CaliforniaHerps.com

A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California


Living with Wild Reptiles and Amphibians








observation link


What Kinds of Reptiles and Amphibians Might Live
on Your Property
Attracting Amphibians and
Reptiles to Your Property and Encouraging Them to Stay
Gardening and Managing Your Yard for Wildlife Ponds for Wildlife Dangers of Wildlife Netting and Erosion Control Netting
Dangers of Pest Control Sticky Traps Learning to Live With Wildlife Living With Snakes Keeping Snakes Off of Your Property Rattlesnakes
Rattlesnakes and Pets Turtles Walking On Land
Don't Always Need
to Be Rescued
Crossing Culverts Constructed by Communities to Protect Reptiles and Amphibians Pictures of Herps Found Around Homes  
 
The Wild Herp/Human Interface

Many people are fortunate to have native wild herps living on their property - frogs around artificial ponds; lizards in the backyard; gartersnakes that swim in the pool; gopher snakes under the porch; or salamanders that live under flower pots or even enter a swimming pool to breed. Others want to improve their property so they can encourage herps to take up residence. There are a number of resources available to help you learn how to attract wildlife to your yard. Most assume you want to attract birds, but some offer help with reptiles and amphibians. I have tried to assemble some basic information based on what I've read, and a little bit of my own experience with yard herps. I'm not a gardener or an expert on gardening for wildlife, but I have lived in and visited a number of areas of California where herps live on the property, in country, suburban, and urban settings, and I have done a little bit of reading about the subject. (There is no information here about caring for captive animals.)

I have also assembled a list of links to information about the subject. This information is general and applies to a variety of climates and animals, not all necessary found in California. Let me know if you find any other good links or have information to share. If you are interested in dealing with venomous snakes on your property, check out some of the links here.

Below the links on this page, I have compiled a list of herps that I have learned to be residents or regular visitors to urban or suburban properties around the state. The list and the locations are by no means meant to be complete, but they are a good place to start if you want to know what is living on your property. I will add more when I learn of them, so keep me posted. Look here for some information on a few of the many possible abandoned pets that might be found in California.


Please be aware that it is unethical and illegal to release non-native reptiles or amphibians onto your property.

Non-native species can kill or chase off native species, or bring in diseases against which the native species have no defense.

(There are many, many examples of this, including the ecological devastation that happened when the Brown Tree Snake was introduced to the island of Guam, and the devastation of Hawaii's native bird population, caused by the introdution of many non-native species which brought in avian malaria against which the native birds were defenseless forcing them to live only at altitudes too high for the malaria mosquitoes to thrive.)

What Kinds of Amphibians and Reptiles Might Live On Your Property
There are a number of factors which will determine the types of herps that might live in your yard or garden. Foremost, of course, will be where you live, and what herps naturally occur in the area, including established non-natives.

The condition of the land surrounding your property is also important. If you live on a large tract of land in the country, then you are more likely to have a wider variety of herps. If you are close to undeveloped natural land, or land that has been allowed to remain somewhat natural that provides a corridor between your property and some natural habitat, then there is more opportunity for herps to move into your property. Herps are also capable of crossing roads and urbanized habitat, and sometimes they even find a niche there.

The climate and how much shade and moisture and shelter are present are also important. If your yard is always dry and sunny, you probably won't have any amphibians. If it is always wet and shady, you will probably not have any reptiles. However, in some areas, you might see amphibians in the winter and reptiles in the summer. Southern California suburban yards often have lizards and maybe snakes, along with Garden Slender Salamanders that show up on the surface fall through spring, after rains.

The presence of predators, including household pets, especially housecats, will also determine how many herps survive on your property.

Here is a list of species that are fairly common in yards and gardens in California.
Attracting Amphibians and Reptiles to Your Property and Encouraging Them to Stay


Provide Shelter and Vegetation

If you want to make your yard and garden into good habitat for wildlife, you will have to fight off the urge to keep things too neat and tidy. And you need to be careful when mowing and trimming plants and cleaning up so you don't kill any herps. You don't have to live in a jungle, but you should at least leave some leaves and other debris on the ground to help attract and sustain insects and to provide cover for herps, and you should provide other kinds of cover such as piles of rocks, branches, and other debris for them to shelter under, and to help them escape from dogs, cats, birds, racoons, or other predators. Along with shelter and hiding places, reptiles need open sunny areas where they can bask in the sun, but retreat into cover if they are frightened. Amphibians also appreciate sunny areas with cover to hide under, where they can enjoy the heat, but stay out of the direct sunlight. Walls with plants and shrubs next to them are perfect for lizards, as are piles of rocks or wood which get sunlight.

