The beautiful state of New Mexico, located in the southwestern U.S., has a rich biodiversity that is home to over 4,583 known species of plants and animals. In fact, New Mexico has the fourth highest count of native species of any state in the U.S., due not only to its large geographic size but also to its proximity to surrounding deserts, plateaus, prairies, woodlands and mountain regions where plants and animals of all kinds thrive, including dozens of species of reptiles. 

Although reptiles are abundant in New Mexico, spotting them can be quite challenging. However, some spots near Albuquerque offer snakes and lizards galore to view! If you’re an avid nature lover, keep reading to learn about some of the best places in the city to see reptiles.

Local Reptile Species

Albuquerque is teeming with reptile life. In 1990, about 45 reptile species were recorded in the city. However, this number has increased in recent years. Currently, an estimated 22 species of lizards, 27 species of snakes and seven species of turtles reside in Albuquerque and the surrounding areas within the county of Bernalillo. Nigel from More Reptiles says these include native species such as:

  • The Eastern Collared Lizard, Ornate Tree Lizard and Greater Earless Lizard.
  • The Greater Short-horned Lizard, Great Plains Skink and Chihuahuan Spotted Whiptail.
  • The Plains Hognose Snake, Desert Kingsnake and Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake.
  • The Ornate Box Turtle, Spiny Softshell and Pond Slider.

In addition to these reptiles, many others can be discovered in the wild. Next, let’s take a look at five of the best places to find reptiles in and around Albuquerque.

Cibola National Forest

Cibola National Forest

Photo Credit: Facebook

The Cibola National Forest is 1.9 million acres of nothing but nature. This national forest, which spans the entire width of New Mexico and stretches into parts of Colorado, Texas and Oklahoma, contains four wilderness areas and four national grasslands. There’s a lot of space and multiple habitats within this forest that many reptiles within the area call home.

In the drier rocky regions of the national forest, you can spot reptiles such as:

  • The Eastern Collard Lizard, Greater Short-horned Lizard and Many-lined Skink.
  • The Western Terrestrial Garter Snake, Eastern Black-tailed Rattlesnake and Prairie Rattlesnake.

You can also find turtles in moist areas, including the Common Box Turtle, Painted Turtle and Pond Slider. 

In addition to offering tons of areas to trek in search of reptile species, the Cibola National Forest also offers fun activities to do, such as hiking, mountain biking, camping and fishing.

You should definitely plan a visit if you can! 

ABQ BioPark Zoo

Komodo Dragon at ABQ BioPark Zoo

Photo Credit: Facebook

Next on the list is the ABQ BioPark Zoo, located along the Rio Grande in Albuquerque. The zoo offers 64 acres of over 200 animal species for guests to explore, including native and exotic animals. Some of the most popular reptiles you can see there include:

  • The Alligator Snapping Turtle, American Alligator and Anaconda.
  • The King Cobra, Grand Cayman Blue Iguana and Komodo Dragon.

Native species on display include:

  • The Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake and Common Garter Snake.
  • The Greater Earless Lizard and Prairie Lizard.
  • The Yellow Mud Turtle, Box Turtle and Painted Turtle.

You don’t have to limit your viewing to only reptiles, as there are many other animals to see, along with the botanical gardens and aquarium. The BioPark is a family favorite for locals in Albuquerque, so you should take the time to stop by!

Clark’s Pet Emporium

Reptile at Clark's Pet Emporium

Photo Credit: Facebook

For individuals who love walking through pet stores just for the fun of it, this place will definitely appeal to you! Clark's Pet Emporium has the largest selection of reptiles in the city of Albuquerque.  They provide the public with a wide variety of reptiles for purchase. From iguanas and chameleons to lizards, snakes and turtles, you'll be able to find a lot of reptile species here. They also house some species native to New Mexico, such as:

  • Fence lizards, skinks and geckos.
  • Smooth green snakes, rat snakes and garter snakes.
  • Sliders, box turtles and painted turtles.

The Rio Grande Nature Center

Turtle at the Rio Grande Nature Center

Photo Credit: Facebook

The Rio Grande Nature Center is located adjacent to the Rio Grande flyway in Albuquerque. This nature center has 38 acres of glorious wildlife preserve. While most people go there to birdwatch, you can also find some pretty cool reptiles in the ponds and gardens within it. A few reptile species found in this area include:

  • The Southwestern Fence Lizard, Great Plains Skink and New Mexico Whiptail.
  • The Chihuahuan Spotted Whiptail, Desert Grassland Whiptail and Little Striped Whiptail.
  • The Spiney Softshell, Common Snapping Turtle, Painted Turtle and Pond Slider.

The grounds of the Rio Grande Nature Center are a peaceful and relaxing place to look for small lizards and turtles and is on the must-see list for nature lovers.

The American International Rattlesnake Museum

American International Rattlesnake Museum

Photo Credit: American International Rattlesnake Museum

The Southwestern United States has more species of rattlesnakes than anywhere else in the world. For an up-close (and safe) look at sidewinders, copperheads, diamondbacks and more, visit the American International Rattlesnake Museum in Albuquerque’s Historic Old Town. This one-of-a-kind museum has the largest collection of live rattlesnake species in the world. The museum is dedicated to animal conservation and education and includes snake-themed toys and games, books and memorabilia. At the end of your tour, you’ll even receive a certificate of bravery!