CaliforniaHerps.com

A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California







Reptiles and Amphibians of Coastal Southern California

 






range map
Area covered here is marked in red

.

observation link



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These are the native and well-established alien herps that inhabit Coastal Southern California, which for our purposes includes the transverse and peninsular mountain ranges and the land interior to the sea, including the Santa Monica mountains, the San Gabriel mountains, the San Bernardino mountains, the San Jacinto mountains, and the Santa Ana mountains. This includes most of Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties, but excludes the deserts.

Not every animal shown here is present in every part of coastal Southern California. Look at the range map and the description for each species for a better idea of where it is likely to be found. Click on the link to see more pictures, videos, and information about a particular animal.



Snakes

Most snakes in coastal Southern California are active during warm and sunny weather, typically from late February through October, and remain underground at other times.
They become active later at higher elevations, and go underground sooner.

San Diego Gopher Snake
Pituophis catenifer annectens
Not Dangerous to Humans


Video
gopher snake gopher snake gopher snake range map
Range shown in Orange

  Adults are typically 4 to 5 ft. long.
Hatchlings are around 15 inches long.

A large, thick bodied, slow-moving snake with a head slightly wider than the neck and large rough scales.

Brown or tan with dark markings on the back and often reddish coloring.
Diurnal. Nocturnal on hot nights.

Probably the most commonly seen snake in our area.

Found in many habitats - grassland, chaparral, agricultural, riparian, woodlands, desert, from sea level to the mountains.
Eats mostly small mammals, birds, eggs.

Females lay eggs June to August. Young hatch August to October.

Often confused with rattlesnakes, but the tail is long and thin with no rattle.
See here.
 
 
California Kingsnake
Lampropeltis californiae
(formerly Lampropeltis getula californiae)
Not Dangerous to Humans
  king snake king snake king snake range map
Range shown in Red






Video
king snake king snake king snake
  Adults are typically 3 to 4 ft. long.

A large, thick bodied, slow-moving snake with a head slightly wider than the neck and smooth scales.

Black or brown with light bands circling the body. Striped and banded/striped forms also occur, especially near the coast. This snake is highly variable in appearance, especially near the coast.
Diurnal and Nocturnal.

Common.

Found in a wide range of habitats:
forest, woodland, chaparral, grassland, wetlands, agricultural land, deserts, brushy suburban areas, from sea level to mountains.
Eats small mammals, lizards, snakes (including rattlesnakes) eggs, frogs, birds, and large invertebrates.

Females lay eggs May to August.

 

 

   


 
California Striped Racer
Coluber lateralis lateralis 
(formerly Masticophis lateralis lateralis)
Not Dangerous to Humans

Video
snake snake snake range map
Range shown in Red
Adults are typically 3 to 4 feet long.

A slender very fast-moving snake with large head and eyes and smooth scales.

Dark brown or grey with one pale stripe on each side. No stripe on the back.

Diurnal and conspicuous.

Common.

Found in a variety of open areas including canyons, rocky hillsides, chaparral, open woodlands, pond edges and stream courses from sea level to the mountains.
Eats small mammals, lizards, frogs, and snakes

Females lay eggs in late spring and early summer. Eggs hatch in late summer and fall.


 
Red Racer (or Red Coachwhip)
Coluber flagellum piceus
(formerly Masticophis flagellum piceus)
Not Dangerous to Humans


Video
snake snake snake
Range shown in Red


Adults are 3 to 8 feet in length.

A long slender, fast-moving snake with a large head and eyes and large rough scales.

Variable in appearance: brown, tan, or reddish, with black on the head, the neck, and the front part of the body, and light color giving it a banded pattern.
Diurnal.

Common and conspicuous.

Found in open areas of grassland, chaparral, scrubland where vegetation is not dense.
Eats small mammals, birds, lizards, snakes, and amphibians.

Females lay eggs in early summer. Eggs hatch in late summer and fall.


 
Western Yellow-bellied Racer
Coluber constrictor mormon
Not Dangerous to Humans





Videos
snake snake snake range map
Range shown in Red
  Adults are typically 2 to 3 feet long. Hatchlings are 8 to 11 inches long.

A long slender fast-moving snake with a large head and eyes and a long thin tail.

Brown, greenish, or grey without markings. Young are brown with dark brown markings.
Diurnal.

Not very common in our area. Common elsewhere where it occurs.

Found in open sunny areas including meadows, grassland, chaparral, open woodlands, and riparian areas, in arid and moist areas. Not found at very high elevations.
Eats lizards, small mammals, birds, snakes, eggs, frogs, and insects.

Females lay eggs in early summer. Young hatch in late summer and fall.
 
 
Coast Patch-nosed Snake
Salvadora hexalepis virgultea
Not Dangerous to Humans

Video

Range shown in Orange
  Adults are typically 2 - 3 feet long.

A slender, fast-moving snake with large eyes and smooth scales.

Gray or brown with a broad pale stripe down the middle of the back and a pale underside. No stripes on the sides.
Diurnal.

Conspicuous, but uncommon.

Found in semi-arid brushy areas and chaparral.
Eats mostly lizards plus small mammals, birds and amphibians.

Lays eggs probably May to August which hatch in late summer and fall.
     
California Glossy Snake
Arizona elegans occidentalis
Not Dangerous to Humans

Video
snake snake snake range map
Range shown in Orange
  Adults are typically 3 to 4 feet long.

A thick slow-moving snake with smooth glossy scales.

Tan or light brown with dark blotches and a pale underside.

Nocturnal.

Uncommon in our area.

Found in open areas including arid scrub, grasslands, chaparral, and rocky washes.
Eats mostly lizards, plus small snakes, birds, and mammals.

Females lay eggs in June and July which hatch in late summer, early fall.

 

 
 
San Diego Nightsnake
Hypsiglena ochrorhyncha (torquata) klauberi
(formerly Hypsiglena torquata nuchalata)
Not Dangerous to Humans

Video
of similar subspecies
snake
snake snake range map
Range shown in Orange
  Most adults are about a foot long, rarely over 16 inches. Hatchlings are abpit 7 inches long.

A small slender snake with a narrow head and smooth scales.

Light gray, light brown, beige, tan, or cream in color with dark brown or gray blotches on the backs and sides and a dark band on the neck and another through the eyes.
Nocturnal.

Secretive and not often seen.

Found in a variety of habitats, including chaparral, suburban lots and gardens, meadows and grassland, from sea level into the mountains.
Eats mostly lizards and their eggs, plus small snakes, amphibians, and other small vertebrates.

Females lay eggs from April to September.
 
 
California Mountain Kingsnake
Lampropeltis zonata
Not Dangerous to Humans

Video
snake snake snake range map
Two subspecies are found in this area:
San Diego Mountain Kingsnake -
Range shown in Purple
San Bernardino Mountain Kingsnake -
Range shown in Light Blue
  Adults are tyically 24 to 30 inches long. Hatchlings are 7 to 11 inches long.

A slender snake with a rounded body and almost no neck.

Black, red, and white or yellowish bands circle the body. Often some of the black bands cross over the top of the red bands.
Diurnal. Nocturnal during hot weather.

Secretive and not commonly seen.

Found in coniferous forest, mixed woodlands, chaparral, manzanita, coastal sage scrub, typically around rock outcops near streams in the mountains.
Eats lizards, small mammals, birds, amphibians, and sometimes snakes.

Females lay eggs June and July which hatch August and September.

 

 


Baja California Coachwhip
Masticophis fuliginosus
(formerly Masticophis fuliginosus)
Not Dangerous to Humans
  snake snake snake Range Map
Range shown in Blue
  Adults are typically 2 to 4 feet long.

A slender fast-moving snake with smooth scales, a large head and eyes. Coloring is dark brown or black.