Make sure there are no containers such as large empty flower pots that could trap herps if they fall into them. If there are potential traps around, try to provide some sort of "ladder" for them to crawl up to get out. Swimming pools often trap herps. (One commercial product has been designed to help frogs escape from swimming pools.)

There may be herps on your property that you never see because they are secretive or nocturnal. If you want to learn what secretive herps might be on your property, you can lay out a few large rocks and small boards in areas where they were not too conspicuous. These will provide hiding places for snakes and lizards and salamanders, which you can lift up and look under to see what herps might be hiding under them.You can also look under garden pots and other objects in the yard. Be careful not to crush them when you replace the cover objects. Never set something down on top of an animal. Even a slight change in position can trap or crush the animal. Always make sure the animal has moved away before you put the object back down. Let it crawl back under or run away after you set the object down. Most likely it will return to hide under the cover later. Also be careful not to squash any other living critters. These could be an important food source.

Herps can adapt to non-native vegetation as long as it provides the food and shelter they need, but, according to the experts, you should try to plant mostly a variety of native plants.


Use Pesticides Sparingly

Almost all herps that will be attracted to your yard eat insects and other bugs, so use pesticides and other chemicals sparingly to avoid killing off the food supply, or use natural pest control methods when necessary. It is also likely that strong pesticides might also kill or sicken your yard herps. And

Don't use rodenticides! Wildlife eat the dying poisoned rodents with devastating results.

Gardening and Managing Your Yard for Wildlife
Gardening For Wildlife 

National Wildlife Federation - Garden For Wildlife: Making Wildlife Habitat At Home

Gardening with Wildlife in Mind  

From About.com.

Wild About Gardening 

Building ponds, toad shelters, toad holes, and snake dens - from the Canadian Wildlife Association.

GardenWeb 

GardenWeb.com has forums, including a California Gardening forum, where you can post questions or do a search to read discussions about lizards or frogs in gardens, although they are not specific to California gardens.

Ponds for Wildlife
Frogs need more than just a pond

If you build a pond hoping to attract frogs and toads, you should know that most California frogs and toads are not strictly aquatic. They enter the water mainly to breed, then they leave to live on land. The native frogs and toads that you could find in your yard in California have evolved to live on land when ponds are low or dried up. Their tadpoles change into frogs in one season. This means that they need suitable habitat on land as much or even more than they need standing water.

If you build a pond to attract frogs, you are just as likely to attract non-native Bullfrogs as you are native species. Bullfrogs do stay in the water year-round, and they will make it difficult for other frogs to survive since they are voracious predators of anything smaller than themselves. (One way to get rid of bullfrogs is to empty the pond for part of the year. This will kill their tadpoles and force them to move away. However, more bullfrogs will probably return when you re-fill the pond.)

A number of people have asked where they can buy native frogs and toads to put in their pond. It is commendable that they want to restore the habitat back to what it once was, but if the most common and abundant frogs in the sate - the three species of Pacific Treefrogs - have not discovered your pond, it might be because the conditions surrounding your property are not what they need to survive. All frogs and toads need suitable habitat around a pond. Some spend most of their life in moist shaded woodlands and only come to a pond to breed.

Putting frogs in your pond

If you are determined to put frogs in your pond, you should know that is not legal to buy or sell most native reptiles and amphibians in California. You would have to collect some frogs or tadpoles yourself, with the proper license and following the rules limiting how many you can catch. But the law also states that you cannot release wild-caught herps back into the wild. I have not heard of anyone getting fined for introducing native species on their property, but it could happen since you would be breaking the law. You should try to find a neighborhood group that is re-populating native herps in your area, or contact the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for their advice.

Putting wild or captive-bred frogs and toads in your pond without the necessary conditions for their survival will probably result in their demise. When they are put in an unfamiliar area, many frogs will immediately leave and try to find a way back to where they came from, which usually leads to their death by predators or as roadkill. It is best to enhance your property to attract frogs that naturally occur in your area and hope that "If you build it, they will come."

