CaliforniaHerps.com

A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California


Alien Reptiles and Amphibians Introduced Into California





Feral Pet Herps
Found in California

Report an Invasive Species
Sighting to the California
Department of Fish and Wildlife
USGS Nonindigenous
Aquatic Species



observation link


Established and Breeding Reported but Not Yet Documented Formerly Present, Probably No Longer Present

(Also known as alien, introduced, exotic, non-indiginous, non-native, and if they have been proven to be harmful - invasive species.)

This is a list of non-native reptiles and amphibians which have been introduced into California through the actions of humans. These species have established self-sustained breeding populations. Most of them have arrived recently, spread by humans either intentionally or accidentally. In some cases these established populations may prove to be only temporary and they will eventually die out.

Released or escaped pet herps of almost any species are sometimes found in the wild, especially in heavily-populated areas, but these do not necessarily constitute an established population. See our page of some Escaped Pet Herps found in the state.

My intent here is to try to keep track of the established alien species which are the most common and widespread. There are certainly more species which have become established in small areas in California which are not on this list. (House Geckos living in pet stores, for example. It is doubtful these geckos have invaded the rest of the neighborhood and so they can't really be considered established.) More species will probably become established in the state in the future, and some introduced populations will disappear due to competition, weather, disease, intentional eradication, or other causes.


Please contact me by email if you find any wild non-native herps in the state. Send a picture if you can. I will try to contact somebody who is working to document them and to keep them from getting established.


The California Department of Fish & Game has an Invasive Species Program to prevent the spread of Invasive species and to reduce their negative effects.

Report an Invasive Species Sighting to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife


California Department of Fish and Wildlife information about how to prevent introductions of Invasive Species

You can look through their regulations regarding invasive species here and at Fish and Game Code Section 6400.
My interpretation is this: DON'T RELEASE ANY ANIMAL THAT IS NOT NATIVE TO CALIFORNIA in the water or on land.
It is also illegal to release native animals. See my information about the laws regarding captive native wildlife.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife .pdf About Problem Pets



Established and Breeding Alien Species in California

 
Frogs - Established
 
Lithobates (Rana) berlandieri - Rio Grande Leopard Frog  
Native to the southeast from the Atlantic to central Texas. Accidenatlly released near Yuma between 1965 - 1971, quickly spreading along the lower Colorado River area and the Imperial Valley. Range continues to expand.

frog picture
   
Lithobates (Rana) catesbeiana - American Bullfrog  
Native to the eastern and midwestern United States and southeast Canada. Introduced for food in the 1920's by commercial frog farmers due to its large meaty legs. Now established throughout most of the western United States and southwestern Canada.

frog picture
   
Lithobates (Rana) sphenocephala - Southern Leopard Frog  
Most likely first introduced into the Santa Ana River basin in 1929 or 1930, probably as larvae that arrived with other imported Bullfrogs, fish, and crayfish from Louisiana. Now common in the Prado Flood Control Basin.

   
Xenopus laevis - African Clawed Frog  
Originally native to South Africa. Brought to the US in the 1940's and widely used for laboratory study and human pregnancy testing. Also a popular aquarium pet. Escaped laboratory animals and released pets were established in California primarily before being banned in the 1960s.

African Clawed Frog
   
Eleutherodactylus coqui - Common Coquí  
This frog is listed as established in several locations in Southern California, but there is not much information about where they are. The presence of this alien frog is more apparent than that of most invasives because their loud nocturnal calls are annoying and obviously out of place.

I first received requests to identify coqui by sound during the summer of 2014 from people in San Diego and Los Angeles who were annoyed with the loud sound they heard all night, (one group of people thought was a bird calling) and wanted to find out what was making the sound and how to get rid of it. (These were just single frogs. Imagine how desperate people would get if there were many frogs calling.)


The California Department of Fish and Wildlife includes the Common coqui on their list of invasive species in California:

"A single coqui was collected from a private residence in Orange County in 2012 and was determined to have originated by “hitchhiking” on a tropical house plant. Subsequent inspections of the nursery from which the plant was purchased, in San Diego County, detected (heard) multiple calling males and resulted in the collection of one adult, two froglets, and a cluster of coqui eggs. Currently, that population appears to be confined to the single nursery site. However, in 2014, after a month of nightly calling, what homeowners in Ocean Beach (San Diego) thought to be a songbird was determined to be a coqui."


