CaliforniaHerps.com

A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California







Reptiles and Amphibians of the San Francisco Bay Area

 






range map
Area covered here is marked in red.




observation link

 

These are the native and well-established alien herps that inhabit the Bay Area, which for our purposes includes the land surrounding most of the San Francisco Bay including parts of Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, Napa and Marin counties. In the East Bay, the range covered extends out to around Livermore, or before the mountains. As you go east into where the Coast Range meets the Central Valley, several new species occur which are not covered here. Not every animal shown here is present in every part of the Bay Area. If an animal is not found in the entire area covered here, a note is included indicating where it is found, but you should always look at the range map for each species to make sure it occurs in the area where you found it. Click on the link to see a map showing the animal's range, and to see more pictures, videos, and information that will help you with your identification. These pictures do not depict every possible variation in appearance of each species, but in some cases more than one picture is included to illustrate some of the differences.


Snakes

Most snakes in the San Francisco Bay Area are active during warm and sunny weather, typically from late February through October, and remain underground at other times.

Pacific Gopher Snake
Pituophis catenifer catenifer
Not Dangerous to Humans
Video
Video
Snake Snake Snake Range Map
Range shown in Red and Gray
  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 rusty coloring on the back and head.
Diurnal. Nocturnal on hot nights.

Probably the most commonly seen snake in our area.

Found in many habitats - grassland, chaparral, agricultural, riparian, woodlands, 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.
     
Western Yellow-bellied Racer
Coluber constrictor mormon
Not Dangerous to Humans
Video

Video

Video
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.

Common.

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.
     
California Kingsnake
Lampropeltis californiae
(formerly Lampropeltis getula californiae)
Not Dangerous to Humans
Video
Video
Snake Snake Snake Range Map
Range shown in Red
  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.

Color is black or brown with light bands circling the body.
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.
     
Northern Rubber Boa
Charina bottae
Not Dangerous to Humans
Video
Video
Snake Snake Snake Range Map
Range shown in Red
  Adults are usually 15 to 25 inches long.

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

Color is a solid light brown, dark brown, pinkish, tan, or olive green. Occasionally there is dark mottling, and the end of the tail is sometimes orange or yellow. Young are sometimes pink.
Nocturnal and crepuscular.

Common but secretive.

Found in grassland, meadows, chaparral, woodland, deciduous and coniferous forest.
Eats small mammals, birds, salamanders, lizards, snakes, and possibly frogs.

Young are born live some time between August to November.
 
California Mountain Kingsnake
Lampropeltis zonata
Not Dangerous to Humans
Video
Video of similar species
Sierra Mountain Kingsnake Sierra Mountain Kingsnake Snake range map
Range shown in red
  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.

 

 

California Nightsnake
Hypsiglena ochrorhyncha nuchalata
(formerly Hypsliglena torquata nuchalata)
Not Dangerous to Humans
Video
Video
Snake Snake Snake Range Map
Range shown in Purple
  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.


 
Sharp-tailed Snake
Contia tenuis
Not Dangerous to Humans
Video
Video
Snake Snake Snake Range Map
Range shown in Red
  Adults are typically 8 to 12 inches long. Hatchlings are 3 inches long.

A small thin snake with a flattened head.

Gray or rusty red in color. The head is typically reddish on top, light gray on the sides with a black stripe through each eye. The underside is pale with alternating black crossbars. Sometimes there is a yellow or red stripe on the upper sides. Juveniles are red with dark lines on the side.
Common but secretive and rarely seen crawling.

Found in moist areas in woodland, forests, grassland, chaparral, often near streams or water.

Typically found underneath wood or rocks or leaf litter in moist areas, often in suburban yards.
Eats slugs and their eggs and small salamanders.

Females lay eggs in June or July which hatch in fall.


 
Forest Sharp-tailed Snake
Contia longicauda
Not Dangerous to Humans
Video
Video
of similar species
Snake Snake Snake Range Map
Range shown in Orange
  Adults average 11 inches in length. Hatchlings are 3 inches long.

A small snake with a flat head.

Gray or rusty red in color. The head is typically reddish on top, light gray on the sides with a black stripe through each eye. The underside is pale with alternating black crossbars. Sometimes there is a yellow or red stripe on the upper sides. Juveniles are red with dark lines on the side.
Common but secretive and rarely seen crawling.