South of our area there is also a silver or grey phase.
Diurnal.

Uncommon due to its limited range.

Found in open areas of grassland and coastal sage scrub.
Eats small mammals, birds, eggs, lizards, snakes, and amphibians.

Females lay eggs in early summer which hatch in early fall.
 
 
Rosy Boa
Lichanura trivirgata

(formerly Lichanura trivirgata roseofusca)
Not Dangerous to Humans





Video
snake range map
Range shown in Orange
  Adults are typically 2 to 3 feet long. Hatchlings are 10 - 14 inches long.

A slow-moving heavy-bodied snake with small shiny scales and a blunt tail. The head is barely wider than the neck.

Color is grayish or brownish with irregular dark brown, reddish, or orange lengthwise stripes. Some snakes in southern San Diego County lack the stripes and are a nearly solid rusty or purplish color.
Mostly nocturnal and crepuscular.

Common, but secretive.

Found in arid and semi-arid scrublands, rocky shrublands, and other rocky areas, especially where near water.
Eats small rodents, birds, lizards, snakes, and amphibians.

Young are born live from October to November.

 
 
Southern Rubber Boa
Charina umbratica
Not Dangerous to Humans
  snake snake snake
Range shown in Blue
  Adults are typically 11 to 15 inches long.

A small stout slow-moving snake with small smooth scales, wrinkled skin, and a short blunt tail.

Color is light or dark brown, tan, olive, or pinkish. Young can be bright pink.
Nocturnal and crepuscular.

Common but secretive.

Found in mixed coniferous forest in areas with rocks and other debris, typically between 5,000 - 8,200 ft.

Eats small mammals, birds, and lizards.

Young are born live in late summer and early fall.

Present only in a few areas in the San Bernardino, San Jacinto, and Tehachapi mountains.
 
 
California Red-sided Gartersnake
Thamnophis sirtalis infernalis
Not Dangerous to Humans

Video
snake snake snake range map
Range shown in Red and Purple
  Adults are 15 to 55 inches long, averaging 36 inches.

A slender snake with a slight neck, large eyes, and larged keeled scales.

Color is dark olive to black, with light stripes on the back and on each side. The head is red and there are red markings on the sides between the stripes.
Diurnal.

Rare in our area, but very common elsewhere.

Found in a variety of habitats, including grasslands, chaparral, farmland, forests, and mixed woodlands. In our area this snake appears to be restricted to marsh and upland habitats near permanent water with riparian vegetation.
Eats amphibians, tadpoles, fish, birds, eggs, small mammals, reptiles, earthworms, slugs, and leeches. Able to eat poisonous newts.

Young are born live from spring to fall.

 
 
Two-striped Gartersnake
Thamnophis hammondii
Not Dangerous to Humans

Video
snake range map
Range shown in Red
  Adults are typically 18 - 30 inches long. Newborns are about 8 inches.

A slender snake without much of a neck, and keeled scales.

Color is drab olive, brown, or gray with a pale stripe on the bottom of each side. There is no stripe on the back. Some snakes have a faint side stripe and two rows of dark spots on each side.
Mostly diurnal. Active on some hot nights.

Fairly Common, but declining due to loss of habitat.

Found mostly around water, including ponds, creeks, and cattle tanks, typically in rocky areas in oak woodland, chaparral, brushland, and coniferous forest. From sea level up to about 7,000 ft. in the mountains.
Eats fish, frogs, toads, tadpoles, newt larvae, and occasionally worms and fish eggs.

Young are born live in late July and August.
 
 
Mountain Gartersnake
Thamnophis elegans elegans
Not Dangerous to Humans

Video
snake snake range map
Range shown in Red
  Adults are 18 - 43 inches long.

A slender snake with a faint neck and keeled scales.

Color is dark olive or black with no red markings. There is a pale stripe on each side and one on the back.
Diurnal.

Rare in our area.

Found mostly around streams and lakes in grassland, woodland, and coniferous forest. In our area, found only in the San Bernardino Mountains.
Eats fish, amphibians, birds, mice, lizards, snakes, worms, leeches, slugs and snails.

Young are born live from July to September.

 
 
San Bernardino Ring-necked Snake
Diadophis punctatus modestus
Not Dangerous to Humans

Video
of similar subspecies
range map
Range shown in Light Blue
  Adults grow up to 34 inches long.

A small thin snake with smooth scales.

Color is gray, dark olive, or black with a narrow orange band around the neck. The underside is bright yellow or orange or peckled with black markings. This underside is often displayed in a coil when a snake is feeling threatened.
Diurnal and nocturnal.

Common but secretive and rarely seen crawling.

Found in moist habitats including wet meadows, rocky hillsides, gardens, farmlands, grassland, chaparral, mixed coniferous forest and woodlands.
Eats small salamanders, tadpoles, frogs, snakes, lizards, worms, slugs, and insects.

Females lay eggs in the summer which hatch mostly in the fall.

         
San Diego Ring-necked Snake
Diadophis punctatus similis
Not Dangerous to Humans



Video
range map
Range shown in Dark Blue
  Adults grow up to 34 inches long.

A small thin snake with smooth scales.

Color is gray, dark olive, or black with a narrow orange band around the neck. The underside is bright yellow or orange or peckled with black markings. This underside is often displayed in a coil when a snake is feeling threatened.
Diurnal and nocturnal.

Common but secretive and rarely seen crawling.

Found in moist habitats including wet meadows, rocky hillsides, gardens, farmlands, grassland, chaparral, mixed coniferous forest and woodlands.
Eats small salamanders, tadpoles, frogs, snakes, lizards, worms, slugs, and insects.

Females lay eggs in the summer which hatch mostly in the fall.

Found in the souther part of our area, mostly in San Diego County.
 
 
Long-nosed Snake
Rhinocheilus lecontei
Not Dangerous to Humans



Video
snake snake snake range map
Range shown in Red
  Adults are typically 16 to 30 inches long. Hatchlings are 7 to 11 inches long.

A slender snake with smooth scales, only a faint neck and a head with a long pointed snout.

Color is white with red and black saddles that do not entirely circle the body. Some snakes lack red coloring.
Nocturnal and crepuscular but occasionally seen active in daylight.

Uncommon in our area. More common in the deserts.

Found in semi-arid grasslands, shrublands, and prairies.
Eats mostly lizards and their eggs plus small snakes, small mammals, birds, and insects.

Females lay eggs from June to August.


   
Western Black-headed Snake
Tantilla planiceps
Not Dangerous to Humans



Video
snake snake range map
Range shown in Red
  From 4 - 15 inches long.

A very small, thin snake with a flat head and smooth scales.

Color is brown or tan with no markings except for a dark brown or black head with a faint light collar between the body color and the dark head cap. The underside is reddish.
Nocturnal.

Uncommon and secretive. Rarely seen.

Found in grassland, chaparral, and mixed woodlands.
Eats millipedes, centipedes, and insects.

Females lay eggs probably in spring, which hatch in summer.

 
 
Southwestern Threadsnake (or Blind Snake)
Rena humilis humilis
(formerly Leptotyphlops humilis humilis)
Not Dangerous to Humans

Video
snake snake snake range map
Range shown in Red
  Adults are 7 to 16 inches long. Young are 4 to 5 inches long.

A very thin small snake with a blunt head and blunt tail and nonfunctional eyes that are just dark spots. Resembles a large worm.

Coloring is brown, purple, or pink.
Nocturnal.

Common but secretive and rarely seen.

Found in areas with soil that is suitable for burrowing, including brushy slopes, rocky hillsides, washes, and beach sand.
Eats ants and termites and their larvae and pupae.

Females lay eggs in Summer.