Building a Frog-Friendly Pond

From About.com.

Froglog

A device for helping animals get out of swimming pools.

The Tucson Herpetological Society used to have a good brochure explaining why you do not want bullfrogs or crayfish in your pond but the link I had is now no good.

Aquatic Turtles and Outdoor Ponds

Things to consider before you put a turtle in an outdoor pond, from About.com.

Frogs Face Ranavirus Risk in Garden Ponds

A University of Exeter study published in June 2015 found that ranavirus, a disease which kills frogs, is more severe in ponds which contain exotic fish and in frogs which come into contact with chemicals used in gardens.

toad house toad
© Patty Sliney
This is a "toad house" designed and sold as a shelter for frogs and toads in the garden. You can buy them made in all sorts of fancy designs as you can see here, or you can make simpler ones on your own. A few of the many sites with instructions for making toad houses are here, here and here. Toad houses are designed to be placed in moist shady places, buried partly in the soil with leaves and other vegetation inside, in areas where toads may go to rest in the daytime. They can also provide moisture and shade in drier parts of the garden. If you have toads in your garden, they will probably use the shelter. If not, they probably won't attract toads, but you never know.… Be aware that in some areas they may also be used as a hiding place by snakes and other critters you might not care to encounter, so take caution when looking into a toad house.  
© Cayty Dornbush
This fat California Toad inhabits a Calaveras County garden along with several others.
Synthetic Netting Can Trap and Kill Herps

When synthetic netting is used for erosion control or as a barrier to restrict the movement of animals, snakes and other small animals will try to crawl through the gaps in the netting then get caught and trapped because they can't break the strands. Unless they are cut loose, they will die from exposure, starvation, or they will get eaten by another animal. Even small-mesh metal chicken wire, which is much less flexible than synthetic mesh, can trap and kill snakes. Unfortunately, some synthetic commercial Snake Fencing is meant to trap and kill snakes this way, as you can see in this YouTube video.

An alterative to synthetic erosion control netting is netting made of natural fiber such as jute that apparently is soft and flexible enough that snakes can break through it.


netting netting
Nylon netting is often used on the ground for erosion control, as a trellis for climbing plants, or as a barrier to keep unwanted pests out of the garden, but it can pose a terrible threat to snakes, which become entrapped in the mesh and die. Do not use this netting in your garden if you want to coexist with your native herpetofauna.
snake snake
snake snake
© Suzanne Camejo
Suzanne Camejo found this gophersnake in an apricot tree which it had climbed probably trying to raid a Mockingbird nest. The snake was entangled in nylon netting used to protect the fruit from birds. Suzanne and her friends cut the netting, which had dug into the snake's skin, to free the snake. They were repaid with the hissing and striking of a very stressed-out snake, but one that was now free to crawl away and continue to rid the garden of rodents and rabbits.

Although netting is used as a natural method of pest control, it can be a hazard to some animals, especially snakes.

snake   snake
© Paul J. Burke
This Red Racer was found dead, entagled in mesh laid on the ground as part of an abandoned landscaping project on a highway in Palmdale.
lizard snake
Lizards, like this Western Fence Lizard can also get trapped in synthetic mesh fencing. This one was rescued before it was too late. © Mark Miller © Osa Barbani
This gophersnake was found entangled in plastic "wildlife netting" used as a barrier to rodents and other pests. After freeing two snakes that were found caught in the netting, the property owner removed the netting to protect the snakes.
 
Glue Traps Can Accidentally Trap and Kill or Injure Reptiles and Amphibians

Glue traps, glue boards, roach traps, sticky traps, mouse traps, whatever they are called, any kind of trap that uses sticky glue to catch mammals and insects can also trap herps. Some glue traps are even sold as snake traps. The Humane Society of the United States discourages the use of glue boards calling them "ineffective, inhumane, and dangerous." The Humane Society webpage about glue boards recommends that you consult a trained profesional wildlife rehabilitator or veterinarian if you find an animal caught on a glue board. For times when that is not possible, they include instructions on how to use cooking oil to remove an animal from a glue trap. The website Living Alongside Wildlife also includes instructions on how to remove a snake from a glue trap.

patchnosed snake in trap cat
This Baja California Patch-nosed Snake was accidentally trapped in a trap meant for mice and rats. It was found alive but unable to free itself. This Mediterranean Gecko, an alien species, was found in a sticky trap in Fresno.
© Gene R. Hannon
Learning to Live With Wildlife

Living With Wildlife
- California Department of Fish and Wildlife


What to do about nuisance, dangerous, orphaned or injured wildlife.
Advice for common human-wildlife interactions. And more.

