types of amphibians and well over a thousand species of insects and other invertebrates. The Colorado River is also inhabited by 17 types of fish, including several that can only be found within Grand Canyon National Park.
Therefore, if you’re asking, “What animals live in the Grand Canyon?” the answer is, “A lot!” The national park’s enormous size, wide range of elevations and their associated climates make it a diverse wildlife habitat. Keep reading for more information about the creatures that call Grand Canyon National Park home and get fun facts on the amazing Grand Canyon animals you may encounter on your desert adventure.
Grand Canyon National Park animals include 91 known mammal species, which means the park ranks higher than Yellowstone for mammal diversity. North America’s largest land animal, the American bison, lives along the meadow and grassland communities at the North Rim. Other large mammals within the park include elk, mule deer and bighorn sheep.
The largest predator of the Grand Canyon animals is the mountain lion. Note that humans do not need to fear mountain lions, because they do not view humans as prey. The American hog-nosed skunk is a relatively new resident of the national park, having only been spotted in the area since 2014. Keep your eyes open for another black and white tailed creature—Arizona’s state animal, the ringtail. Although these Grand Canyon animals are quite common, they can be hard to spot despite their fluffy striped tails.
The park also boasts some of the highest bat diversity in the United States, providing habitat to over 20 bat species. These bats help control the park’s insect population. If you look to the sky just after sunset, you may catch a glimpse of bats flying overhead to catch their evening meal.
Grand Canyon National Park wildlife diversity is perhaps most colorfully illustrated by the hundreds of bird species that flock to the region. Recognized in 2014 as a Globally Important Bird Area, the park’s wide range of ecosystems supports riparian (riverside-dwelling) birds, birds of prey, songbirds and many other types including:
- Belted kingfisher
- Mallard and wood ducks
- Spotted sandpiper
- Hawks and eagles
- Peregrine falcons
- Canyon wrens
- Wild turkeys
One rarely-seen bird that lives in the canyon year-round is the American dipper, North America’s only aquatic songbird. If you enjoy birdwatching, purchase or print a copy of the annotated checklist, “Birds of the Grand Canyon Region” by Brian P. Gatlin to document the birds you observe during your visit. There is also a full Grand Canyon animal list available online to document other creatures you see.
Fish are a vital yet limited part of the Grand Canyon wildlife ecosystem, as the Colorado River provides a challenging aquatic habitat where few types of fish can thrive. With heavy spring floods, a heavy silt load and a steep contrast between summer and winter water temperatures, only eight fish species have ever been native to the canyon.
Six of these eight fish species are endemic, meaning they are never seen outside of Grand Canyon National Park. Now only five of the native fish can be found within the river’s park boundaries:
- Humpback chub
- Razorback sucker
- Bluehead sucker
- Flannelmouth sucker
- Speckled dace
Reptiles & Amphibians
No Grand Canyon animal list would be complete without mentioning the unique reptiles and amphibians that live in every corner of the national park. Six species of rattlesnakes are found within the park and should be avoided. Short-horned lizards, iguanas, geckos and many other types of lizard inhabit the region. The Grand Canyon animal list includes only one tortoise, the Desert tortoise. Its mottled brown shell provides good desert camouflage and it can grow up to 14” long.
The protected habitat of the national park is an important sanctuary for Grand Canyon animals, including the park’s 10 types of amphibian. Frog, toad and salamander species include:
- Northern leopard frog
- Red-spotted toad
- Tiger salamander
- Woodhouse toad
- Canyon treefrog
Insects, Spiders and Other Invertebrates
When taking a headcount of Grand Canyon National Park wildlife, this category of creatures far outnumbers the others. Providing a valuable food source for bats, birds, fish and other animals, the park’s insects are vital to sustaining the ecosystem.
Grand Canyon animals and plants thrive due to the area’s abundance of invertebrates. Nearly 300 species of butterflies and moths help pollenate flowering plants. Tarantulas live in the national park and feed on other insects, small lizards and small rodents. Two-inch-long tarantula hawk wasps hunt the giant arthropods to feed their larvae.
Wildlife Safety Tips
Aside from the occasional service dog, all of the Grand Canyon animals you will encounter are wild and should be treated as such. Certain animals can be dangerous to humans due to their venom, including rattlesnakes, bark scorpions and Gila monsters.
Larger Grand Canyon animals, such as bison, elk and bighorn sheep, generally avoid contact with humans, but always give them leeway if one or more crosses your path. Try to stay at least 100 feet away (about two bus lengths) from large animals. Never try to pet one of these creatures or lure them with food. Mammals that become used to humans lose their natural fear and may become aggressive. Sadly, Grand Canyon National Park wildlife officers may be left with no choice but to destroy these animals.
Rock squirrels may come close to you and appear harmless, but they cause the most injuries to park visitors each year. Keep at least 50 feet away (one bus length) from smaller Grand Canyon animals, such as squirrels, reptiles and birds.
Note: It is illegal to call, whistle, click or make any other kind of noise to attract wildlife.
Endangered Grand Canyon Animals
Preserving endangered Grand Canyon animals and plants is a huge priority of the National Park Service. Some of the Grand Canyon National Park wildlife that is considered threatened or endangered include the following:
- Southwestern willow flycatcher
- Mexican spotted owls
- California condor
- Western yellow-billed cuckoo
- Yuma clapper rail
- Humpback chub
- Razorback suckers
- Kanab ambersnail
- Big-eared bats