     
California Lyresnake
Trimorphodon lyrophanes
Mildly Venomous But Not Dangerous to Humans





Video
snake range map
Range shown in Red
  Adults are typically 2 to 3 feet long.

A slender snake with a large broad head and a slim neck, and large eyes.

Color is typically gray or light brown, with dark blotches that have a light crossbar in their middle.

Nocturnal.

Common, but secretive.

Typically found in rocky locations in scrub, grassland, chaparral, oak woodland.

Eats mostly lizards, plus small mammals, nestling birds, and snakes.

 
 
Southern Pacific Rattlesnake
Crotalus oreganus helleri
(formerly Crotalus viridis helleri)
Venomous and Potentially Very Dangerous
  snake snake snake range map
Range shown in Blue




Video
snake snake snake
  Adults are typically 3 to 4 feet long.

A heavy-bodied snake with a large triangular head and thin neck, and large keeled scales, and a tail tipped with a rattle that is shaken to produce a loud sound when the snake is feeling threatened. Young snakes have no rattle and cannot make a sound.

Color is brown, olive, or black, with dark brown blotches outlined by light pigment on the back, and dark bars on the tail.
Nocturnal and crepuscular in hot temperatures, and also diurnal during moderate temperatures.

Common and conspicuous.

Found in many habitats, including seaside dunes, scrub, grasslands, rocky hillsides, chaparral, open woodlands, and agricultural fields.
Eats small mammals, birds, lizards, snakes, and frogs.

Young are born live from August to October.




 
Red Diamond Rattlesnake
Crotalus ruber
Venomous and Potentially Very Dangerous



Video
snake snake range map
Range shown in Red
  Adults are typically 2 to 4.5 feet long. Young are about 12 inches long.

A heavy-bodied snake with a large triangular head and thin neck, and large keeled scales, and a tail tipped with a rattle that is shaken to produce a loud sound when the snake is feeling threatened. Young snakes have no rattle and cannot make a sound.

Color is brown, tan or reddish, with dark diamond-shaped blotches on the back. The tail is circled with black and white rings.
Nocturnal and crepuscular, but diurnal in shaded areas and when the temperature is moderate.

Common and conspicuous.

Found in arid scrub, chaparral, oak and pine woodlands, rocky grassland, and cultivated areas.
Eats small mammals, lizards, and birds.

Young are born live from July to September.


 
 
Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake
Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus
Venomous and Potentially Very Dangerous







Video
range map
Range shown in Red
  Adults are typically 2 - 4 feet long. Young are 9 or 10 inches long.

A heavy-bodied snake with a large triangular head and thin neck, and large keeled scales, and a tail tipped with a rattle that is shaken to produce a loud sound when the snake is feeling threatened. Young snakes have no rattle and cannot make a sound.

Color varies widely to match the environment, from off-white, yellow, gray, tan, pink, orangish, to brown. A vague pattern of dark speckled banded markings cover the body. The tail is circled with dark and light rings.

Nocturnal and crepuscular during hot periods and diurnal during moderate temperatures.

Fairly common in the right habitat.

Typically found in dry rocky areas vegetated with sagebrush, thronscrub, chaparral, and pinon-juniper woodland up to about 8,000 ft. in the mountains.

Eats small mammals, lizards, and birds.

Young are born live in July and August.



 
Yellow-bellied Sea Snake
Pelamis platurus
Venomous and Potentially Very Dangerous
  snake snake snake range map
Range shown in Red
  Adults are typically 18 - 25 inches long.

An aquatic snake with a flattened body and tail that spends most of its life in the ocean.

Color is dark brown or black with a bright yellow or pale yellow underside which extends up onto the sides.
Diurnal.

Rare in our area.

Usually seen within a few miles of the shore in drift lines.
Eats small fish and eels.

Young are born live in the ocean.

     
Southern Watersnake
Nerodia fasciata
Not Native to California
Not Dangerous to Humans
  snake snake snake range map
Range shown in Red dots
  Adults are typically 22 to 40 inches long.

A heavy-bodied snake with large keeled scales.

Color is yellowish to reddish-gray with many dark crossbands. Juveniles are paler with a stronger pattern. Very old snakes may be almost entirely dark.


Diurnal and Nocturnal.

Uncommon.

Found in and around permanent bodies of water, especially those bordered by woods.

Eats fish, frogs, salamanders, and crayfish.

Young are born live.

Not a native snake. So far, known to be established only in Harbor City.

Lizards

Most lizards in coastal Southern California are active during warm and sunny weather, typically from late February through October, and remain underground at other times.They become active later at higher elevations, and go underground sooner. They are most often seen during daylight sunning themselves on rocks, branches, fences, or walls, or running on the ground.

Great Basin Fence Lizard
Sceloporus occidentalis longipes
  lizard lizard lizard range map
Range shown in Orange

Video
  Adults are about 2.5 to 3.5 inches long, not including the tail.

A fairly small lizard with keeled scales.

Brown, gray, or black with dark blotches on the back. Sometimes light markings on the sides of the back form vague stripes.

Recognizing differences between Fence Lizards and Sagebrush Lizards.
Diurnal.

The most common and conspicuous lizard in our area.

Found in many different open, sunny areas, including woodlands, grasslands, chaparral, waterways, pond edges, houses and fences.
Eats small bugs including crickets, spiders, ticks, scorpions, and even tiny lizards.

Females lay eggs that hatch July to September, when very tiny lizards can be seen running around.

Typically seen basking in the sun on rocks, fences, walls, and fallen branches.


 
San Diego Alligator Lizard
Elgaria multicarinata webbii

Video
lizard lizard lizard range map
Range shown in Blue
  Adults are about 3 to 7 inches long, not including the tail, and can be up to 16 inches long including the tail.

An elongated lizard with large scales, a large head, short legs, and a fold along the bottoms of the sides. The tail can be very long, but often it is re-grown and stubby.

Brown, grey, or yellowish above, often with orange or red coloring on the middle of the back. Usually there are dark bands on the back, sides, and tail.

Juveniles are long and thin and a copper color with no dark markings on the back. They are sometimes mistaken for a small ground skink (which does not occur in this area.)
Diurnal.

Common.

Found in grassland, open forest, chaparral, oak woodlands. Typically prefers drier areas than the San Francisco Alligator lizard.
Eats a variety of small bugs, slugs, snails, and worms, and sometimes small lizards and mammals and birds and their eggs.

Females lay eggs from May to July which hatch in late summer and early fall.

Typically seen moving on the ground or basking on rocks or fallen branches.

Moves with a snake-like undulating motion.
 
 
Western Side-blotched Lizard
Uta stansburiana elegans
  lizard lizard lizard range map
Range shown in Red

Video
  Adults are 1.5 to 2.5 inches long, not including the tail. A small lizard with smooth scales and a large dark marking, or blotch, on the sides, just behind the front limbs, which is not easily seen at a distance.

Brown, black, gray, or yellowish in color with dark blotches, spots, and sometimes stripes, on the back. Sometimes there is a double row of dark wedge-shaped markings on the back, edged with white. Males have blue speckles on the back and can be very colorful.
Diurnal.

Common and conspicuous.

Found in open rocky areas with scattered vegetation, including sandy washes, vegetated with chaparral, scattered trees, grass, and shrubs.
Eats small bugs including beetles, grasshoppers, ants, spiders, scorpions, and ticks.

Females lay eggs from March to August which hatch from June to September.

Typically seen basking on rocks or fallen branches or running on the ground inbetween rocks.
 
 
North American Legless Lizards
Anniella


Video
lizard lizard lizard range map
Range shown in Red and Light Blue
 

Adults are about 5 to 7 inches long.

A small slender lizard a shovel-shaped snout, smooth shiny scales, a blunt tail, and no legs. Often thought to be a small snake.