Found in moist areas in woodland, forests, grassland, chaparral, often near streams or water.

Typically found underneath wood or rocks or leaf litter in moist areas, often in suburban yards.
Eats slugs and their eggs and small salamanders.

Females lay eggs in June or July which hatch in fall.

Secretive. Usually found hiding underneath objects. Found only on the Peninsula.


 
Pacific Ring-necked Snake
Diadophis punctatus amabilis
Not Dangerous to Humans
Video
Video
Snake Snake Snake Range Map
Range shown in Red and Gray
  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.

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

Found in the West Bay, South Bay, and North Bay.
 
 
Alameda Striped Racer
Coluber lateralis euryxanthus
(formerly Masticophis lateralis euryxanthus)
Not Dangerous to Humans
Video
Video
of similar subspecies
Snake Snake Snake Range Map
Range shown in Blue
  Adults are typically 3 to 4 feet long. Hatchlings are about 13 inches long.

A slender fast-moving snake with a long thin tail and a broad elongated head.

Dark brown or black with a wide orange stripe on each side. No stripe on the back.
Diurnal.

Found in open areas in chaparral, open woodlands, rocky hillsides and stream courses.

Found only in the East Bay.

Threatened due to disappearing habitat.
Eats lizards, small rodents, birds, frogs, salamanders, and small snakes.

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



 
Coast Gartersnake
Thamnophis elegans terrestris
Not Dangerous to Humans
Video
Video
Snake Snake Snake Range Map
Range shown in Purple
  18 to 43 inches long.

A slender snake with a head barely wider than the neck and keeled scales.

Variable in appearance. Color is brown, gray, or black, with a light colored stripe on each side and one on the back. Typically there are red and black markings on the sides inbetween the stripes. Some snakes have little or no red, others are amlost entirely red on the sides or have red side stripes.
Diurnal.

Common and conspictuouis. Abundant in some areas.

Found in grassland, mixed woodland, forest, dunes, and brushland. Most likely to be found near water.
Eats a wide variety of prey, including amphibians, amphibian larvae, fish, birds, small rodents, lizards, snakes, worms, leeches, slugs, and snails.

Young are born live July to September.
  Diurnal. Common in many wetland areas.
 
Santa Cruz Gartersnake
Thamnophis atratus atratus
Not Dangerous to Humans
Video
Video
Snake Snake Snake Range Map
Range shown in Red and Gray
  Most adults encountered are 18 to 28 inches long. Newborns are 7 to 10 inches long.

A slender snake with a head barely wider than the neck and keeled scales.

Color is gray, brown, or black, with a wide yellow or orange stripe on the back and no stripes on the sides.
Diurnal.

Common.

Very aquatic, usually found in or near water. Found in creeks, streams, lakes, ponds, coast driftwood, in woodland, brush, and grassland.
Eats amphibians and their larvae and small fish.

Young are born live late summer to early fall.

Found only in the West Bay. Snakes in the North Bay are a cross between this snake and the Diablo Range Gartersnake.
 
 
Diablo Range Gartersnake
Thamnophis atratus zaxanthus
Not Dangerous to Humans
Video
Video
Snake Snake Snake Range Map
Range shown in light Blue
  Most adults encountered are 18 to 28 inches long. Newborns are 7 to 10 inches long.

A slender snake with a head barely wider than the neck and keeled scales.

Color is gray, brown, or black, with a wide yellow or orange stripe on the back and no stripes on the sides.
Diurnal.

Very aquatic, usually found in or near water. Found in creeks, streams, lakes, ponds, coast driftwood, in woodland, brush, and grassland.
Eats amphibians and their larvae and small fish.

Young are born live late summer to early fall.

Found only in the East Bay. Snakes in the North Bay are a cross between this snake and the Santa Cruz Gartersnake.
 
 
California Red-sided Gartersnake
Thamnophis sirtalis infernalis
Not Dangerous to Humans
Video
Video
Snake Snake Snake Range Map
Range shown in Red
  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. Stripes are blue on some snakes in the north bay.
Diurnal.

Common in some areas.

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.

 
 
San Francisco Gartersnake
Thamnophis sirtalis tetrataenia
Not Dangerous to Humans
  Range Map
Range shown in Blue
  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. Stripes are blue on some snakes in the north bay.
Diurnal.

Common in some areas, but threatened by loss of habitat.

