13:49

To add to what others have mentioned, reptiles do indeed go into hibernation, but not in the thought of "traditional" hibernation, such as that of a bear or other mammals. Reptiles usually do burrow down, but they can certainly be awoken. Here in the southeast, if the temperatures rise just a bit, we have plenty of snakes and lizards around sunning themselves. Reptiles usually take advantage of warm days to drink water and hunt before hunkering back down.

Bear in mind that many reptiles feel particularly vulnerable during this time out since they are likely weak from having little food, so they may be more inclined to be cranky. That being said, there are very few (if any) reptiles that seek out to attack humans so you should be fine as long as you give them a wide berth.


Based on travelling in the region of this question for a few weeks and asking numerous park rangers this questions, and yet activly trying to find reptiles. Most snakes and other reptiles are indeed in hibernation in this period. Due to the cold most hibernate too deep to awake during the day.

On south oriented slopes that warm up pretty good some lizards may be found, but rarely numerous or many different species.

An exception to this region appears to be the west of california, which even in winter remains quite warm, and low land pools that do not freeze (turtles).

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