Color varies from metallic silver, beige, dark brown, to black. Usually there is a dark line along the back and several thin stripes on the sides.

Diurnal.

Often common, but secretive - rarely seen.

Found in beach dunes, chaparral, mixed woodlands, sandy washes and stream terraces where there is moist warm loose soil with plant cover.

Eats mostly insect larvae, beetles, termites, and spiders.

Young are born live September to November.

Typically found in suburban gardens under leaf litter or loose soil under shrubs.
 
 
Blainville's Horned Lizard
Phrynosoma blainvillii
(formerly Phrynosoma coronatum - Coast Horned Lizard)

Video
lizard lizard lizard range map
Range shown in Red
  Adults are 2.5 to 4.5 inches long, not including the tail.

A flat lizard with a very wide oval body, large pointed scales protruding from the body and the short flat tail, and very large pointed horns around the back of the head. Unlike any other lizard in our area.

Brown, reddish, or yellowish with dark blotches on the back.
Diurnal.

Common in some areas, but gone from much of its previous range due to loss of habitat and harvester ants.

Found in areas with loose sandy soil and low vegetation, including grassland, forests, woodlands, and chaparral.
Eats mosly large harvester ants plus the occasional spider, beetle, termite, fly, bee, or grasshopper.

Females lay eggs from May to June which hatch from August to September.

Typically seen in open spaces on the ground or running across a road, often around anthills or ant trails.
 
 
San Diego Banded Gecko
Coleonlyx variegatus abbotti



Video
lizard lizard lizard range map
Range shown in Blue
  2 to 3 inches long.

A small lizard with eyelids and vertical pupils, and smooth skin.

Pale yellow, pink, or light gray with tan or brown bands on the body and tail.
Diurnal.

Uncommon.

Found in rocky areas in coastal sage and chaparral.
Eats a variety of small invertebrates.

Females lay eggs from May to September which hatch in 45 days.

Typically found underneath rocks or other surface debris.
 
 
Granite Night Lizard
Xantusia henshawi



Video
lizard lizard lizard range map
Range shown in Red
  2 to 2.75 inches long not including the tail.

A small lizard with a flattened body and head, smooth skin, lidless eyes with vertical pupils, a long thin tail.

Seen in a light phase - white or yellowsh with large dark brown spots on the upper body, and a dark phase - dark brown with a pale white or yellow network on the upper body.
Nocturnal, but may be active diurnally in shade.

Found in rocky canyons and hillsides in semiarid regions, typically with massive boulders and rock outcrops with expfoliated granite in the shadier parts of canyons.
Eats small invertebrates, including spiders, scorpions, beetles, ants, and centipedes.

Young are born live in the fall.

Typically seen underneath rocks, in cracks in rock outcrops, or on the surface of rocks at night. Sometimes seen on walls at night in areas near large rock outcrops.
 
 
Southern Sagebrush Lizard
Sceloporus graciosus vandenburgianus

Video
lizard lizard lizard range map
Range shown in Blue
  Adults are about 2 to 3.5 inches long not including the tail.

A small lizard with small keeled scales.

Gray or brown in color with dark blotches or irregular bands on the body and tail and light stripes along the sides and upper sides at the edge of the back. There is usually a bar of black on the shoulder and rusy coloring on the armpits

Males show blue coloring on the throat and sides of the belly. Females develop orange coloring on the throat and sides when they are gravid.
Diurnal.

Common and conspicuous where found.

Found in the transverse and peninsular mountains in shrublands such as chaparral, manzanita and ceanothus, and in open pine and Douglas Fir forests where there are open areas that get a lot of sun.

In our area, found at higher elevations, typically 4,500 ft. and higher.
Eats small bugs including ants, termites, grasshoppers, flies, spiders, and beetles.

Females lay eggs from June to August that hatch in August and September.

Typically seen basking on rocks or fallen branches or running on the ground inbetween rocks.



Recognizing differences between Fence Lizards and Sagebrush Lizards.
 
 
Coastal Whiptail
Aspidoscelis tigris stejnegeri

Video
lizard lizard lizard range map
Range shown in Blue
  Adults are about 3 to 5 inches long, not including the tail.

A long slim lizard with a long thin tail, a thin snout, and large plates on the head.

The back and sides are grey, tan, or brown, marked with dark spots or bars or mottling, which is often very sharply defined. Dark marks on the side don't form vertical bars. Usually 8 poorly-defined light brown stripes are present, but stripes on the side are less well-defined. The throat is pale with with large black spots.  Juveniles have distinct stripes and bright blue tails.
Diurnal.

Common and conspicuous, but not found in most of our area.

Found in hot, dry, open areas with sparse vegetation, including woodland, chaparral, and riparian areas.
Eats small bugs including spiders, scorpions, centipedes, and termites. Also known to eat small lizards.

Females lay eggs from April to August.

Very active, moving quickly on the ground with abrupt starts and stops.
 
 
Belding's Orange-throated Whiptail
Aspidoscelis hyperythra beldingi

Video
lizard lizard lizard range map
Range shown in Red
  2 to 2.75 inches long, not including the tail.

A small fast-moving slim-bodied lizard with a long slender tail, a thin snout, and large plates on the head.

Dark brown, black, or gray with 6 or less light stripes on the back and sides. The throat is orange, becoming brighter during the breeding season.
Diurnal.

Found in semi-arid brushy areas with loose soil and rocks.

Eats small invertebrates including spiders, scorpions, centipedes, and termites, and sometimes small lizards.

Females lay eggs in June and July which hatch in August and September.

Very active, moving quickly on the ground with abrupt starts and stops.
 
 
Granite Spiny Lizard
Sceloporus orcutti



Video
Granite Spiny Lizard Male Granite Spiny Lizard Granite Spiny Lizard Granite Spiny Lizard Range Map
Range shown in Red
  Adults are about 3 to 5 inches long, not including the tail, and up to 11 inches with the tail.

A large, dark lizard with large pointed scales, a dark wedge of color on the sides of the neck, and dark bands across the body.

Dark rusty coppery brown to black in color. Sometimes lizards appear to be solid black before they have warmed up. Males, when warmed up in the sun, have a vivid blue-green sheen with a wide purple stripe on the back and yellow on the sides.
Diurnal.

Common.

Found in areas with large boulders and granite outcrops or cliffs with mixed vegetation, including chaparral, mesquite, pine and oak, and palms. From near sea level to about 7,000 ft.
Eats small invertebrates, small lizards, and occasionally fruits and flowers.

Females lay eggs from May to July, which hatch from July to October.

Typically seen crawling on large rocks. Very wary and quick to run back into cracks in the rocks when approached.
 
 
Western Red-tailed Skink
Plestiodon gilberti rubricaudatus
(formerly Eumeces gilberti rubricaudatus)

Video
lizard lizard lizard range map
Range shown in Red
  Adults are 2.5 to 4.5 inches long, not including the tail, and up to about 13 inches long including the tail.

A large lizard with a heavy body, small head and thick neck, small legs, and smooth shiny scales.

Olive or brown in color with some dark markings on the back that begin as dark stripes and fade with age. Young skinks have distinct light and dark stripes and a reddish or pink tail.

Males develop red coloring on the throat during the breeding sason.
Diurnal.

Secretive and not commonly seen moving around.

Found in grassland, chaparral, woodlands, and pine forests, typically where there is moisture nearby.

Eats small bugs.

Females lay eggs in the summer.

Rarely seen moving on the ground. Typically found underneath rocks or other surface debris.

Typically found underneath rocks, logs, and other surface debris.