Found in grasslands, and wetlands near ponds, marshes and sloughs.
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.

Found only on the peninsula south of San Francisco north of Santa Cruz.


 
Northern Pacific Rattlesnake
Crotalus oreganus oreganus
(formerly Crotalus viridis oreganus)
Venomous and Potentially Very Dangerous!
  Snake Snake Snake Range Map
Range shown in Red and Gray
Video
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.

No longer present in most developed areas.
Eats small mammals, birds, lizards, snakes, and frogs.

Young are born live from August to October.


 
Western Black-headed Snake
Tantilla planiceps
Video
Video
Snake Snake Snake Range Map
Range shown in Red
  From 4 to 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, that hatch in summer.

Found in the South Bay and East Bay.


 
Long-nosed Snake
Rhinocheilus lecontei
Not Dangerous to Humans
Video
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.

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.

Reported from Mt. Diablo.
 
 
Lizards

Most lizards in the San Francisco Bay Area are active during warm and sunny weather, typically from late February through October, and remain underground at other times. They are most often seen during daylight sunning themselves on rocks, branches, fences, or walls, or running on the ground.

Coast Range Fence Lizard
Sceloporus occidentalis bocourtii
Video
Video
Lizard Lizard Lizard Range Map
Range shown in Dark Blue
  Lizard Lizard Lizard
  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 fences, walls, branches, and rocks.


     
San Francisco Alligator Lizard
Elgaria coerulea coerulea
Video
Video
Lizard Lizard Lizard Range Map
Range shown in Red and adjacent Gray
  Adults are about 3 to 6 inches long, not 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, gray, olive, or brown in color with a pattern of heavy dark blotches or irregular crossbands edged with white spots on the back. Sometimes there is little or no pattern. Young are a coppery color with no pattern and are often mistaken for a small ground skink.

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 woodlands, forest, grassland, chaparral, coastal dunes, and marshes. Prefers wetter and cooler habitats than the California Alligator lizard.
Eats a variety of small bugs, slugs, snails, and worms, and sometimes small lizards and mammals and birds and their eggs.

Young are born live from June to September.

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

Moves with a snake-like undulating motion.
     
California Alligator Lizard
Elgaria multicarinata multicarinata
Video
Video
Lizard Lizard Lizard Range Map
Range shown in Red and Gray
  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.
     
Northern California Legless Lizard
Anniella pulchra

Video Video of Similar Species

Lizard California Legless Lizard California Legless 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.

Uncommon and 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.
 
 
Blainville's Horned Lizard
(Formerly Coast Horned Lizard)
Phrynosoma blainvillii
Video 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.

Uncommon. 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.


 
Western Sagebrush Lizard
Sceloporus graciosus gracilis
Video
Video
Lizard Lizard Lizard Range Map
Range shown in Orange
  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.

Uncommon in our area.

Found in areas grown with shrubs such as sagebrush, manzanita, and ceanothus, mostly in the mountains, where there are open areas that get a lot of sun.

In our area, found at higher elevations of Mt. Diablo.
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.
     
Western Side-blotched Lizard
Uta stansburiana elegans
Video
Video
Lizard Lizard Lizard Range Map
Range shown in Red
  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 where they occur, but uncommon in our area where it is only found in the far East Bay and parts of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

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.
 
 
Variegated Skink
Plestiodon gilberti cancellosus
Video
Video
of smiliar subspecies
Lizard Lizard Lizard Range Map
Range shown in Orange and adjacent Gray
  Adults are 2.5 to 4.5 inches long, not 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. Older adults have a dark network of markings on the back. 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.

Found in the East Bay only.

Eats small bugs.

Females lay eggs in the summer.

Typically found underneath rocks or other surface debris.

 
 
Skilton's Skink
Plestiodon skiltonianus skiltonianus
Video
Video
Lizard Lizard Lizard Range Map
Range shown in Red
  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.

Typically found underneath rocks or other surface debris.
 
 
California Whiptail
Aspidoscelis tigris munda
Video
Video
Lizard Lizard Lizard Range Map
Range shown in Orange
  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.

Gray, tan, or brown in color, with dark spots or bars on the back and sides that form 8 faint or indistinct brown stripes. The overall appearance when seen moving at a distance is of dark and light spots all over the body. 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.
 
