What other state is as wild, rugged, and untamed as Nevada? Adaptation is the name of the game here — just as the cowboys and pioneers of the Wild West forged new ways of living, just as greenery found a way to thrive in these deserts…so too has the wildlife. Venomous lizards. Lightning-fast antelopes. Wild horses. Adorable pikas and “miniature kangaroos.” When you’re here, you’re in their territory. Which one is your spirit animal?


Wild Horse

Approximately half of the wild horses and burros roaming the western US are in Nevada—about 35,000 of them, in fact. To see them in their natural habitat, head to the New Pass/Ravenswood Herd Management Area near Austin or up near Reno-Tahoe in Virginia City.
Photo: BLM Nevada


Mountain bluebird

This one-ounce heavyweight is Nevada's state bird, and it can be found all over, depending on the season. The warmer it is, the higher they go—up to 12,000 feet, as their name implies. Keep a close eye on them, as they can grab bugs and forage while hovering in midair.
Photo: USFWS Mountain-Prairie


Pronghorn antelope

This is the second-fastest land animal on Earth (second only to the cheetah) and the fastest on the continent. Grab your radar gun, head to the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge (the area that actually saved the species from extinction), and you can clock 'em at 55mph.
Photo: USFWS Mountain-Prairie


Devils Hole Desert Pupfish

You're looking at what's described as the world's rarest fish. With only 200 individuals (and counting) in existence, these creatures are native to just one place: Devils Hole, a geothermal pool in the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. You'll find this watery oasis (the remnant of a prehistoric ocean) just east of Death Valley National Park—it'll seem like a mirage, but it definitely isn't.
Photo: Pacific Southwest Region USFWS


Rocky Mountain goat

Found only in the Ruby Mountains and East Humboldt Range (in Nevada, that is), these guys are the ultimate mountain climbers. 1,500 feet in 20 minutes? No sweat.
Photo: Skeeze


Ord's kangaroo rat

The name isn't just for fun—these cute little creatures can actually hop. Rocky, desert soil is their habitat of choice, and if you hear a high-pitched "peeeeee" coming from near your feet on the trail, you've got (adorable) company.
Photo: Marshal Hedin


Banded Gila monster

Found around the southern tip of Nevada, the gila monster might be one of the most fascinating creatures on the planet. They're one of the only venomous lizards ever to exist on record, but their bite likely won't kill you—as long as you're a healthy adult, that is. They're as slow as molasses in January, they spend the majority of their lives in the dark, and they can swim, despite being inhabitants of the desert.
Photo: 12019


Greater roadrunner

The cartoon roadrunners of your childhood weren't exactly true to form: These little firecrackers come in at around 10-12 inches tall and don't create hijinx with coyotes. Hit the visitor center at Death Valley National Park, the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve, or Spring Mountain Ranch State Park to see these cuckoo birds running around in all their foot-tall glory.
Photo: Skeeze


Desert tortoise

Not every state has a state reptile and a mascot, but Nevada does, and you're looking at it. If this little guy can make it a few months, he has decent odds of making it another 70 years. Desert tortoises are a pretty reclusive bunch, but your turtle-spectating chances are best at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, especially spring through fall.
Photo: Skeeze


Mountain lion

Cougar. Panther. Puma. By whatever name, the mountain lion can live in just about any of Nevada's environments. Luckily for us, they prefer remote areas, be it hiding in the pinyon pine and juniper to crawling the rocky desert valleys. If you're really hankering for a sighting, head toward the Alta Toquima Wilderness, south of Austin near Highway 50 (aka, "The Loneliest Road in America").
Photo: Ian Lindsay


Greater sage grouse

The greater sage grouse doesn't always look like this—what you're seeing is a male busy strutting about in his courting display. If you're visiting Nevada in spring, you might just be lucky enough to observe a "lek," or group of males gathered to compete for the interest of potential mates in this fashion. Austin and other central Nevada locations provide the best bet of a sighting.
Photo: Bureau of Land Management


Western diamondback rattlesnake

Found in the Lake Mohave, Searchlight, and Laughlin areas of southern Nevada, the western diamondback is venomous. They're three to six feet long, and if you see one, don't get close. Use your zoom lens and consider yourself lucky to spot one in the first place.
Photo: Gregory "Slobirdr" Smith



Similar to mountain lions, bobcats prefer remote areas, especially those that provide vegetation and rocks for cover and plenty of food (Carson Valley is a good spot). Fun fact? They walk on their toes (a trait known as "digitigrade").
Photo: Laurent Bartkowski


the Golden eagle

When you see a creature seven feet across soaring through the air, what you're looking at is likely a golden eagle migrating through Nevada on its way to Canada. They may be seen in mountainous areas across the state, but enthusiasts should definitely check out one of the Eagles & Ag events in Carson Valley, where these massive birds—and other raptors—can be viewed from one of the area's wide-open ranches (talks and tours from ranchers and other bird lovers included).
Photo: Gabriel Bendler


American Pika

Pikas are extremely sensitive to heat, and so their behavior is closely studied as a bellwhether of climate change. These little guys absolutely need cooler weather to survive. You'll probably only find them at higher elevations in northern Nevada (the Ruby Mountains are a good bet).
Photo: Lawepw



If there's food, coyotes can live there (and they'll eat anything, including plants and insects). As such, they can be found all across the state, but they prefer brush-covered rolling hills and flats. Washoe Lake State Park is one of their preferred habitats, being just remote enough for their solitary tendencies.
Photo: Free-Photos


Burrowing owl

"Resting owl face" is real, and it's somehow more intense when the subject doesn't have (visible) ears. Burrowing owls are—unlike the majority of their relatives—active during the day (you'll spot them in high numbers around Genoa). To add another surprise to the mix, they're known to eat other birds.
Photo: Travel way of life


Desert bighorn sheep

Yes, these creatures are 100% herbivores...but those horns aren't to be messed with. Look for them at Valley of Fire State Park or Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area—bonus points if you can catch them when they're a bit more adorable...newborns, in springtime, look just like lambs.
Photo: Cary Bass-Deschenes


Leopard lizard

If you're exploring the Mojave and you see a lizard running on its hind legs, you're not hallucinating. That's the leopard lizard, and they're fast. They leap, they pounce, and they can bite—so it's best not to get friendly. Leave the scene how it should be: totally and completely wild.
Photo: Marshal Hedin