 
 
Skilton's Skink
Plestiodon skiltonianus skiltonianus
(formerly Eumeces skiltonianus skiltonianus)

Video
lizard lizard range map
Range shown in Red and Gold
  Adults are about 2 - 3 inches long, not including the tail. Typically 7.5 inches long with the tail.

A small lizard with a slim body, a small head with a thick neck, small legs, and smooth shiny scales.

Dark brown on the head and back with two light stripes on the edge of the back, dark stripes down the sides, and light strips on the edge of the belly. Juveniles have a bright blue tail that fades as they age. Old adults often have no blue on the tail. Adults develop red or orange coloring on the head and throat during the breeding season.
Diurnal.

Common but secretive and not often seen moving around.

Found in grassland, woodlands, forests, sagebrush, chaparral, especially in rocky areas near streams and open sunny areas. 


Sometimes, when this lizard moves quickly through leaf litter or short grass, only the blue tail is seen, and this is often mistaken to be a small blue snake.
Eats small bugs, including spiders and sow bugs.

Females lay eggs in June and July which hatch in July and August.

Found in the Northern part of coastal Southern California, mostly north of San Diego County.

Typically found underneath rocks, logs, and other surface debris.
 
 
Coronado Skink
Plestiodon skiltonianus interparietalis
(formerly Eumeces skiltonianus interparietalis)
Video
of similar subspecies
lizard lizard lizard range map
Range shown in Blue and Gold
  Adults are about 2 - 3 inches long, not including the tail. Typically 7.5 inches long with the tail.

A small lizard with a slim body, a small head with a thick neck, small legs, and smooth shiny scales.

Dark brown on the head and back with two light stripes on the edge of the back, dark stripes down the sides, and light strips on the edge of the belly. Juveniles have a bright blue tail that fades as they age. Old adults often have no blue on the tail. Adults develop red or orange coloring on the head and throat during the breeding season.
Diurnal.

Common but secretive and not often seen moving around.

Found in grassland, woodlands, forests, sagebrush, chaparral, especially in rocky areas near streams and open sunny areas.

Sometimes, when this lizard moves quickly through leaf litter or short grass, only the blue tail is seen, and this is often mistaken to be a small blue snake.

Eats small bugs, including spiders and sow bugs.

Females lay eggs in June and July which hatch in July and August.

Found in the Southern part of coastal Southern California, mostly in San Diego County.

Typically found underneath rocks, logs, and other surface debris.
 
 
Mediterranean House Gecko
Hemidactylus turcicus
Not Native to California - Email me and send me pictures if you see some in California

Video
lizard lizard lizard range map
This lizard continues to expand its range in California.  Black and Red dots on the map indicate some of the areas where it has been found and could be established. Click for a larger view.
  1.75 to about 2.5 inches long, not including the tail. 4 to 5 inches long with the tail.

A small, slightly flattened lizard with conspicuous large bumpy tubercles on the skin and large eyes with vertical pupils.

Two color phases. Light phase is pale pinkish white with dark blotching and spotting sometimes forming indistinct bands. Dark phase is dark brown or gray with darker markings and bands. The tail is ringed with dark and light bands.


Nocturnal.

Rare in our area and an alien species. Native to the Mediterranean region. Typically spread from place to place in shipments of goods and lumber.

Found living in or near human dwellings, but probably also found in surrounding habitats. Recorded from a few locations in Southern California, but probably established in many more areas, and spreading.
Eats a variety of small invertebrates.

Females lay eggs from April to August.


Typically seen on the outside wall of a building at night under a light, where they catch flying insects. May also be seen on walls indoors.
 
Green Anole
Anolis carolinensis
Not Native to California - Email me and send me pictures if you see some in California
  Green Anole Green Anole Green Anole Green Anole California Range Map
This lizard continues to expand its range in California.  Black and Red dots on the map indicate some of the areas where it has been found and could be established. Click for a larger view.


Videos
Green Anole Green Anole Green Anole
  A small thin lizard with a long head and snout and a long thin tail.

About 3 inches long, not including the tail. 5-8 inches long with the tail.

This lizard varies in appearance from bright green to dark or light brown, sometimes with a white stripe down the middle of the back. Males are territorial and often extend a pinkish dewlap from the throat. These lizards can change in seconds from green to brown, as you can see in the two pictures immediately above which are the same lizard. You can see this lizard change colors on the top video above, showing why this anole is often called a Chameleon.


Diurnal.

Native to the south and eastern USA. An alien species in California, typically spread by pets, or animals kept for food for lizard-eating snakes, that have escaped or have been abandoned.

Found living in plants often in yards and gardens. Currently recorded from a few locations in Southern California, but probably established in more areas, and spreading.

Eats a variety of small invertebrates.
Comparison with Brown Anole

Brown Anoles are less arboreal than Green Anoles, tending to stay closer to the ground.
Green Anoles tend to go higher up into trees, although they can also be found lower down.

Brown Anoles are always gray, light brown, or dark brown, never green.
Green Anoles can turn from dark brown to bright green.

Male Brown Anoles have a bright orange-red dewlap with a cream to yellow border.
Male Green Anoles have a pink dewlap.
(Be aware that dewlaps appear different colors when seen in different lights.)

Brown and Green Anoles are about the same size, but Green Anoles have a larger and longer head.
 
Brown Anole
Anolis sagrei
Not Native to California - Email me and send me pictures if you see some in California
  Green Anole California Range Map
This lizard continues to expand its range in California.  Black and Red dots on the map indicate some of the areas where it has been found and could be established. Click for a larger view.



Videos
  A small thin lizard with a long head and snout and a long thin tail.

About 2.5 inches long, not including the tail. Up to 8 inches long with the tail.

This lizard varies in appearance. Sometimes there is a crooked white stripe down the middle of the back or other dark pattern, but the ground color is always some shade of brown or tan. This lizard is never green.

Males are territorial and often extend an orange-red dewlap from the throat.


Diurnal.

Native to Cuba.

An alien species in California. Known to hitchhike in shipments of exotic plants from Florida. Released or escaped pets are another possible source of their spread.

Found living in plants often in yards and gardens. Currently recorded from a few locations in Southern California, but probably established in more areas, and spreading.

Eats a variety of small invertebrates.
Comparison with Green Anole

Brown Anoles are less arboreal than Green Anoles, tending to stay closer to the ground.
Green Anoles tend to go higher up into trees, although they can also be found lower down.

Brown Anoles are always gray, light brown, or dark brown, never green.
Green Anoles can turn from dark brown to bright green.

Male Brown Anoles have a bright orange-red dewlap with a cream to yellow border.
Male Green Anoles have a pink dewlap.
(Be aware that dewlaps appear different colors when seen in different lights.)

Brown and Green Anoles are about the same size, but Green Anoles have a larger and longer head.
         
Turtles

Most turtles in coastal Southern California are active during warm and sunny weather, typically from about late February through October, but sometimes they are active all year.

Pacific Pond Turtle
Actinemys marmorata

Video
turtle turtle turtle range mapRange shown in Red
  The shell is typically 3.5 to 8.5 inches long. Hatchlings are abut 1 inch long.

A dark brown, olive, or black turtle with a low unkeeled shell, usually with a pattern of lines or spots radiating from the centers of the scutes. The head and neck are light in color with dark mottling.
Diurnal.

Maybe be common in some areas, but declining.

Found in ponds, lakes, rivers, streams, creeks, marshes, and irrigation ditches with abundant vegetation in a variety of areas including wooland, forest, grassland, and parks.

Rarely seen away from water. Often seen basking just above the water
Eats aquatic plants, bugs, worms, frog eggs and tadpoles, salamander eggs and larvae, crayfish, carrion, and occasionally frogs and fish.

Females crawl onto land and lay eggs between April and August.


 
Red-eared Slider
Trachemys scripta elegans
Not Native to California

Video
turtle turtle turtle range mapRange shown in Red
  The shell is 3.5 to 14.5 inches long.