The SSAR Official Names List 7th Edition of 2012 also lists this frog as established in California:

"The Coqui is native to Puerto Rico, has been reported from four states, and is reported as established in California, Florida and Hawaii. It is widely established on Hawaii Island but is more restricted and the target of eradication efforts on the other Hawaiian Islands. Populations in California and Florida appear to be limited to nurseries (Dalrymple, 1994, Non-indigenous Amphibians and Reptiles in Florida in Schmitz, D. C. and T. C. Brown [eds.] An Assessment of Invasive Non-indigenous Species in Florida's Public Lands, Technical Rpt. TSS-94-100. Florida Department of Env. Protection, Tallahassee, FL., P; 67-78; K. Krysko, pers. comm.; D. Schnabel, pers. comm.) it is uncertain to what extent they are maintained by constant reintroduction, and they perhaps should not truly be considered established."


With the Coqui now established throughout the Hawaiian islands, California Department of Food and Agriculture inspectors are carefully inspecting all Hawaiian plant material for the frogs and their eggs, which are laid on leaves. They have already found frogs and their eggs in many shipments of ornamental plants from Hawaii. (James A. Bethke)

"Coqui frogs have been reported at Disneyland, Hermosa Beach and at nurseries" is listed as one of the highlights in a meeting of California Department of Food and Agriculture and California Department of Fish and Game [Fish and Wildlife] personnel 12/22/10 in Sacramento.

An ABC News report from 3/18/16 mentions a Beverly Hills Coqui whose calling neighbors thought was a broken house alarm prompting them to call the police, and a nursery in Torrance where Coquis appear to be established. They also mention that the tropical frogs are able to survive the semi-arid conditions of Southern California by living in areas that use sprinkler systems, such as nurserys and most homes in the area.


You can listen to the sound of a Coqui Frog recorded in Puerto Rico by Karen Cooper Here

You can also see and hear a Coqui Frog calling in this
YouTube Video


The California Department of Fish and Wildlife requests you take this action if you find a Common coqui:

"If this species is found (or heard) in California, do not release it. Immediately contact the CDFW Invasive Species Program to report your sighting at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Invasives/report, by email to Invasives@wildlife.ca.gov, or by calling (866) 440-9530."


frog picture© William Flaxington

frog picture© 2008 Dr. Peter Janzen
   
Salamanders - Established
   
Ambystoma mavortium (tigrinum) - Barred Tiger Salamander
 
Introduced into isolated locations in California, most likely through the introduction of released larvae used as fishing bait along with expanding irrigation in arid areas.

   
Lizards - Established
   
Anolis carolinensis - Green Anole  
This species is native to the south and southeastern United States and appears to be present and probably established at a number of locations in coastal Southern California.

Green Anole

Green Anole
   
Anolis sagrei sagrei - Cuban Brown Anole
 
I have received reports with pictures of established populations of Brown Anoles on a one acre palm garden in Vista and at another location in Santa Ana. I contacted some Southern California herpetologists who went to the site and published a report, documenting the first state record of this species established in California in Herpetological Review 45(4), 2014, which you can see on the A. sagrei page.

I have received reports that a population of this lizard exists at a private residence and its surroundings in Palm Desert and another in Rancho Mirage. I have not been able to confirm these yet, but photographs show the species and the presence of several lizards indicates an established population.

I have received another report showing a neonate lizard found at a residence in Orange County.

Colorado Desert Fringe-toed Lizard
   
Chamaeleo jacksonii xantholophus - Yellow-crested Jackson's Chameleon  
Native to East Africa. In California, Jackson's Chameleons have been introduced into San Luis Obispo, Los Angeles, and San Diego Counties. (McKeown, 1997 Bull. Chicago Herpetol. Soc. 32:101.) Locations include Morro Bay, Laguna Beach, and possibly the Palos Verde Peninsula.

   
Hemidactylus garnotii - Indo-Pacific Gecko (Fox Gecko)  
This gecko is native to South and Southeast Asia, the East Indies, and many South Sea islands, including Northeast India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand, the Malaysian Peninsula, Southern China, Taiwan, the Philippine Islands, Indonesia, New Guinea, new Caledonia, Polynesia, Fiji, Western Samoa, Vanuatu, the Cook Islands, and Tonga.
It has been established in Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Texas and California, and in the Bahamas and Costa Rica.


Range in California

Documentation of this species in California was first published in December 2015. (Gregory B. Pauly and Glen S. Yoshida. Herpetological Review 46(4), 2015.)