Living With Wildlife - Frogs

This Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife page has some excellent information about living with frogs in your pond and on your property that will be helpful in California, too.

Living With Wildlife - Snakes

Another good Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife page with good information on Tips for Attracting Snakes , including diagrams for building snake shelters - a rock pile and a snake board. Another section offers information about Preventing Conflicts With Snakes.

Living Alongside Wildlife - A natural history of the fascinating animals that share our landscapes -
Dr. David A. Steen's blog about coexisting with wildlife, with a focus on herps.

Wildcare is an urban wildlife rehabilitation center based in the Bay Area, that offers eduation about living with wildlife, a Living With Wildlife telephone hotline, and a wildlife rehabilitation hospital.

Lyme Disease and Lizards Los Angeles

Murray Susser, MD's Blog Post
In this blog the doctor is advising people not to put lizards in their yard to help protect them from contracting Lyme Disease, because it doesn't work. He is not advising people to remove all lizards from their yard.

Living With Snakes

The Idyllwild Antivenom Group

If you live near the San Jacinto Mountains in Southern California, the Idyllwild Antivenom Group offers antivenom for pets who have been bitten by the Southern Pacific Rattlesnake and information about pets and rattlesnakes.

How to Get Along with Snakes

Florida Museum of Natural History
Information about dealing with Florida's snakes which are useful for our snakes. Includes illustrations on how to capture a snake in a garbage can that is safe for both human and snake.

Building a Snake Hibernaculum

From the Toronto Zoo.

Artificial Hibernacula

Respectthesnake.com documents the building of arfificial hibernation structures for the Lake Erie Water Snake at an Ohio State Park.

Controlling Snakes

Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management information on controlling non-venomous snakes - building snake barriers, repellants, etc.

Keeping Snakes Off of Your Property

National Wildlife Federation: Eliminating Snakes In Your Yard


The NWF has created a web page discussing what you can do to try to keep snakes away from your property, and why there really is no need to do so.



Snake Repellants

Some people just can't stand snakes, even the smallest and most harmless ones. Or they fear for the safety of their pets and children should a venomous snake get onto their property. For these ophidiophobes, there are several types of snake repellants on the market. Some plug into the ground, claiming to make vibrations that snakes will avoid. Some are powders or liquids that you pour onto the ground, with names such as Dr. T's Snake-A-Way, SerpentGuard, Sweeney's Snake Repellent, Hi-Yield Snake Repellent, Snake Stopper, and Liquid Fence. These typically guarantee to get rid of venomous and non-venomous snakes and keep them from coming back. They claim to be eco-friendly, and use ingredients such as cinnamon, cloves, and fuller's earth, or sulphur and naphthalene (moth balls.) I can't recommend any of them because I have not tested them nor heard from anyone who has had success with them. It would be hard to determine if it works anyway, since snakes are secretive and often nocturnal, so you have no way of knowing that it is working unless you see snakes, which means it isn't. There are YouTube videos claiming to prove that repellents work and others showing that they don't work, such as this one, which makes a very good case against one particular brand, showing that 3 venomous species and one non-venomous snake that were placed inside a wide band of repellent applied in a large circle on the ground, did not hesitate to crawl through the repellent.


Snake Traps

There are also snake traps on the market, such as Snake Guard Snake Trap and Cahaba Sake Trap. These are similar to "roach motels" and sticky mouse traps, being open-ended flat boxes with a sticky bottom. When the snakes crawl into the box, because it looks like shelter, they will get stuck. You can then kill the snake, if you find it before it hasn't died from starvation, exposure, or from being eaten by scavengers, or you can release it after spraying it with non-stick cooking oil. I have not tested these traps, but I suspect they do work, as long as a snake crawls into the trap. That's the problem, since there is nothing inside to attract the snake. It can also be an inhumane method of capture unless you check the trap daily, and will also trap and kill any other kind of animal or invertebrate that enters the box. There is more information about glue traps above.


