It’s not surprising that most people think of deserts as large expanses incapable of sustaining life, but it is a totally inaccurate assumption. In reality, the Nevada desert is called home by a variety of interesting, and quite active, wildlife creatures.
Though less seldom sighted than the area’s wild horses, for instance, cruising through the desert on one of our Las Vegas ATV tours you may catch many a glimpse of the ample wildlife that flourishes in this region. Here’s a list of several critters you may just come across on your journey through the desert which surrounds the world’s most famous casinos.
Bobcat: Weighing anywhere from 15-35 pounds, the bobcat is anything but a house cat. The short-eared pale feline is common around the Nevada desert, but its presence is often only known by the scat they leave uncovered, unlike their domesticated counterparts. Occasionally, they move close to the cities to catch house pets for dinner.
Coyote: Coyotes are desert dogs that will feast on just about any animal that’s not quicker than it is. They have bushy tails and long skinny legs, and their color will range from reddish to tan. They are social by nature, and this means that they’re often found hunting in packs. When they find food, they’ll take turns running after their prey exhausts itself and is ripe for the picking.
Long Tailed Pocket Mouse: This tiny rodent definitely earned its name. While the mouse is only around three inches long, it’s tail can grow up to five inches. These little guys actually have pouches on their mouth’s exterior to carry food around. They’re common in the lower mountains and desert regions.
Desert Shrew: These little shrews have a way of getting into everything. They have been found in wood rat nests, cattail marshes, brush piles and even beehives. They’re gray in color and, unlike many other shrews, these little guys don’t make underground burrows in which to live.
Desert Box Turtle: This land turtle has a high-domed shell and, like many other turtles, is able to pull its head in and close its shell when threatened. Unlike some other turtles, however, the desert box turtles have an intimidating hooked bill, and this means one bite can lead to a painful encounter.
Gopher Tortoise: This land turtle can reach a length of over 14 inches, but even with this intimidating size it still only feeds on grasses and plants. The gopher tortoise doesn’t need much water, and it usually gets what it does need from its food. When there’s no food available, this turtle can stay underground for months on end.
Desert Tortoise: This tortoise lays claim to being the only land turtle to inhabit the desert around Sin City. It has a moderate dome and lives in bajadas and hills whose elevation is below 4,500 feet. There are actually several environments that the tortoise can survive in, but all of these must have grasses and wildflowers during the spring.
Red Eared Slider: Conspicuously marked with yellow lines and a red ear patch, this is a pond turtle whose protective shell can get up to 14 inches. It’s shell also has yellow lines on it, but these diminish as the turtle gets older. It eats tadpoles, worms, crayfish and other small delicacies.
Desert Glossy: The glossy snake is a common desert snake that doesn’t seem too common, due to the fact that it remains underground throughout the daylight hours. It looks much like the gopher snake, but unlike that snake, its scales are smooth and glossy. It has a plain white belly and can grow up to 36 inches.
Mojave Shovel-Nosed: Mojave shovel-nosed snakes maneuver underneath the sand and are identifiable by their black or black/orange stripes along a white body. They eat small bugs and are visually similar to coral snakes. Coral snakes, though, have black tipped noses whereas shovel-nosed snakes do not.
Western Ground Snake: The western ground snake is a strikingly colored snake, having a shiny red back with random black stripes, which can grow up to 18 inches long. It lives in areas where the soil has some moisture and feeds on small bugs. It lays between 4 and 6 eggs during the summer months.
Mojave Desert Sidewinder: The Mojave Desert Sidewinder is a rattlesnake, so it’s definitely poisonous. Its head is triangular and it has small horn-shaped structures above both eyes. This sidewinder doesn’t often grow to be over 18 inches long, but it still is quite a predator, as it feasts on lizards and small mammals to stay satiated.
Desert Iguana: This large striped and spotted lizard is usually found to be anywhere from 12 to 16 inches long. Its head is small compared to its body, and it has a cream colored hue that is easily identifiable. It also has white-colored spots located on its head. The lizard eats vegetation mostly, but it will also feed on insects and carrion.
Mojave Fringe-toed Lizard: This quick footed lizard is usually found in sand dunes and other similarly sandy open areas. A black spot can be found behind each of the lizard’s front legs. When predators approach, the fringe-toed lizard can jump underneath the sand and escape by "swimming." It eats mostly spiders and insects, but it will occasionally feast on plants as well.
Western Banded Gecko: With vertical pupils, movable eyelids and a stubby tail, the banded gecko is easy to identify. It has fine scales and loves taking refuge under limbs, rocks, logs and in crevices. It feasts mostly on spiders and insects, and it does this mostly at night.
Plateau Striped Whiptail: The long yellow stripes extend down the entirety of this lizard’s body, making it easily identifiable. They are very active and will eat anything they can catch including scorpions, beetles, insects and even other lizards. Found mostly in lower forest zones, the lizard uses its speed to escape natural predators.