A population was found in Torrance, Los Angeles County, where it has been observed active during every month of the year since 2011. This population is apparently confined to one house lot.

Another population was found in Lake Forest, Orange County where adults and juveniles have been observed since 2009. This population was found in an area spanning eight house lots.

A third population was found in the city of Orange in Orange County in July 2014 by Anthony C. Huntle.


I have also received reports with pictures of alien geckos that might be this species from Los Angeles, Anaheim, and Palm Springs but the species has not been confirmed.

Mediterranean House Gecko
   
Hemidactylus turcicus - Mediterranean Gecko  
Native to the Mediterranean region. This gecko has spread rapidly throughout world, probably through human transportation of lizards and their eggs in shipments of nursery plants, lumber, and other goods. A fairly recent arrival in California, continuing to expand its range. Now widespread in the southern part of the state and southern San Joaquin Valley.
   
Podarcis siculus - Italian Wall Lizard  
A population of this Mediterranean lizard occurs in a suburban neighborhood in San Pedro, Los Angeles County. It was intentionally introduced in 1994.

Details are given in:
Deichsel, Guntram, Gary Nafis, and Jonathan Hakim.
Herpetological Review Volume 41, Number 4 - December 2010 P. 513-14

Another population was documented in San Marcos in September 2016. (Herpetological Review 47(3), 2016.)


   
Tarentola annularis - Ringed Wall Gecko (White-spotted Wall Gecko)  
In 2006 it was reported on the internet that there was a population of these geckos in Redlands, San Bernardino County.
"...there is a thriving population of Tarentola annularis in the downtown Redlands area. I've had reports of neonates from as much as 3 miles from the possible spot of the original introduction."

William Flaxington confirmed that they were there in 2007.
Jonathan Hakkim confirmed that they are still present in 2012.

In 2013 I gave William Flaxington's locality information to a Natural History Museum of L.A. County herpetologist who published the first documentation of the species in California in September, 2014. (Herpetological Review 45(3), 2014)

The species Tarentola annularis - Ringed Wall Gecko, is listed on the 2008 SSAR Alien Species list as native to northern Africa and established in Florida.

San Francisco Alligator Lizard© William Flaxington
   
Tarentola mauritanica - Moorish Gecko
 
Native to Mediterranean countries, found in isolated localities in California. Released or escaped pets are most likely the origin. The extent of the establishment of this species is not well known.

Reported as introduced and established in San Diego County, California.
(Mahrdt, 1998, Herpetol. Rev. 29: 52)

I have also received a report that a population of these geckos inhabited a building in Hanford years ago, and might still be there.

Moorish Wall Gecko
   
Snakes - Established
   
Nerodia fasciata - Southern Watersnake  
Native from the southeast into central Texas.

Established in at least three locations in California.

1 - Established in and around Lake Natoma in the city of Folsom, Sacramento County, most likely from escaped or released pets. First documented in 1992 in Folsom.
See: Stitt, Balfour, Luckau, Edwards - U.S.Fish and Wildlife Service Report, April 2005.


2 - Established at Lake Machado in Harbor City, Los Angeles County.
Watersnakes in Harbor City have been identified as Nerodia fasciata pictiventris - Florida Watersnake.
(2006. Herpetol. Rev. 37:363).

According to Michael Fuller of the Nerodia Working Group, a reproducing population of N. fasciata has existed in Harbor City in Los Anageles for several years. While the snakes key out to N. f. pictiventris morphologially, preliminary mDNA results (as of 9/08) suggest that they are Nerodia clarkii, or possibly hybrids of N. clarkii and N. f. pictiventris. The habitat is a freshwater lake, typical of that used by N. fasciata, while N. clarkii typically inhabit brackish waters.

Biologists from the USGS and CDFW with authorization from the LA Dept. of Parks and Recreation have made efforts to eradicate Nerodia from the lake. In 2010 approximately 300 Florida watersnakes were trapped and removed. Necropsies on the snakes performed by biologists with the USGS, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and UC Davis, found no remains of native species in their digestive tracts. Instead, the watersnakes were found to prey mostly on other invasive species found in the lake. According to USGS snake ecologist Robert Reed, young snakes prey mostly on nonnative mosquito fish, while older snakes prey on bullfrogs, and bullfrog tadpoles. The ongoing effort to clean up the lake and improve the water quality will increase the food source for the snakes and won't reduce their number. Reed says that the lake would have to be drained for at least a year in order to get rid of the source of food for the watersnakes, which would be the only sure way to get rid of the snakes.

