Animals at the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon may be surrounded by desert, but don’t let that fool you – this is by no means a barren landscape. While a large portion of the Grand Canyon is available for people to explore and visit, most of the canyon is untouched, making it the perfect home for a huge variety of wild animal species. From mammals to reptiles, amphibians, and birds, Grand Canyon animals thrive in this unique landscape.
From the lush forestry of the Grand Canyon National Park to the rugged Southwest scenery of the West Rim, this comprehensive list notates all animal life that make their home in one of the most beautiful landmarks in North America: the Grand Canyon. What will you see when you visit?
Grand Canyon Wildlife: Mammals
From just a few ounces to over 600 pounds, the species of mammals at the Grand Canyon run a pretty broad spectrum. Grand Canyon animals are abundant at the Grand Canyon National Park as well as the West Rim, with plenty of opportunity to see them from the sky on helicopter tours or airplane tours, or up close on ground tours including Hummer tours.
One of the most famous overlooks at the Grand Canyon West is called “Guano Point”. The term guano is actually the scientific term for bat droppings. The name is fitting as a large bat cave was discovered nearby in the 1930s. In fact, the Grand Canyon is home to 22 species of bats. However, even at Guano Point the likelihood of encountering a bat is extremely rare as they are nocturnal.
One small animal that you are very likely to meet at the Grand Canyon South Rim is the squirrel. Because this area of the canyon receives the most visitation, these furry fellows are incredibly comfortable around humans, and will even approach people to beg for food. It is very important to remember that these are wild animals, and feeding them is strictly prohibited, no matter how cute they are.
Desert Bighorn Sheep
Desert bighorn sheep are quickly recognizable due to their horns: rams (males) will have large horns that curve in a near circle on either side of their head, and ewes (females) have shorter horns that point upward. These sheep are skilled climbers, making the Grand Canyon a perfect environment for them. Your best chance to see a bighorn sheep would be within the canyon, perched high on a rock formation.
Mule deer are herd animals that roam the Grand Canyon National Park and the surrounding area. These herbivores thrive in the lush Kaibab Forest, and even venture out into the developed regions. They often cross streets and eat the grass near parking lots and buildings. These are powerful animals and it is highly advised that you do not attempt to approach one.
If you’d like to see mule deer, your best chance is on a Grand Canyon helicopter and Hummer ground tour. This tour takes flight over the North Rim, where deer can often be seen wandering through the pine trees, and also includes a ground tour to multiple canyon lookout points aboard an open-air hummer vehicle. You might even have to stop so mule deer can cross the street – a perfect photo opportunity!
Every natural habitat of course must include predators. At the Grand Canyon, the most fearsome animals are mountain lions and black bears. Don’t let this cause you to hesitate if you plan to visit the Grand Canyon as these animals are incredibly rare to encounter or even see from a distance, as both species spend most of their lives hiding in caves deep within the canyon and several miles from developed areas. You likely won’t even see one from the safety of a helicopter tour, as mountain lions and black bears are masters of camouflage.
Grand Canyon Wildlife: Birds
Of all Grand Canyon animals, the most abundant is surely birdlife. With over 450 species of bird living within the park, the Grand Canyon is a dream destination for birdwatchers. From many species of small birds to raptors like peregrine falcons and turkey vultures, you can discover plenty of birds to check of your sightseeing list. Even if you aren’t an avian expert, you can still enjoy sights of exciting birds that are unique to this desert region.
The revered symbol of the United States was only first spotted in the Grand Canyon in 1985. It is believed that bald eagles migrated to the canyon slowly after discovering new food sources. You can immediately recognize bald eagles by their large brown bodies, yellow feet and beak, and gorgeous white head.
Native to only the Southwest United States, the California Condor is a stunning and massive bird. With a wingspan of up to 9 feet, this bird can fly up to 50 miles per hour. You can spot these large dark birds resting in Kaibab trees or perched upon cliffs within the Grand Canyon. The California Condor is critically endangered, so a sighting is a remarkable experience.
A great many species of owl call Arizona home. At the Grand Canyon, you can find Mexican spotted owls, great horned owls, barn owls, tiny elf owls, pygmy owls, squirrel owls, and burrowing owls. As these majestic birds are crepuscular (active at sunset) and nocturnal (active at night), your best chance to see an owl is aboard a Grand Canyon ground tour at sunset.
Grand Canyon Wildlife: Reptiles & Amphibians
There are 41 species of reptile that live within the Grand Canyon, including 18 types of lizards, 22 types of snakes, and one type of tortoise. Of the snakes, 6 species are rattlesnakes, which you are very unlikely to encounter on a Grand Canyon National Park tour, but should be cautious of if you plan to hike or camp on your own. However, you can find a variety of lizards darting across the paved areas, resting against the side of buildings, or peeking out from beneath rocks and plant life.
Aside from reptiles, there are also 8 species of amphibians: 4 toads, 2 frogs, and 2 salamanders. Amphibians by definition live both on land and in water; these Grand Canyon animals thrive on the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. You may be able to spot one on a river rafting tour!
The Gila Monster is one of just two venomous lizards in the world, and live in Mexico and the Southwest United States, including the western area of the South Rim. Gila monsters hide from the sun during summer and live in burrows in winter, so only in cooler weather can they be found. Their venom is not poisonous to humans, but it is still not advised that you approach or pick one up should you happen across one in the wild.
Desert tortoises live in the Mojave Desert and desert Southwest US. Although these regal tortoises can live up to 80 years, their population is listed as threatened by the Fish and Wildlife Service. Because they spend nearly their entire lives in burrows, the only true danger they face is the human being. The highest likelihood of seeing a Desert tortoise is when they cross the street in search of food, so if you are visiting the Grand Canyon by car be sure to drive slowly and with caution. Do not attempt to pick up this gentle animal, as they can suffer infections from human contact.
Canyon Tree Frog
Canyon tree frogs often sunbathe on rocks and cool off in streams. These are the most commonly spotted amphibians in the Grand Canyon National Park, though they are just between 1-2 inches long. Even if you can’t find one, you can certainly hear the loud call of the male, especially from the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
A Whole New Way to Encounter Animals in the Grand Canyon
Whether you’re visiting the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas or you’re already at the West Rim or South Rim, you will be surrounded by not only stunning desert scenery but the remarkable animal life that thrives within. From deer to birds, lizards, and more, you can catch a glimpse of these amazing animals without having to leave park boundaries! Papillon offers tours across the Grand Canyon region, including helicopter tours, airplane tours, and Hummer ground excursions.
Book With Papillon Today!
Papillon offers exciting air and ground tours to the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas and from various points within the park, including the South Rim and the West Rim. We even travel to other world-famous United States destinations Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon. Our tours also include a variety of upgrade options, like privatizing your aircraft or adding more activities to your adventure. Book your Grand Canyon experience today!
Locally Owned & Operated
Since 1965, Papillon has been transporting passengers over the Grand Canyon – making us the oldest and longest running air tour company in the world. We’ve always been proudly family owned and operate our own terminals in Las Vegas, at the Grand Canyon South Rim, and the West Rim.
600,000 Happy Customers Every Year
For the past 60 years, we’ve flown over 600,000 passengers to the Grand Canyon and beyond annually. From helicopter tours, airplane tours, Hummer excursions, rafting adventures, and more – it’s our goal to make your trip to the Grand Canyon a once-in-a-lifetime experience.