A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California


observation link

The goal of this web site is to promote public awareness, appreciation, and understanding of California's indigenous reptiles and amphibians and their natural habitats. It is also intended as a source of entertainment for reptile and amphibian enthusiasts.

This is a work of journalism, not science. My goal is only to report on the scientific studies of Caliornia's herps, not to make my own studies.

When this site was started in 2000, my intention was to try to document all of California's reptiles and amphibians, illustrating the various subspecies or pattern classes and other regional variations and phases, which could not be found easily in print or elsewhere online. It has since grown to include many animals from outside of California as I travel and photograph them, but California is still the core focus of the site. The site should really be split into two parts - California,  and Everything else - but that would involve twice the cost, which brings us to this:

This site is not affiliated with any institution, organization, or agency.
It has been privately funded and developed by me, myself, and I,  but it has been improved tremendously from information and photographs from its audience. The site is intended for my own education and entertainment, and to help me to connect with others with similar interests. It is not for profit. I got the .com domain before I realized that .org would be more appropriate, so cut me some slack - I'm a herp nerd, not a computer nerd. I'm also not a scientist or a PHD, so there's no need to adress me as such.

I have taken care to make sure the information I show is accurate and complete, but it may not be. You should consult primary sources for definitive information. I take no responsibility for any losses or damages incurred by using this web site and the information and illustrations used in it.

Basically, this is just another internet fan site, 
but instead of a pop star or cute cats, it covers herps. It will be continually updated. The New Additons page will help you keep up with some of the recent changes.

The web site is aimed at anyone who knows the common name or scientific name of a reptile or amphibian found in California who wants to see pictures and a little information about an animal. It is also for anyone who needs help identifying wild California reptiles and amphibians and learning their common or scientific name. I realize it's a bit difficult for a novice to find a particular animal, but that's just how it has to be.

I have made every effort to be as accurate as possible, but I'm only a human in a world run lawyers, so I need to emphasize that I do not make any guarantees about the accuracy of any of the information found on this website. Any error or omissions in the checklists or any other information provided by this web site are solely my responsibility and do not reflect on any other source. Errors inevitably occur, but when they have been pointed out, I have gladly corrected them. This has been my only system of outside review and editing, so please feel free to email me if you see something that you think is inaccurate. I appreciate your interest in guaranteeing the accuracy of the site and I really won't get upset when you tell me I've made a mistake.

I have not footnoted ever bit of information (this is not a scholarly text...) but the majority of the species account information is adapted from other published sources which are noted under "references."

Please honor the copyright of the sounds and photographs and videos found on this site. Most are available by Creative Commons. Here are the usage guidelines for this site.

This site was not originally intended to be a comprehensive field guide to California's herps, but it has gradually expanded into one. For the current standard field guide covering all of the herps of California see Western Reptiles and Amphibians 3rd Edition, by Robert C. Stebbins, © 2003 Houghton Mifflin Company, which was published in the Spring of 2003. It  is still the most widely-used and accepted guide to the herps of our region, (though it looks like a new Stebbins California field guide should be out in 2012.) Previous editions of this book were the popular standard for many years. (Here is a quick-index to this book that you can stick on the cover, which will let you search for individual species much more quickly than using the index in the back of the book.) For a list of other field guides covering herps in California, look here.

The Scientific and Common Names used here are based mostly on the most recent lists published by the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles. You can read more about this here.

Most of the herps shown here were found living in their natural habitat in California, or in neighboring states where many of the same species native to California also occur, including Baja California. The majority of the animals were photographed and left right where they were found. When a herp was handled for close-up photography, measures were taken to avoid stressing or injuring it. Even the most nervous animals will usually calm down with time, allowing a brief time to photograph them, but sometimes cooling them in an ice chest for a few minutes will avoid stressing them unnecessarily. However, very few of the animals shown here were chilled to make them easier to photograph. A few of the animals depicted here are captive specimens from private collections, labs, or museums that I was allowed to photograph, and many photos have been donated or borrowed from the internet with permission and credit.

