Animals in Nevada

When people think of Nevada, they tend to think of the Las Vegas and Reno casinos and empty stretches of desert. While Nevada does have a stunning desert, it is also home to many wild, beautiful landscapes where a surprising variety of animals thrive. These include common animals familiar to most U.S. states and Nevada’s strange native critters.

Nevada is a large southwestern state. It borders California to the east, Utah to the west, Arizona to the south, and Oregon and Idaho to the north. It is the driest state in the country. A third of the state is in the Mojave Desert.

Most of Nevada lies in the Intermountain Plateau, a region of rugged, elevated terrain bordered by the Rocky Mountains. It has more than 300 snowcapped mountain ranges broken up by wide valleys. These valleys hold 10 million acres of arid forest, hundreds of acres of marshlands, and many large lakes.

Wild Animals in Nevada

Nevada’s wild animals are those that can survive in these rugged environments. Nevada has over 4,000 animal species, including 490 birds, 52 reptiles, and dozens of rodents. While it has some animals common to the rest of the U.S., it also has strange animals found nowhere else on earth.

Its biggest predators are coyotes, mountain lions, and bobcats. Pronghorn antelope, mule deer, and elk graze in huge herds all over the state. Nevada has gray foxes, kit foxes, and Sierra Nevada red foxes.

Small mammals include bats, black-tailed jackrabbits, beavers, and river otters. Nevada’s native rodents are the Orid’s kangaroo rat, the Wyoming ground squirrel, and the yellow pine chipmunk. Ringtails, muskrats, and mountain beavers are among the other mammals you will find.

The cliffs are home to bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and mule deer. Wild horses and wild donkeys run in the desert and grasslands. Half of the wild horses in the U.S. live in Nevada.

In a desert, it’s not surprising that you would find many reptiles and amphibians. Nevada has several snake species, frogs, and turtles. It’s also home to the strange reptile known as the Gila monster. The Gila is the only venomous lizard native to the U.S.

The state has hundreds of bird and waterfowl species. Nevada’s birds include the California quail, roadrunner, Steller’s jay, and great blue heron.

The Official Animal of Nevada

Nevada’s official state animal is the desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis nelson). These large, muscular sheep are uniquely adapted to a mountainous desert environment. They can go without water for several days, and they scale the mountain peaks easily.

Nevada’s state bird is the mountain bluebird.

Where To Find the Top Wild Animals in Nevada

You don’t have to go far to see wild donkeys, wild horses, and bighorn sheep. They are everywhere in Nevada. Other animals are best viewed in one of the state’s many wildlife refuges.

Most of Nevada’s land is owned by the federal government, and millions of acres are protected by wilderness preserves, wildlife refuges, and state and national parks.

  • The famous Desert National Wildlife Refuge is the country’s largest wildlife refuge outside Alaska. Established to protect desert bighorn sheep, it is now a massive complex that provides shelter to hundreds of unique animals, including the rarest and most endangered species. Natural pools inside the refuge are home to the Devil’s Hole desert pupfish, one of the rarest fish in the world, and the White River spring fish, another endemic fish.
  • Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge is considered one of the best birding spots in the western part of the country. It is a protected wetlands area where more than 280 bird species stop during their southward migration. It is a protected area for dozens of waterfowl and shorebird species.
  • Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge is a massive oasis in the middle of a dry stretch of desert. Many of the animals that find shelter here are not normally found in desert terrains. With a huge, sparkling lake and 360,000 acres of marshland, the refuge draws more than 200 shorebird species, antelopes, deer and other animals.
  • Spring Mountains National Recreation Area is a great place to see native wildflowers and butterflies.
  • Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge was established to protect the pronghorn antelope, which was on the brink of extinction in 1930. Today, pronghorn antelope are plentiful, and the refuge supports songbirds, mule deer, endangered fish and endangered mammals, including the pygmy rabbit.

The Most Dangerous Animals in Nevada Today

Although Nevada has animals we view as dangerous predators, attacks on humans are rare. The most dangerous animal encounters in the state involve car crashes with wild animals. The animals hit most often include deer, wild horses, wild donkeys, and raptors.

Nevada has scorpions, rattlesnakes, and poisonous spiders, but there are few recorded deaths from these animals.

According to the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife, the most dangerous animal is the bark scorpion. The bite of this introduced scorpion species can cause severe pain, convulsions, and sweating.

Endangered Animals in Nevada

Nevada has several animals on the endangered species list. They include:

  • Least Bell’s vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus)
  • Yellow-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus)
  • Clover Valley speckled dace (Rhinichthys osculus oligoporus)
  • Railroad Valley spring fish (Crenichthys nevadae)
  • Sierra Nevada red fox (Vulpes vulpes necator)
  • Desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii)
  • Mountain yellow-legged frog (Rana muscosa
  • North American wolverine (Gula gulo luscus)
  • Carson wandering skipper (Pseudocopaeodes eunus obscures)

Nevada Is a Wild Place

Nevada’s vast wilderness areas are alive with beautiful, unusual birds, reptiles and freely roaming horses, donkeys, and antelopes. From common mammals to the rarest birds, it offers many opportunities to see these strange, wonderful animals up close.

Nevadan Animals

Burrowing Owl

The burrowing owl lives in underground burrows

Cactus Mouse

In hot temperatures, they lower their metabolism and become inactive to reduce the amount of water they need to survive


They have a symbiotic relationship with ants.

Orb Weaver

Females are about four times the size of males

Nevadan Animals List

Animals in Nevada FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is the most dangerous animal in Nevada?

It is probably the bark scorpion.

What predators are in Nevada?

Nevada has coyotes, mountain lions, bobcats, foxes, and wolves.

What kind of animals live in Reno?

Animals that live in Reno include raccoons, birds, squirrels, and rodents.