 
Mediterranean Gecko
Hemidactylus turcicus
Not Native to California
Video
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.
Turtles

Most turtles in the San Francisco Bay Area are active during warm and sunny weather, typically from about late February through October, but sometimes they are active all year.

Northern Western Pond Turtle - Actinemys marmorata
Southern Western Pond Turtle - Actinemys pallida
Video
Video
Turtle Turtle Turtle range map
Range 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.

Fairly common, 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
Video
Turtle Turtle Turtle Range Map
Range 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.
 
 
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.

Rare 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
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 paddlelike 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. Only occasionally seen off the coast.

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.
 
 
Frogs and Toads

Frogs and toads in the San Francisco Bay Area 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.

Sierran Treefrog  
Pseudacris sierra
(formerly Hyla regilla - Pacific Treefrog)
speaker icon
Call

Video
Video
frog picture Frog Frog range map
Range shown in Orange
  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. If you hear frogs calling at night, it is usually this species.

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 Toad
Anaxyrus boreas halophilus
(formerly Bufo boreas halophilus)
speaker icon
Call

Video
Video
california toad california toad california toad range map
Range shown in Red and Gray
  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.


 
California Red-legged Frog
Rana draytonii
speaker icon
Call

Video
Video
Frog Frog Frog range map
Range shown in Orange and Purple
  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.

Common where it occurs, declining due to loss of habitat due to development.

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.
 
 
American Bullfrog
Lithobates catesbeianus
(formerly Rana catesbeiana)
Not Native to Calfornia
speaker icon
Call

Video
Video
frog picture Frog Frog Range Map
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.


 
Foothill Yellow-legged Frog
Rana boylii
speaker icon
Call

Video
Video
frog picture Frog Frog range map
Range shown in Red
  Adults are 1.5 to about 3 inches long.

A small frog with bumpy skin and no dark markings between or behind the eyes and a faint light mark across the top of the head.

Color is gray, brown, or olive, and either plain or with irregular dark mottling. Yellow under the rear legs.
Diurnal and sometimes nocturnal.

Rare: gone from most of its former range in our area, but still present in some outlying areas.

Found in rocky streams and rivers with open, sunny banks, in forest, woodland, and chaparral.
Eats a wide variety of aquatic, flying, and terrestrial invertebrates, including spiders, snails, and grasshoppers.

Females lay eggs in still water of creeks and rivers from April to July, depending on when the water flow has slowed down sufficiently. Eggs hatch into tadpoles in about a week to 5 weeks. Tadpoles live in water then transform into tiny frogs and move onto land 3 to 4 months.

Mostly active late Winter through Fall.
 
 
Western Spadefoot
Spea hammondii
speaker icon
Call

Video
Video
frog picture Frog Frog range map
Range 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.

Uncommon and 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.

Found in the East Bay and South Bay only.
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
speaker icon
Call
Frog Frog Frog  range map
Range 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.

Rare and alien to our area. A native of Africa. So far, known only from ponds in Golden Gate Park in our area.

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 the San Francisco Bay Area 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 Slender Salamander
Batrachoseps attenuatus
Video
Video
Salamander Salamander Salamander Range Map
Range shown in Red
 

Adults are about 3 to 5.5 inches long, including the tail.

A tiny slender salamander with tiny legs that are not easily seen, making it look much like a worm.

Color is dark brown or black with a wide red, brown, yellow, or tan colored stripe on the back with a herringbone pattern.

The only small wormlike Salamander species found in our area.

Nocturnal.

Common but secretive. Probably the most common salamander in our area.

Often found underneath surface objects in yards and gardens in suburban and urban areas.

Found in moist locations in a wide variety of locations, including chaparral, woodland, grassland, forests, urban yards, vacant lots, marshes, and beach driftwood.
Eats a variety of small invertebrates, including springtails, small beetles, snails, mites, spiders, and isopods.

Females lay eggs in moist terrestrial places in October and November. Young emerge from the eggs fully formed in about 2.5 to 3 months.

Typically seen under rocks, logs, or other surface debris, but also found under garden vegetation, and sometimes seen crawling across wet sidewalks on rainy days and nights.
 
 
Arboreal Salamander
Aneides lugubris
Video Video Salamander Salamander Salamander Range Map
Range 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.

Common but secretive.

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.


