These are just the locations that I know about.
There are probably more. If you see a lizard that looks like this living in the wild anywhere in California - one that is not shown on the map above or the county list below - please contact me and send a picture if you can for verification.
Moorish Geckos have small granular scales with intermittent large tubercles.
Adults grow to 4.5 - 6 inches in total length (11.4-15 cm). The maximum head-body size is 3 & 5/16 inches (8.4 cm).
(Powell, Conant, & Collins, 2016)
A robust-bodied lizard with a flat head, prominent tubercles on the upper surfaces, large bulging eyes with vertical pupils and no eyelids, and elongated toe pads.
The tail is easily detached, but it will regenerate. Regenerated tails do not grow tubercles.
Color and Pattern
Color is brownish, grey or sandy with dark and light markings.
Color changes from dark during daytime to light phase at night.
The underside is white to yellow.
Young geckos have dark bands.
Similar Non-native Geckos Found in California
Ringed Wall Geckos are larger with less wrinkled skin with less prominent tubercles, and they have white spots on the shoulders. Mediterranean Geckos are smaller with fewer large tubercles and lack the white spots on the shoulders. Peninsular Leaf-toed Geckos are smaller, with fewer tubercles and no white spots and in California are only found on rocks in the Colorado Desert in the extreme south-central part of the state. They are not found in urban or suburban areas.
Life History and Behavior
Nocturnal, but also known to bask in the sun during cooler parts of the year.
A good climber.
Males defending territories make squeaking calls.
The tail is easily detached and when detached will wriggle for a few minutes which may distract a potential predator from the gecko long enough for it to escape.
Diet and Feeding
Eats small invertebrates and possibly small vertebrates.
Often seen foraging for food under artificial light sources.
In its native habitat, 2 - 3 clutches of 1 or 2 eggs are laid around April and June.
Moorish Wall Geckos take several years to reach sexual maturity.
Found in its native habitat on stone walls, boulders, and piles of wood in warm, dry, lowland coastal areas.
Alien populations are typically found on inside and outside walls and cinderblock fences.
The species is native to the coastal Mediterranean area of Europe and Africa.
It has been established in Florida, California, Argentina, and Uruguay.
Moorish Geckos in California probably originated as escaped pets but some of them could have been transported from wild populations, probably from Florida originally, and then they could have been transported from already established California populations to new locations.
The first published report of this species being established in California was a 1998 Geographic Distribution Note in Herp Review that puts the introduction as most likely in or before 1995:
"TARENTOLA MAURITANICA (Common Wall Gecko).
USA: CALIFORNIA: SAN DIEGO Co: 1.5 km S El Cajon city limits in a private residential community ... 200 m. 8 September 1997. Mike Sloop. San Diego Natural History Museum (SDSNH 68675). Verified by L. L. Grismer. An adult female 56 mm SVL (5.5 g) with ovarian eggs in right ovary. Several individuals were detected by the property owners in March 1996, one month after moving to the neighborhood. On the evening of 23 September 1997, I counted 10 individuals (7 adults, 3 hatchlings). Adults were extremely wary and observed near lights at the top of stucco walls and rafters on two buildings. Geckos were found on residential buildings 0.2 km from the core area, and populations >20 individuals have been observed. A resident said that a local pet shop sold this species and other exotic reptiles. It is unclear when the introduction occurred. The colony has survived at least two successive winters (1995-1996). This lizard is expected to expand its range from this localized site in San Diego area. Previously introduced in New Jersey via cork bark shipments from the Mediterranean region, but attempts to colonize were unsuccessful (Conant 1945, Copeia 1945:233). New state record and first record of a breeding population in the United States."
(Clark R. Mahrdt, Herpetological Review 29(1) p. 52, 1998)
Below are locations where this species has been found in California,
based on museum records, published information, and emails to this web site.There are mutliple locations reported in some of the cities listed, especially in El Cajon where they appear to be most common and where they may have been introduced in or before 1995. Moorish Geckos are most likely present at other locations that I do not yet know about. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list. If you see this species at a location not listed here, please let me know.
Clovis (Reported as T. mauritanica, but not confirmed, could be H. turcicus)
Los Angeles County
San Diego County
Near the University of San Diego
In its natural habitat this gecko is usually found at elevations under 1,300 ft. (400 m) but it can be found as high as 4,600 ft. (1,400 m.)
Robert Powell, Roger Conant, and Joseph T. Collins. Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016.
Stebbins, Robert C., and McGinnis, Samuel M. Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of California: Revised Edition (California Natural History Guides) University of California Press, 2012.
Bartlett, Richard D. & Patricia Bartlett. A Field Guide to Florida Reptiles and Amphibians. Gulf Publishing, 1999.
Arnold, E. Nicholas. Reptiles and Amphibians of Europe. Princeton University Press, 2002.
The following conservation status listings for this animal are taken from the November 2020 California "Special Animals List" and the November 2020 "State and Federally Listed Endangered and Threatened Animals of California" list, both of which are produced by multiple agencies and available here: https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Data/CNDDB/Plants-and-Animals. You can check the link to see if there are more recent lists.
If no status is listed here, the animal is not included on either list. This most likely indicates that there are no serious conservation concerns for the animal. To find out more about an animal's status you can go to the NatureServe and IUCN websites to check their rankings.
There are no significant conservation concerns for this non-native animal in California.