Snake Fences

I've seen snake fences for sale, which consist of synthetic netting on small posts about a foot high that you stake to the ground. If a snake tries to crawl through the net, it will get caught. This will probably also work, if you use enough of it, but it is a terribly inhumane method which leaves a snake to suffer, die, and rot or get eaten by a scavenger. There is more about this above.

The Tucson Herpetological Society has a good brochure about living with venomous reptiles including a diagram showing how to build a solid snake fence.


Reptile Relocation Services

Some people want to have a rattlesnake removed from their property instead of trying to kill it themselves. Often the snake they found is harmless, but they want it removed anyway. There are reptile relocators in many parts of the state where rattlesnakes are found that you can contact. There is a very good list available here: Melissa Kaplan's List of Reptile Relocators in California.

Rattlesnakes

The only dangerously venomous (poisonous) snakes naturally found in California are rattlesnakes.
Below is a collection of links I have assembled to help you deal with living around these dangerous snakes. There is more information about rattlesnakes on my Living With Rattlesnakes page.

Living With Rattlesnakes

California Department of Fish and Game: Rattlesnakes in California

University of California: Rattlesnakes Management Guide

Florida Museum of Natural History: How to Get Along with Snakes

Southwestern Field Herping Associates: Venomous Snake Safety

The Tucson Herpetological Society: Living With Venomous Reptiles

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife: Living With Snakes

Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management - Rattlesnake Control / Snake Control

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Venomous Snakes

Anapsid.org: Melissa Kaplan's Rattlesnake Information Page


Snake Bites


California Poison Control System (search for "rattlesnake bite")

University of Arizona: Rattlesnakes

Justin Schwartz' Rattlesnake Bite Story and Pictures

eNature - How to Avoid Snakebites and How to Treat One

The Amazing Story of Andy Cat - a very lucky pet cat who was bitten by a rattlesnake and survived, thanks to the smart actions of its owners.

Wickipedia List of Fatal Snake Bites in the United States


Rattlesnakes and Your Pets

Rattlesnake Avoidance Training For Dogs
Some dog owners pay to have their dogs trained to avoid rattlesnakes. Some people think this is cruel to the dogs because it uses electrical shock collars to shock the dog when it gets near a snake, and even cruel to the snakes. The training does not always appear to be effective on all dogs.

Organizations like the Humane Society offer the training for a price. Natural Solutions is an online company that also sells this training service (in Southern California, at least.)

I can't recommend any of these training programs since I have no personal experience with them, but I have heard from dog owners whose dogs were trained but failed to avoid rattlesnakes, and from others who say the training works. More than one training may be necessary. I have heard animal experts recommend that once the training is completed, dog owners should not automatically assume that their dog will always avoid snakes, but should watch the dog carefully to make sure the training worked. One person whose dog seemed to fail its first training had his dog trained a second time by Natural Solutions with more positive results.


Rattlesnake Vaccines For Dogs
There are a number of companies that offer vaccinations for dogs in order to protect them from rattlesnake venom. I have not researched the validity of their claims so I can't endorse them or tell you to avoid them. You will need to figure that out on your own. I have chosen one site Rattlesnakevaccinations.com to illustrate the claims about what these vaccines will do. Keep in mind that while it looks like unbiased scientific information this site is basically just an advertisement for a particular product. (A product which may work very well, I don't know for sure.) They state that "Rattlesnake vaccine is designed to reduce the likelihood of death, permanent injury, and severe pain caused by rattlesnake bites. The vaccine stimulates the dog's immune system to produce antibodies against rattlesnake venom." They also state that the vaccine doesn't contain the sheep or horse proteins found in antivenom which can cause severe allergic reactions. One vaccine is given, then another is given 30 days later, and then a booster is given every 6 months to a year.
Another company that offers information about vaccines is Rattlesnake Vaccines for Dogs.