The shell is olive, brown, or black in color with streaks and bars of yellow or eye-like spots. The skin is green to olive brown with yellow markings and a prominent broad red stripe behind the eye.
Diurnal.

Common, but not native.

Found in sluggish rivers, ponds, shallow streams, marshes, lakes, reservoirs, and urban park ponds.
Females crawl onto land and lay eggs between April and July.

Eats crustaceans, mollusks, fish, insects, snails, tadpoles, and aquatic plants.

May be active on sunny days in winter.
 
 
Western Painted Turtle
Chrysemys picta bellii
Not Native to California - Email me and send me pictures if you see some in California

Video
turtle turtle turtle range map
Range shown in Red
  2.5 to 10 inches long.

A small turtle with red markings on the bottom and no red markings on the sides of the head.

The shell is black, brown, or olive in color with a network of faint light lines, and olive, yellow, or red borders on the shields. The head and limbs are olive or black with yellow lines.
Diurnal.

Uncommon. The most widespread species of turtle in North America, but not native to California.

Aquatic. Found in ponds, marshes, lakes, ditches, and quiet streams.
Eats almost anything it can find, including insects, worms, snails, crayfish, fish, amphibians and tadpoles, carrion, and aquatic vegetation.

Females lay eggs on land between May and August.
 
 
Texas Spiny Softshell
Apalone spinifera emoryi
Not Native to California
  turtle turtle turtle range map
Range shown in Red
  The shell is 5 to 21 inches long.

A flat turtle with a rounded, leathery shell without visible scutes and a long snout with open nostrils on the end.

The shell is olive, brown, or gray in color, sometimes with dark markings that fade with age. The head and limbs are olive to gray with dark markings and two light stripes mark each side of the head.
Diurnal.

Uncommon and not native to our area.

Found in permanent rivers, agricultural canals, drainage ditches, artificial lakes, and ponds.
Eats insects, crayfish, worms, snails, fish, frogs, and tadpoles.

Females crawl onto land and lay eggs between May and August that hatch between August and September.

   
Green Sea Turtle
Chelonia mydas

Video
turtle turtle turtle range map
Locations where Green Sea Turtles have been recorded are shown in Red.
  The shell is 30 to over 60 inches long.

A large sea turtle with powerful paddle-like forelimgs and a broad, low, smooth, heart-shaped shell.

The shell is green, olive, brown, gray, or black, sometimes with a mottled or radiating pattern. Green fat, not body coloring, gives this turtle its name.
Diurnal.

Rare in our area, but found regularly in San Diego Bay and in the mouth of the San Gabiel River.

Found in the ocean, feeding in lagoons, bays, estuaries, eelgrass and seaweed beds where there is abundant aquatic vegetation in shallow protected water. Mostly aquatic, rarely coming onto land.
Eats seaweed, algae, and maring invertebrates including sponges and jellyfish.

Females crawl onto sandy shores and lay eggs any time between February and January depending on the location. Young hatch at night and immediately crawl into the ocean.
     
Loggerhead Sea Turtle
Caretta caretta
  turtle turtle turtle range mapLocations where Loggerhead Sea Turtles have been recorded are shown in Red.
Adults are about 33 to 39 inches long, weighing about 300 lbs.

A large sea turtle with a broad head, a thick bony shell, and huge paddle-like limbs.

Reddish or orange-brown with yellow edging around the shields. Head and limbs are reddish to olive brown with many yellow-bordered scales.
Rare - occasionally found along the coast.

Aquatic. Lives in the opean ocean, entering bays, lagoons, marshes, estuaries, creeks, and large river mouths, but rarely coming onto land.

Eats a wide variety of marine plants and animals, including sponges, crustaceans, mollusks, jellyfish, worms, cephalopods, bivalves, barnacles, shrimp, and fish.

Females lay eggs on sandy beaches, often traveling over a thousand miles to get there. Eggs hatch in 46 to 80 days and hatchlings immediately crawl into the sea.

 
 
Leatherback Sea Turtle
Dermochelys coriacea
  Leatherback on beach covering her eggs Leatherback on beach covering her eggs Hatchling leatherback range mapLocations where Leatherback Sea Turtles have been recorded are shown in Red
The largest turtle on Earth, averaging 48 to 96 inches in shell length, and weighing 600 to 1,600 lbs.

A huge sea turtle with smooth leathery skin, a large head, and large paddle-like limbs.

Dark brown, slate, or blue-black, sometimes with pale blotches.
Rare - occasionally found along the coast.

Pelagic, living in the open ocean, occasionally entering bays and estuaries.
Eats mostly jellyfish, along with some marine plants, and marine invertebrates and vertebrates, including sea urchins, snails, octopi, squid, crabs, and small fish.

Females lay eggs on sandy beaches. Eggs hatch in 60 to 65 days. Hatchlings dig to the surface and crawl immediately into the ocean. Those found in California waters have been found to nest across the entire Pacific ocean in Indonesia, New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands.
 
 
Pacific Hawksbill Sea Turtle
Eretmochelys imbricata bissa
  turtle turtle turtle range mapLocations where Pacific Hawksbill Sea Turtles have been recorded are shown in Red
Adults are 18 to 36 inches long and up to 280 lbs.

A medium-sized sea turtle with large paddle-like limbs.

Dark greenish brown with a marbled or radiating pattern. Head is black to chestnut brown in the center with light margins.
Very rare in our area.

Pelagic, inhabiting shallow coastal waters in rocky places, rarely entering land.
Eats invertebrates, mostly spongs, along with mollusks, jellyfish, corals, sea anemones, sea urchins, crabs, rock lobster, fish, algae, sea grasses, and mangroves.

Females lay eggs on sandy beaches. Eggs hatch in 6- to 70 days and hatchlings dig to the surface and immediately crawl into the ocean.
 
 
Olive Ridley Sea Turtle
Lepidochelys olivacea

Video
turtle turtle turtle range mapLocations where Olive Ridley  Sea Turtles have been recorded are shown in Red
  The smallest sea turtle. Adults are 20 to 29 inches in length.

A small sea turtle with a round, flat shell, a large triangular head, and large paddle-like limbs.

The shell is olive to grayish green and the skin is gray.
Rare in our area.

Pelagic, found in open ocean and in bays, lagoons, and shallow waters offshore.
Mostly carnivorous. Eats mollusks, crustaceans, jellyfish, sea urchins, crab, fish, sea urchins, snails, jellyfish, and occasional plant material - algae, seagrass, and seaweed.

Females lay eggs on sandy beaches. Eggs hatch in 45 to 70 days. Hatchlings dig to the surface and immediately crawl into the ocean.


Frogs and Toads

Frogs and toads in coastal Southern California can be active most of the year, except during very hot and very cold weather. However, even during hot and dry weather, some species can be seen floating in water.

California Toad
Anaxyrus boreas halophilus
(formerly Bufo boreas halophilus)
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Video
california toad california toad california toad range map
Range shown in Red
  Adults are 2 to 5 inches long.

A large squat toad with dry warty skin.

Color is greenish, tan, reddish brown, gray, or yellowish with irregular dark blotches and a light-colored stripe down the middle of the back. Warts on the back are often on dark blotches.
Diurnal in cool weather, Nocturnal in hotter weather.

Common where found but less common in urbanized areas.

Found in a varitey of areas including marshes, springs, creeks, ponds, small lakes in woodland, forest, and grassland.

The only species of toad found in our area.
Eats a wide variety of invertebrates.

Females lay eggs in water some time between January and July, depending on the location, rainfall, and snowmelt. Eggs hatch into tadpoles in about a week or two. Tadpoles live in the water then transform into tiny toads and move onto land in about 1 to 1.5 months.