Most of the pictures illustrating the habitat of a particular species were taken at the exact spot where a member of the species was found. Some show better-looking or more-easily photographed locations with suitable habitat near where the species was found. (Many species were found at night on a road and the aproximate habitat was photographed at another time in daylight.) Some of the habitat pictures illustrate typical habitat at a location where a species has been reported or is represented by a museum specimen.

Unlike the many so-called nature shows that are so popular now with their over-dramatic wildlife manhandlers who insist on proving their dominance over the biggest and most dangerous animals, the intent here is to show native herps and their habitat, not to showcase the hunter and photographer. Human hands might be shown to give an indication of an animal's size and occasionally people are shown holding animals, but you won't see anyone wrestling crocodiles here.

Range Maps
Tim Burkhardt made many excellent dot-locality distribution maps in 2001 and 2002. Jeremiah Easter has also provided a couple of dot-locality maps, and I have made some locality maps for a few introduced species. The other range maps are a less-precise illustration of the general historical distribution of an animal in California. They are only meant to give a general idea of an animal's range, so do not take them too literally, especially the ranges of subspecies, which never end as abruptly as illustrated here. These maps have been created by adapting maps and using range information from field guides, scientific papers, museum records, web sites, and personal observations and personal communications. In early 2014 I increased the size of all of the maps and added county lines. The county lines have made the maps appear to be more accurate than they are, but they have also encouraged a number of viewers to email me with suggestions for places where the ranges are not accurate. That helps me tremendously, so please email me with any new range information you have.

The animals shown here are not for sale. I do not have any other animals for sale, either. It's not something I do. My understanding is that it is not legal to buy, sell or trade most species of California native reptiles and amphibians in California. I don't know the laws outside of California. There are some exceptions, and the laws are always changing. I am not here to give out legal advice, so check with the California Fish and Wildlife Commission for the exact laws. The special permits section may have some useful information about captive propagation of native herps.

I do not provide information here about caring for captive herps. I do not oppose keeping herps as pets, but I do not have enough experience to provide care information for most species. For a few places to start looking for information, check the list of pet care information sources. Keep in mind before you buy or collect a new pet herp that it may not be legal to release a captive animal, even a native animal, back into the wild in California. Check with the California Fish and Wildlife Commission for the specific laws on this subject.

Many species of herps are undergoing serious declines in population and distribution due to loss of habitat. Some authorities also attribute these losses to collecting since it is apparently easier for them to blame individuals than to tackle the complicated problem of our land-use needs vs. land conservation. We do not want to encourage the collection of wild herps unless there is long-term plan to care for them, but we understand that collecting native herps and caring for them as pets can help develop an appreciation, an understanding, and a respect for them that is not often gained through reading or observing alone. And without this appreciation there certainly would be no popular interest in intelligent conservation and protection of our native herps.

This site seems to look best at the 1024 x 768 screen resolution with medium text size. All browsers deal with the same html code in different ways. I am not an html expert, but the site is checked on a few different browsers. Occasionally I check it on Internet Explorer  when I'm on a Windows machine. (Microsoft no longer updates this browser for us Macintosh users). If the text appears too small, try increasing the text size on your browser. The site has mostly been created with Macromedia Dreamweaver.

Mobile Devices The site seems to work fine on mobile devices, but I haven't made a specific version for mobile use. I don't know how, and I feel no need to take the time to learn since I will not receive any payment for my time and effort. However, since I couldn't use the pop-down menus at the top of the site on my device, and I assume it's the same on all mobile platforms, I made a special set of clickable links found at the bottom of each page.

This is a Cookie-free site, with no annoying Pop-up ads. You're welcome! There is enough bad web-design here to annoy you without adding more distractions.

Unfortunately, some of our links to other sites may have expired when you try to use them. Please let me know if you find any and I will try to fix them or remove them.

Very Important Legal Disclaimers

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