LA Times 6/11/16


3 - In October 2015 state biologists confirmed the presence of southern water snake (Nerodia fasciata) at the Laguna Dam, Senator's Wash, and potentially nearby Mittry Lake, northeast of Yuma Arizona along the Colorado River at the border of California and Arizona. These snakes may have been introduced as released pets, but there is also a chance that they were brought to the area concealed in equipment that was brought in from the southeastern U.S. to a nearby U.S. Army base in Arizona.



Consult the California Nerodia website for more information about Nerodia (Watersnakes) found in California. If you find a snake you believe to be a non-native watersnake, go to the site to find out where you can send pictures for confirmation.
snake

Southern Watersnake
   
Nerodia sipedon - Northern Watersnake  
According to Michael Fuller of the Nerodia Working Group, and my own observations, a population exists in the vicinity of Roseville, Placer County, which is fairly close to the Folsom population of N. fasciata.


Consult the California Nerodia website for more information about Nerodia (Watersnakes) found in California. If you find a snake you believe to be a non-native watersnake, go to the site to find out where you can send pictures for confirmation.
snake
 
Ramphotyphlops braminus - Brahminy Blind Snake  
Native to South Asia and introduced around the world. First reported from Chula Vista in Herp Review, December 2010. Apparently spreading around Southern California.

snake
   
Turtles - Established
   
Chelydra serpentina serpentina - Snapping Turtle  
Introduced into a number of isolated localities in the state, probably as a result of the release of unwanted pets. May not be breeding in all locations.

Eastern Snapping Turtle
   
Chrysemys picta bellii - Western Painted Turtle  
Established in many locations in ponds throughout the state, especially in the coastal south, probably as a result of the release of unwanted pets.

Western Painted Turtle
   
Trachemys scripta elegans - Red-eared Slider  
Native to the south and midwest, from eastern New Mexico north into Chicago and south to the Gulf Coast of Alabama and Georgia. Found throughout California. A common pet turtle. The release of unwanted pets is largely responsible for the wide introduction of this species in California.

Red-eared Slider
   
Apalone spinifera emoryi - Texas Spiny Softshell  
Native to Texas and New Mexico. Probably introduced into the Colorado River system around 1900. Now ranges throughout the Colorado River and the Imperial Valley and in other Isolated populations, including several locations in San Diego County.


   

Occurance of Established Populations in California Reported but Not Documented and Confirmed


These are not yet on the SSAR  Alien Species list of herps found in California and not yet on my state list either.


Please email me if you have any pictures or additional information about any of these species or any other alien herps in California.


Many non-native herps have escaped into the wild in California. Alligators and Caiman occasionally show up in lakes and ponds and the press usually makes a big fuss over them. Most urban lakes contain a number of exotic species of turtles. (Jeff Lemm, in his Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of the San Diego Region, quotes biologist Mark Jennings, who has extensively surveyed Caifornia for reptiles and amphbians, as stating that there are "roughly 30 species of exotic turtles found in southern California's waterways, although not all of these are established." There are certainly many more alien species that have entered the wild in the state, but these are typically isolated instances and do not necessarily represent breeding populations, so they are not considered to be established non-native or exotic species, and they will not be listed here. See the Escaped Pet Herps page to see some of those that have been reported to me.

Lizards - Unconfirmed
   
Anolis equestris - Knight Anole (Cuban Knight Anole)  
There is an internet rumor that populations of these Cuban lizards occur in San Diego County. They have been established in Florida and Hawaii.

lizard© John Sullivan
   
Chamaeleo calyptratus - Veiled Chameleon  
I have been informed that a population of this species native to the Arabian Peninsula was established at a location in San Diego County in the early 2000's and may still be there and could be breeding. They originated from the escape of a captive collection.

lizard© Dave Shaw
   
Furcifer pardalis - Panther Chameleon  
There is an unconfirmed internet rumor that populations of these chameleons from Madagascar occur in San Diego County. This seems unlikely as there are not any established populations yet in Florida or Hawaii.

lizard© John Sullivan
   
Hemidactylus frenatus - Common House Gecko
Also called: Asian House Gecko.

Wickipedia Description

This species, originally from Southeast Asia, has been recorded in Garden Grove in Orange County. It has become established all over the world, including the United States where (so far) it has been found in North Carolina, Arizona, Hawaii, Florida, Georgia, Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama, Tennessee, and California. (Wickipedia 6/26/17)
Common House Gecko
   
Hemidactylus mabouia - Tropical House Gecko
Also called: African House Gecko; Wood Slave.