Active mostly late Winter through Fall except during extreme cold and extreme heat when it stays in moist shelters.


 
Arroyo Toad
Anaxyrus californicus
(formerly Bufo californicus)
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Video
frog picture arroyo toad arroyo toad range mapRange shown in Red
  Adults are roughly 2 to 3 inches long.

A plump and stocky toad with dry and warty skin.

Greenish, gray, olive, or dull brown in color, with no light stripe down the middle of the back, and light and dark spots.
Mostly Nocturnal.

Uncommon due to rare and vanishing habitat.

Found along sandy riverbanks, typically lined with willows, sycamores, oaks, and cottonwoods from sea level to about 3,000 ft.

Seriously threatened by loss of habitat largely due to development and human recreation along sandy creeks.
Eats mostly ants and a wide variety of other invertebrates.

Females lay eggs in water in quiet stream edges from March to July. Eggs hatch in 4 to 6 days. Tadpoles live in the water until they transform into tiny toads and move onto land in about 72 to 80 days, mostly in the late spring.

     
Baja California Treefrog
Pseudacris hypochondriaca hypochondriaca
(formerly Hyla regilla - Pacific Treefrog)
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Video
frog picture frog range mapRange shown in Red
  Adult frogs are 3/4 to 2 inches long.

A small frog with smooth skin, a large head and eyes, round pads on the toe tips, and a wide dark stripe through the middle of each eye.

Most frogs are green or brown in color overlaid with irregular dark markings, but some frogs are, gray, reddish, or cream in color.
Diurnal and Nocturnal.

The most commonly seen frog in our area.

Found almost anywhere there is water for breeding, including forest, woodland, chaparral, grassland, pastures, streams, and urban areas.
Eats a wide variety of invertebrates, including flying insects.

Females lay eggs in water some time between November and July. Eggs hatch into tadpoles in 2 to 3 weeks. The tadpoles live in water then transform into tiny frogs and move onto land 2 to 2.5 months later.

Active most of the year except during extreme cold and extreme heat when it stays in moist shelters.


 
California Treefrog
Pseudacris cadaverina
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Video
frog frog frog range map
Range shown in Red
  Adults are 1 to 2 inches long.

A small treefrog with rough skin and large pads on the toes.

Gray or brown with dark blotches. No dark stripe through the eye.
Diurnal and Nocturnal.

Common where it occurs in rocky creeks.Often heard calling at night between February and October.

Found in rocky streams in canyons, and washes with permanent quiet pools from sea level to 7,500 ft.
Eats insects, spiders, centipedes and other invertebrates.

Females lay eggs in water between February and October. Tadpoles live in water for 40 to 75 days then transform into tiny frogs and move onto land.

   
California Red-legged Frog
Rana draytonii
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Video
range map
Range shown in Orange
  Adults are about 2 - 5 inches long.

A medium-sized frog with smooth skin and a visible line on the sides of the back and a wide dark marking behind each eye.

Reddish-brown, brown, gray, or olive in color with small black flecks and spots on the back and sides and dark bands on the legs. Red coloring underneath the rear legs.
Diurnal and Nocturnal.

Rare and almost extinct in Southern California.

Found mainly in and near ponds in a variety of habitats, including forest, woodland, grassland, coastal scrub, and streamsides, but sometimes found far away from water.
Eats a variety of invertebrates, and ocasionally small vertebrates such as fish, mice, frogs, and salamander larvae.

Females lay eggs in water some time from November to April depending on the location. Eggs hatch into tadpoles in about a month. Tadpoles live in the water then transform into tiny frogs and move onto land 4 to 6 months later, or sometimes not until the following summer.

Mostly active late Winter through Fall.
 
 
Southern Leopard Frog
Lithobates sphenocephala
(formerly Rana sphenocephala)
Not Native to California

Call
frog frog frog range mapRange shown in Red
  Adults are 2 to 3.5 inches long.

A medium-sized leopard frog with a long pointed snout.

Brown or greenish with large dark spots bordered with light color, striping on the legs, and a visible ridge line on the upper sides.

Mostly nocturnal.

Rare in our area and not native.

So far, found only in riparian areas upstream of Prado Dam in western Riverside County.

Eats a wide variety of invertebrates, including crayfish.

Females lay eggs in water. In its natural habitat, breeding occurs in early spring in the Northeast, and during any month of the year in the South. Eggs hatch somewhere between 4 days and 2 weeks. Tadpoles live in the water for 50 to 75 days then transform into tiny frogs and move onto land.
 
 
Southern Mountain Yellow-legged Frog
Rana muscosa



Video
frog frog frog
Range shown in Orange
  Adults are 1.5 to 3.5 inches long.

Color is variable - olive, yellowish or brown above, with varying amounts of black or brown markings. No dark mask on the face.
Diurnal.

Rare and almost extinct. Captive breeding is being done to try to re-establish frogs in some areas.

Found only in mountain streams in the San Gabriel, San Bernardino, and San Jacinto Mountains from about 1,000 to 12,000 ft. in elevation.
Eats a variety of terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates, including beetles, ants, bees, wasps, flies, and dragonflies.

Females lay eggs in water after high creek waters have subsided, from March to May. Tadpoles may live in the water for as much as 3 or 4 summers before they transform into tiny frogs and move onto land.
     
American Bullfrog
Lithobates catesbeianus
(formerly Rana catesbeiana)
Not Native to California
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Video
frog picture
Range shown in Red
  Adults are 3.5 to 8 inches long. The largest frog found in our area.

A large frog with smooth skin and no lines on the sides of the back, and conspicuous eardrums.

Light green to dark olive green in color with irregular dark spots and blotches. Juveniles have many small dark spots.
Diurnal and Nocturnal.

Common, but not native to our area.

Found in permanent water - lakes, ponds, sloughs, reservoirs, marshes, slow rivers, irrigation canals, cattle tanks, and slow creeks, in almost any habitat which is open and sunny, including grassland, farmland, prairies, woodland, forests, and chaparral.
Eats anything it can swallow, including invertebrates, mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians.

Females lay eggs in water typically between May and August. Eggs hatch into tadpoles 3 to 5 days. Tadpoles live in water and grow very large, not turning into small frogs and moving onto land until anytime between a few months and a year to two years.

Mostly active late Winter through Fall.


 
Western Spadefoot
Spea hammondii
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Video
frog picture frog frog range mapRange shown in Red
  Adults are 1.5 to 2.5 inches long.

A fat squat spadefoot with large eyes with vertical pupils.

Color is greenish, brown, gray, or cream. Typically there are reddish spots, dark markings and 4 irregular light stripes on the back.
Nocturnal.

Common in some areas, but rarely seen. Spends most of its life underground.

Found in open areas with sandy or gravelly soils in various habitats, including mixed woodlands, grasslands, coastal sage, chaparral.



Eats a variety of invertebrates, including beetles, moths, crickets, flies, ants, and earthworms.

Females lay eggs in water some time between January and May after heavy rainfall creates temporary pools of water. Eggs hatch into tadpoles in about 3 to 6 days. Tadpoles live in water then transform into tiny spadefoots and move onto land in 4 to 11 weeks, depending on how long it takes for the pool to dry up.

Surface active only during rains, typically January to May in our area.


 
African Clawed Frog
Xenopus laevis
Not Native to California
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 range mapRange shown in Red
  Adults are 2 to almost 6 inches long.

A medium-sized frog with smooth skin, a flattened body, and a small head with a blunt snout and upturned eyes with no lids.

Olive to brown in color with irregular dark markings.

Rarely leaves water, but will move overland on rainy nights when ponds dry up.

Nocturnal and diurnal.

Common in some areas. A native of Africa.