If you live near the San Jacinto Mountains in Southern California, the Idyllwild Antivenom Group offers antivenom for pets who have been bitten by the Southern Pacific Rattlesnake and information about pets and rattlesnakes.

cat
The inspirational Story of Andy Cat - a cat who was bitten by a rattlesnake and survived, with before, during, and after photos. Some pets die from a rattlesnake bite, but this cat is one of the lucky ones, thanks to the smart actions of his owners. There are some very good tips here that might help you if your pet is bitten by a venomous snake.
Pets as Herp Predators

CatBib


A device that interferes with a housecat's ability to catch birds. It probably stops them from catching herps, too. Your cat will probably pee in your shoes if you put on on it, but your yard lizards will love you for it.
Rescuing Stray Turtles

Don't pick up a turtle to rescue it just because you find it walking on land
!

I will pick up turtles I find crossing a busy road, take them to the side they were heading towards, then leave them there. That is probably all the help they ever need. If you see a turtle walking on land and not on a road, it is probably not sick, or lost. It could be looking for a place to lay its eggs on land or just moving around normally, so the best thing to do is leave it alone. Many concerned people who think they are helping a turtle by picking it up and bringing it to a wildlife rehabilitation center are actually harming it by removing it from the wild unnecessarily.

The same thing applies to most herps. They sometimes leave the habitat where you expect to find them and this is normal. Unless the herp is truly lost (in your house or trapped in a fenced yard, etc.) or is in immediate danger, it's best to leave it alone and let it be on its way.
Crossing Culverts Constructed For Reptiles and Amphibians
Some communities have build tunnels with fences to guide reptiles and amphibians to cross under a road instead of over the road where many of them have been killed by traffic during their annual migrations. Below are links to a few of these.

Cotati California Tiger Salamander Tunnel
Amherst, MA Salamander Migration Tunnels
New Monkton, Vermont Salamander Crossing Culverts
Waterton Lakes National Park Salamander Crossing Tunnels
The SPLAT Project Amphibian Tunnel in B.C., Canada
Snake Crossing Culverts at the Snake Dens in Narcisse Canada.
frog sign
Herps Sometimes Found In California Yards

These are some herps that I know have been found living around humans in California, typically in yards. There are most certainly many more.  The locations listed here are not the only places they occur, just the ones I have heard of.

Snakes

Gopher Snakes
- This is probably the most common yard snake in the state, from the valley to the East Bay to the Mohave desert to Riverside county and San Diego county.

California Kingsnakes - Have been found in yards near open space.

Gartersnakes - Have been found swimming in swimming pools and fountains in Sonoma and San Diego Counties. Found in yards on the north coast.

Northern Pacific Rattlesnakes - Sometimes found in yards, often in the Sierra Nevada Foothills near Sacramento where new housing developments have encroached on rattlesnake habitat.

Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes - Sometimes found in yards in rural areas.

Red Coachwhips - Often seen in yards in desert communities.

Ring-necked Snakes - Found under debris in moist shaded areas - San Rafael, San Jose, Van Nuys.

Sharp-tailed Snakes - Found under debris in moist shaded areas in yards in Northern California, including Marin County and the northern Sierra Nevada Foothills.

Threadsnakes (Blindsnakes) - Occasionally found on wet pavement in San Diego County. I received a report of one crawling on someone's kitchen floor.
 
Lizards

Western Fence lizards
are probably the most common yard lizard in the state, often seen basking on fences and walls.

Alligator lizards are probably the second most common yard lizard, especially in southern California where they sometimes live in garages and enter homes.

Side-blotched lizards - Found in desert communities and semi-arid areas, such as Moreno Valley and San Diego County.

Granite Night Lizards - Have been found living on houses in San Diego and Riverside Counties, where they eat insects attracted to lights, similar to geckos.

Mediterranean Geckos - Have been found living in and on houses in the Palm Springs area, in Ocotillo, near Fresno, and elsewhere. They appear to be spreading.

Long-tailed Brush lizards - Found on suburban vegetation in the Palm Springs area, and probably in other desert communities.

Legless lizards - Sometimes found in gardens and leaf litter in San Diego and Los Angeles Counties.

Anoles - In the southeast and Hawaii, these lizards are common in yard vegetation and on external walls. I have even seen them enter the house. Reports of Green Anoles and Brown Anoles seen in southern California yards are increasing.
 
Turtles

Red-eared Sliders
- Sometimes found in artificial ponds.
 