Wickipedia Description

This species, originally from sub-Saharan Africa, was introduced to the Americas by hitching rides on slave ships, It has been found in Orange County and it has become established in Florida.
Mediterranean House Gecko
Hemidactylus platyurus - Flat-tailed House Gecko
Also called: Asian Flat-tailed House Gecko; Flat-tailed Gecko; Asian House Gecko; Frilled House Gecko.

Wickipedia Description

This species, originally from Southeastern Asia and Southern Asia, has been found in Santa Ana, Orange County.
Mediterranean House Gecko
   
Bearded Dragon - genus Pogona  
These common pet lizards show up occasionally just about anywhere after escaping or after their owners dump them when they are no longer wanted. But in February 2016 I received a report that there is a feral population of these lizards in Tehachapi and nearby Bear Valley.

lizard
   
Turtles - Unconfirmed
 
Geochelone pardalis - Leopard Tortoise
A population of breeding Leopard Tortoises has been reported at Mission Trails Park in San Diego County. These tortoises, originally from Africa, are common pets. I have misplaced the source of this report, but Benjamin Lowe wrote in to tell me that "It comes from a list of the park's reptiles and amphibians that once graced the park's website and no longer seems to exist." My search of the park website also failed to find a herp species list. So now the mystery is - why were they added to the list?

lizard© John Sullivan
   
Snakes - Unconfirmed
   
Beauty Rat Snake - ake Beauty Snake - Orthriophis taeniurus  
More than one specimen of these snakes has shown up in Contra Costa County and in Santa Ana but it is not known if they are breeding in either location.
snake
   

Status in Doubt:   Formerly Present in Califoria, Now Apparently No Longer Present

 
Snakes - No Longer Established
   
Nerodia rhombifer - Diamond-backed Watersnake
 
This snake, native to the Southeast and farther south in eastern Mexico, was introduced to Lafayette Reservoir in Contra Costa County. First observed in the late 1980's, the population reached high densities in the early 1990's, bringing complaints from fisherman and other visitors who believed the non-native snakes were eating the reservoir's fish, frogs and turtles (which mostly consist of non-native stocked fish, non-native American Bullfrogs, and non-native Red-eared Sliders.) In 1996 a contract was awarded to a wildlife control company to begin to control the snake population. Just as efforts were begun to increase the control effort in December, 1997, large numbers of dead watersnakes and turtles were observed. The cause of the die-off is unknown, but dissected snakes were found to contain a respiratory tract fungus. An abnormally wet and cold El Nino weather system has been indicated as a possible cause for the outbreak. No watersnakes have been confirmed at Lafayette Reservoir since late 1999, but sightings are occasionally reported, and the population may still continue to hang on in low numbers.

Source:

Stitt, Balfour, Luckau, Edwards - U.S.Fish and Wildlife Service Report, April 2005.

Northern Diamond-backed Watersnake
   
Lizards - No Longer Established
   
Ctenosaura hemilopha - Spiny-tailed Iguana  
According to Robert Stebbins in California Amphibians and Reptiles, 1972, this species, native to southern Baja California, was once present in "...Fullerton, Orange County; some indications that it may be reproducing there."  There is no recent information that they still occur in the area.

lizard
   
Gehyra mutilata - Stump-toed Gecko  
A San Diego population in was reported in 1982 but it is no longer considered to be reproducing.

lizard© William Flaxington
   
Sceloporus cyanogenis (serrifer) - Blue Spiny Lizard  
According to Robert Stebbins in California Amphibians and Reptiles, 1972, this species, native to southern Texas and northeastern Mexico, could be found at the base of the Palms to Pines Highway above Palm Springs. Whether or not it was established and breeding was unknown. It does not appear that they remain in the area.

Blue Spiny Lizard
   
Turtles - No Longer Established
   
Gopherus berlandieri - Texas Tortoise  
According to Robert Stebbins in California Amphibians and Reptiles, 1972, this species, native to southern Texas and northeastern Mexico, could be found occasionally in the desert where it was released as an unwanted pet. Whether it became established anywhere was then unknown, but it is doubtful now that they are.

Texas Tortoise
   
Malaclemys terrapin - Diamond-backed Terrapin  
In the late 19th century hundreds of these turtles were released into the San Francisco Bay for use as a food source, but the conditions were not favorable for their survival and they were never established.



Red-eared Slider© 2011 Todd Pierson
   

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