Best time to travel to Arizona

Blood-Shooting Lizards (Phrynosoma) in Arizona

Usually, it protects itself by the means of camouflage, but when business is serious, it puffs up to double-size and shoots blood from its eyes

Best time: March–November

Blood-Shooting Lizards (Phrynosoma)
Blood-Shooting Lizards (Phrynosoma)
Blood-Shooting Lizards (Phrynosoma)
Blood-Shooting Lizards (Phrynosoma)
See accommodations nearby

In the course of millennial evolution, reptiles have adjusted to severe wildlife survival. Greater short-horned lizards or Mountain short-horned lizards (Phrynosoma) boast the most ingenious protective measures. Aerial hunters can't catch them because of their perfect camouflage. Against snakes that rely on their scent rather than sight and don't fear small spines—they puff up until they get two times bigger and then flip out so that predators can't swallow them. And the most unusual weapon is applied against larger predators. Lizards shoot blood from their eyes, and 1,5 m blood streams freak out even coyotes.

Scientists confess they are startled with such a phenomenon, as nothing even nearly similar has been found in nature so far. According to research, short-horned lizards reduce blood flow out of a head, and blood pressure rises up to such an extent that small blood vessels in an eye burst. What's more, eye muscles regulate when and in which direction to shoot, and that's truly astonishing. Scientists also call it a kind of chemical warfare, since particular chemicals found in lizards' blood are assumed to repel the predators and scare them off.

The species is endemic to western North America. It mostly inhabits mountainous areas, in particular, you can come across the unusual reptile while hiking in Grand Canyon or Parashant National Monument. It's also found in Nevada, North and South Dakota, Saskatchewan and Alberta, and other parts of the United States and Canada. In winter the short-horned lizards hibernate in burrows, so look for them between March and November.

Practical info

When is the best time to see Blood-Shooting Lizards in Arizona?

Blood-Shooting Lizards sightings are most frequent March through November, with low possibility during winter, when they hibernate in burrows. Going to Arizona when temperatures are warmer than winter will increase chances of spotting them. Show more

Where can I find Blood-Shooting Lizards in Arizona apart from Grand Canyon and Parashant National Monument?

Apart from Grand Canyon and Parashant National Monument, Blood-Shooting Lizards can often be observed in other mountainous areas in Arizona, such as Superstition Mountains, Chiricahua Mountains, and Santa Catalina Mountains due to the provision of appropriate habitats. Show more

What are the unique self-protection mechanisms of Blood-Shooting Lizards?

Blood-Shooting Lizards deploy multiple self-protection strategies to guarantee their safety from predators. They integrate into their environment because of their camouflage to remain unnoticed. They increase their apparent size when threatened by puffing up their bodies. Their spines frighten small predators. However, the bizarre and unique method is to shoot blood from their eyes as a defensive mechanism. Show more

How do Blood-Shooting Lizards shoot blood from their eyes?

Blood-Shooting Lizards forcefully squirt blood out of their eyes when all other defense mechanisms fail. The blood pressure increases because they restrict the blood flow out of their heads, causing the small blood vessels to burst. The eye muscles are used to regulate and aim the squirts. Coyotes are amongst one of the predators most frightened by this tactic and are repelled by the smell of the chemicals present in the blood. Show more

Are Blood-Shooting Lizards found anywhere other than North America?

Blood-Shooting Lizards are exclusively found in western North America, especially in the United States of America, including Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, North and South Dakota, amongst others. They are found in some regions of Canada, such as Alberta and Saskatchewan. Blood-Shooting Lizards cannot be found in any other part of the world as their habitat is limited to these specific regions. Show more

Ask a question

Find hotels and airbnbs near Blood-Shooting Lizards (Phrynosoma) (Map)

Last updated:
Authors: Olha Savych