Frogs and Toads

California Toads
- Found in yards in many locations around the state, although not as many as there used to be. They are attracted to areas with lawn sprinklers. Some isolated desert locations where they have been found (possibly introduced) are California City, Borrego Springs, and Ridgecrest.

Northern Pacific Treefrogs - Often found in yards on the far north coast, entering ponds and other standing water to breed.

Sierran Treefrogs - Found in wet yards and ponds throughout the northern part of the state.

Baja California Treefrogs - Adults and tadpoles are found in and around southern California ponds, and sometimes swimming pools.

Bullfrogs - Found in artificial ponds over most of the state, and sometimes swimming pools.

Northern Red-legged Frogs - Found in ponds and yards along the north coast.

California Red-legged Frogs - Found in ponds on rural property in the East Bay.
 
Salamanders

California Slender salamanders
- Commonly in yards in the Bay Area. Often mistaken for worms.

Garden Slender Salamanders - Common in yards in Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange, and Riverside Counties. Often mistaken for worms.

Arboreal salamanders - Often found in yards in the Bay Area and sometimes inside garages and basements. Seen climbing on sidewalks and on walls on rainy nights.

California Giant Salamanders - Found in forested areas near creeks in the Santa Cruz Mountains and in Marin County during rainy weather.

Northwestern Salamanders - Found under debris in wet areas along the north coast.

Rough-skinned Newts - Found under debris in wet areas along the north coast and in ponds.
Pictures of a Few Herps That Were Encountered by Humans and Pets in Houses, Yards and Gardens
   
salamander cat and snake
San Diego Alligator Lizards are fairly common in suburban yards and gardens, especially in Southern California, and occasionally they enter garages and even houses as they wander around looking for food or water or mates, but this is the first one I've seen that was able to climb up a kitchen counter and fall into a sink.
© Ketarah Shaffer
© Luke Davis
Rattlesnakes are often unwanted yard visitors that can pose a threat to your pets and to you. This cat was very lucky not to tangle with this Southern Pacific Rattlesnake. Look above or on this page for some links to information about dealing with rattlesnakes on your property and rattlesnakes and your pets.

lizard
snake
Western Fence Lizards are common in yards in many areas of California. © Linda Morgan
This Red Racer (or Coachwhip) was a surprise visitor to a back porch in San Diego County. 
snake skink
© Tim Herbert
This harmless Pacific Gopher Snake was an unexpected surprise when it showed up on the porch one day.

© Sean Kelly
Sometimes herps are seen in around swimming pools, including frogs and some species of salamanders that become aquatic and breed in the water. Most of them probably fell in and could not climb out. This Western Skink was scooped out of a pool that it had fallen into. 

lizard lizard
© Grace Macy 
Imagine coming home to find this big alligator lizard on your screen door!