Found in a variety of aquatic habitats, including slow streams and drainages, marshes, ponds, drainage ditches, flood channels, cattle tanks, sewage plant ponds, and golf course ponds.


Eats anything it can catch, including aquatic invertebrates, fish, and amphibians and amphibian larvae.

Females lay eggs in water any time between January and November, mostly in April and May. Eggs hatch into tadpoles in 2 or 3 days. Tadpoles live in water and transform into tiny frogs in 2.5 to 3 months or more.


Salamanders

Most salamanders in coastal Southern California are active on the surface only during the rainy season, typically October or November to May, and remain underground at other times.
Salamander larvae remain active in water throughout the summer. They are most often seen in moist areas underneath objects on the ground.

California Newt
Taricha torosa

Video
salamander salamander salamander range mapRange shown in Red
  Adults are about 3 to 3.5 inches long, not including the tail, and up to 8 inches with the tail.

A stocky, medium-sized salamander with rough skin, no grooves on the sides between the legs, and dark eyes with a yellow patch on top. When living in the water during the breeding season, the skin becomes smooth and the tail is wider.

Brown above, and pale orange or yellow below and on the head below the eyes.
Diurnal.

Common in some areas.

Found in wet forests, woodlands, chaparral, and grasslands.


Poisonous - Dangerous if Ingested
Eats a variety of small invertebrates, including worms, snails, slugs, sowbugs, and insects, along with amphitian eggs and larvae, and sometimes small vertebrates.

Females lay eggs in water between December and April, depending on location and habitat. Eggs hatch into larvae in 2 to 7 weeks. Larvae live in the water then transform into tiny newts and move onto land in several months.

Often seen crawling on the ground in daylight during wet weather.


 
Monterey Ensatina
Ensatina eschscholtzii eschscholtzii

Video
salamander salamander salamander Range shown in Purple
  Adults are 1.5 to 3.5 inches long not including the tail, up to 6 inches long with the tail.

A medium-sized salamander with smooth skin, dark eyes with a yellow patch on top, a tail that is constricted at the base, and visible grooves on the sides between the legs.

Orange or brown in color with lighter orange marking the upper eyelids,tail, sides of the head, and base of the limbs. Young have many light speckles on the body.
Nocturnal.

Common in moist woodland areas.

Found in moist shaded areas in forests, oak woodlands, mixed grassland, and chaparral.
Eats a wide variety of invertebrates, including spiders, beetles, crickets, sowbugs, centipedes, millipedes, worms, snails, and termites.

Females lay eggs in moist terrestrial places typically in April and May. Young hatch fully-formed, probably in the fall.

Typically seen under rocks, logs, or other surface debris, but sometimes seen crossing roads on rainy nights.
 
 
Large-blotched Ensatina
Ensatina eschscholtzii klauberi

Video
salamander salamander salamander Range shown in Dark Blue
  Adults are 1.5 to 3.5 inches long not including the tail, up to 6 inches long with the tail.

A medium-sized salamander with smooth skin, dark eyes with a yellow patch on top, a tail that is constricted at the base, and visible grooves on the sides between the legs.

Orange or brown in color with lighter orange marking the upper eyelids,tail, sides of the head, and base of the limbs. Young have many light speckles on the body.
Nocturnal.

Common in moist woodland areas.

Found in moist shaded areas in forests, oak woodlands, mixed grassland, and chaparral.

Found only in the Peninsular Mountains.
Eats a wide variety of invertebrates, including spiders, beetles, crickets, sowbugs, centipedes, millipedes, worms, snails, and termites.

Females lay eggs in moist terrestrial places typically in April and May. Young hatch fully-formed, probably in the fall.

Typically seen under rocks, logs, or other surface debris, but sometimes seen crossing roads on rainy nights.
 
 
Arboreal Salamander
Aneides lugubris

Video
salamander salamander salamander range mapRange shown in Red
  Adults are about 2 to 4 inches long not including the tail, which can be up to 3 inches long.

A medium-sized salamander with a large head and a tail that is often coiled.

Adults are brown with small cream to yellow spots on the body that can be tiny or large in size, and dense or sparse. Young are black with light speckles.
Nocturnal.

Uncommon in our area.

Found in moist places on land, mostly in oak woodlands, but also coastal dunes, forests, and urban areas.

Often found in yards and gardens in suburban and urban areas.
Eats a variety of small invertebrates, including millipedes, worms, snails, ants, termites, swo bugs, moths, and centipedes, and sometimes small salamanders.

Females lay eggs in moist terrestrial places in late spring and early summer. Young hatch fully-formed in August and September.

   
Garden Slender Salamander
Batrachoseps major major

Video
salamander salamander salamander range mapRange shown in Red
  Adults are 1.25 to 2.3 inches long, not including the tail, and typically they're about 4.5 inches including the tail.

A small slim salamander, with relatively short limbs, a long slender body and a long tail, that is sometimes mistaken for a worm.

Pale gray with a reddish color on the back and tail, although some are very dark. The belly is light in color.
Nocturnal.

Common.

Found from the foothills of the Santa Monica, San Gabriel, San Bernardino, and transverse range Mountains to the coast, in a variety of habitats, including coastal sage scrub, oak woodland, mixed woodland, grassy areas, and suburban gardens. Often found in exposed areas that are very hot and dry outside of the rainy season.
Eats a variety of small invertebrates, primarily small arthropods.

Females lay eggs underground from November to January. Young hatch fully formed from January to April.
 
 
Black-bellied Slender Salamander
Batrachoseps nigriventris

 


Video

salamander salamander salamander range mapRange shown in Red
  Adults are 1.25 to almost 2 inches long, not including the tail.

A small slim salamander, with relatively short limbs, a long slender body and a long tail, that is sometimes mistaken for a worm.

Color is dark brown or black with a reddish, brown, or tan stripe on the top of the back. The belly is dark in color.
Nocturnal.

Uncommon, but very common where it does occur.

Found only in the San Gabriel, Santa Monica, and Santa Ana Mountains, in oak woodlands, chaparral, grassland, streamsides, and mixed coniferous forest.

Eats a variety of small invertebrates.

Females lay eggs underground in winter. Young hatch fully formed in spring.


     
San Gabriel Mountains Slender Salamander
Batrachoseps gabrieli
  salamander salamander range mapRange shown in Red
  Adults are 1.5 to 2 inches long, not including the tail.

A small slim salamander, with relatively short limbs, a long slender body and a long tail, that is sometimes mistaken for a worm.

Black with a copper to orange stripe on the back that breaks into patches on the tail.
Nocturnal.

Rare.

Found in extensive rock talus on forested slopes, often near a stream, at elevations from 2,800 to 7,800 ft.

Known only from a few locations from San Gabriel Canyon in the San Gabriel Mountains to Waterman Canyon in the San Bernardino Mountains.
Eats small invertebrates, including ants.

Females lay eggs unerground, probably after the first heavy fall rains. Young hatch fully formed.

     
Barred Tiger Salamander
Ambystoma mavortium mavortium

Video
salamander salamander salamander range mapSome spots where Tiger Salamanders have been recorded shown in Red
  Adults are 3 to 6.5 inches long, not including the tail.

A large thick-bodied salamander with small eyes, and a wide, rounded snout.

Greenish yellow with large dark bars across the upper body.
Nocturnal.

Rare and not native to our area.

Adults spend most of their lives underground, but sometimes they are seen walking across roads on rainy nights.
Eats anything they can catch and kill, mostly invertebrates, but lizards, mice, and small snakes are also eaten.

Females migrate to water where they lay eggs after the rains begin. Eggs hatch in 8 to 9 days and the larvae live in the water until they transform into tiny salamanders in 10 or more weeks.









 

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