 
Oregon Ensatina Intergrades
Ensatina eschscholtzii oregonensis
Video Video Oregon Ensatina Oregon Ensatina Oregon Ensatina Range Map
Range shown in Red
  Adults are 1.5 - 3.2 inches long not including the tail, up to 6 inches long with the tail.

A medium-sized salamander with smooth skin, dark eyes sometimes with a faint 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.

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.
 
 
Yellow-eyed Ensatina
Ensatina eschscholtzii xanthoptica
Video Video Salamander Salamander Salamander Range Map
Range shown in Yellow
  Adults are 1.5 - 3.2 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.

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.
 
 
California Newt
Taricha torosa
Poisonous - Very Dangerous if Eaten
Video
Video
Salamander Salamander Salamander Range Map
Range 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.

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


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.


 
Rough-skinned Newt
Taricha granulosa
Poisonous - Very Dangerous if Eaten
Video
Video
Salamander Salamander Salamander Range Map
Range shown in Red
  Adults are 2.5 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 yellow or orange below.
Diurnal.

Common.

Found in grassland, woodland, and coniferous forest near ponds, lakes, streams and creeks that are used for breeding.

Eats a variety of small invertebrates, salamander and frog eggs, and tiny fish.

Females lay eggs in water during late winter and spring in our area. Eggs hatch into larvae in about 3 weeks. Larvae turn into tiny newts and crawl onto land in about 4 or 5 months.

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


 
California Giant Salamander
Dicamptodon ensatus
Video
Video
Salamander Salamander Salamander Range Map
Range shown in Red
  Adults are 2.5 to almost 7 inches long not including the tail, and up to 12 inches with the tail.

A large robust salamander with smooth skin, a massive head and stout limbs.

Reddish brown overlaid with copper-colored marbling.
Nocturnal and also diurnal in wet overcast conditions.

Common but secretive.

Found in wet coastal forests in or near clear, cold, permanent and semi-permanent streams and seepages. Also found in a network of caves near Santa Cruz.

In our area, found on the Southern Peninsula and in Marin County only.

Eats anything it can overpower and eat, including slugs, invertebrates, salamanders, rodents, and lizards.

Females lay eggs in water that take about 5 months to hatch. Larvae live in water and transform into tiny salamanders and move onto land in about 18 months.

Adults are typically seen underneath rocks or logs, but sometimes seen crossing roads on rainy nights or on the ground in suburban yards at night.
 
 
Santa Cruz Black Salamander
Aneides flavipunctatus niger
  Salamander Salamander Salamander Range Map
Range shown in Orange
  Adults are 2 to almost 4 inches long, not including the tail, and up to 5.5 inches long with the tail.

A medium-sized salamander with smooth skin, and visible grooves on the sides between the legs.

Black in color with a few fine white specks. Young have more light speckling than adults.
Nocturnal.

Uncommon.

Found in mixed woodland, forests, and grasslands.

Found on the Southern Peninsula and in the Santa Cruz Mountains only
Eats small invertebrates, including insects, millipedes, ants, and termites.

Females lay eggs in moist terrestrial places in July and August. Young hatch fully-formed.

Adults are typically seen underneath rocks or logs.


 
California Tiger Salamander
Ambystoma californiense
Video
Video
Salamander Salamander Range Map
Range shown in Red
  Adults are 3 to 5 inches long, not including the tail, and up to 8.5 inches with the tail.

A large salamander with smooth skin, and a large wide head with small eyes.

Shiny black with large yellow spots and bars on the back and sides.
Nocturnal.

Secretive and rarely seen.

Found in grassland, oak savanna, and at the edges of mixed woodland, where there is access to temporary breeding pools.

Surface active only during the rainy season, typically November to May, hiding underground at other times.
Eats a variety of invertebrates.

Females lay eggs in water from November to May after rainfall has created temporary breeding pools. Eggs hatch in 2 to 4 weeks. Larvae live in water for 4 to 5 months before transforming into tiny salamanders and moving onto land.

Typically seen crossing roads on rainy nights in winter.








 



Home Site Map About Us Identification Lists Maps Photos More Lists CA Snakes CA Lizards CA Turtles CA Salamanders CA Frogs
Contact Us Usage Resources Rattlesnakes Sounds Videos FieldHerping Yard Herps Behavior Herp Fun CA Regulations
Beyond CA All Herps


Return to the Top

 © 2000 -