© Debbie Frost
These Sierran Treefrogs found a comfortable resting spot above a front door where they return each day. Click on picture for a wider view.
frog snake
This California Red-legged Frog made herself right at home at a backyard Koi pond, returning every night to sit and wait for food.
© Tamara Spaur
This little juvenile Mohave Shovel-nosed Snake was found in a swimming pool in a desert community near Palms Springs.
© Jim Dillon
lizard frog
Legless lizards are often found in Southern Calfornia gardens under bushes, ground cover and leaf litter with loose soil.  This adult and juvenile were found in a lush overgrown yard shaded by huge pine trees when an old oleander stump was removed. © Lori Stevens
This bullfrog, swallowing a goldfish, has taken up residence in the goldfish-stocked artificial ponds in a Tehama County yard.
© Bonnie Kieley
lizards lizard
© Carola Bundy
These two male San Diego Alligator Lizards were spotted fighting over a female on a back porch in Los Angeles County.
A Juvenile Mediterranean Gecko climbs up a kitchen window in Austin, Texas.
bullfrog pool
© Carrie Galvin
A freeloading American Bullfrog catches some rays in an (unchlorinated) El Dorado County pool, where it has returned for three consecutive winters to be the pool's only resident.
In winter, Northern Red-legged Frogs enter this artificial pond on the
Humboldt  County coast to breed and lay eggs.
salamander
salamander
Arboreal Salamanders are common residents of some yards, especially in the Bay Area, but they are secretive, wandering around only on rainy nights, so they often go unnoticed. This one lived in my garage in Oakland. This tiny Arboreal Salamander was photographed in a Marin County yard in early February. These salamanders are not uncommon in moist yards in the SF Bay Area, along with California Slender Salamanders.
salamanders lizard
© Joe Garcia
These female Monterey Ensatinas were found brooding their eggs underneath a wet rotting board that was under a house in Monterey County.
© Ameet Zaveri
This California Alligator lizard is climbing up a screen door in Alameda County.
lizard lizard nest
A female fence lizard lays her eggs in a nest she dug on a San Diego County patio in mid June. © Connie McDowell
If you are fortunate to discover nesting activity like this, it is probably best to continue with your usual gardening activities. Since the female chooses a location where the moisture and temperature will be good for her eggs to incubate (for 60 days in this case.) If you alter your watering habits or try to protect the eggs by covering them with something solid (a screen might work) or with extra dirt, they might not hatch. Just try not to step on or dig up the spot until they hatch. (And tell your cats and dogs to do the same.)
snake snake
© Deb Barringer
This large gopher snake wandered across a suburban front yard full of rodent burrows.
© James Rowe
This California Kingsnake found resting on some stairs on a cool evening was harmless but nevertheless quite a shock to one minature long-haired dachshund.
treefrog snakes
© Diane L. Sieker
This Baja California Treefrog showed up on a back porch one night in Riverside County.
© Robert O'Brien
Sharp-tailed snakes are common visitors around (an in) the house in some areas of the state. These snakes live under the front door mat.
rattlesnake salamander
© Von T. Freeze
This rattlesnake must have been a surprising find in the yard in March.
© Laurie Dey
This adult Arboreal Salamander was rescued from the bottom of the deep end of a swimming pool.
salamander salamander
© Sean Kelly
This Rosy Boa was found basking on a driveway in San Diego County.

© Kim Lewis
Some People have all the luck - like those who found this beautiful baby Gila Monster by their swimming pool in Las Vegas.

salamander salamander
This tiny hatchling side-blotch lizard was found inside an office lobby.
© Kim Burtnyk
Sonoran Desert Toads have disappeard from California, but they're very common in much of Arizona, especially after the summer monsoon rains begin. At that time, they are often seen in yards such as this one near Phoenix. © Julie Latta
lizard lizard
This large San Diego Alligator Lizard was found climbing up a security door.
@ Mark Flores
A homeowner was fortunate to witness an epic battle on her driveway between a San Diego Alligator Lizard and a California Striped Racer that probably tried to eat the lizard when the lizard defended itself.
salamander salamander
During the dry period, roughly from June to October, Arboreal Salamanders hide out in cool moist areas, usually underground, sometimes even in basements and underground garages. This one was found underneath the circular base of a large statue in a Santa Clara County backyard in August.
© Laurie Weber
This large adult Pacific Gopher Snake was a shock to find crawling on a deck in San Jose. © Clay Foster
salamander California Striped Racer
This Green Anole somehow came through a cat door into the house. Lucky for it I found it before the cat did. This California Striped Racer was found in a garden in Nevada County.
Western Coachwhip Western Coachwhip
This Western Coachwhip lives and hunts by a front door in Santa Fe. © Claudie Inoue
Bullsnake Bullsnake
This Bullsnake likes to drink water from an artificial pond in a Santa Fe yard. © Claudie Inoue
salamander salamander
Treefrogs sometimes like to hang around sinks and showers in houses, like this Sierran Treefrog in Sonoma County.
© Eddie Rosen
People who live in communities the desert will find desert species on their property. This baby Desert Banded Gecko was found in a desert greenhouse. © Jennifer Rosta
rattlesnake brush lizard
© Jay Selman
A rattlesnake on your doorstep is not a welcome sight to most people, but it should not be a cause for panic. Check this page for some links to information about dealing with rattlesnakes on your property.
In populated areas in the desert such as the Coachella Valley and Palm Springs, desert lizards often live in planted and irrigated yards. The Long-tailed Brush Lizard has evolved to live mostly on creosote bush, but it can also live among exotic yard plantings such as this Cape Honeysuckle. © Dan Schroeter
rattlesnake sign
This escaped pet Corn Snake has inhabited a Sacramento backyard for more than a year, and sometimes comes out to lounge by the pool.  
 


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