PACIFIC CHORUS FROG
Pseudacris (Hyla) regilla (AKA Pacific Tree Frog - Hyla regilla)
Common Length 1-2"
small frog with a black stripe running from the snout through and beyond the
eye. The body color can change rapidly from light to dark in a
short period of time. In just a few minutes these frogs can morph through
various hues of tan, green, gray, and brown. Adults shelter in rock
crevices, under bark, in burrows and on streamside vegetation. Mating occurs
in spring. At this time males enter the water, inflate their throat pouches,
and utter loud krack-ek sounds at one second intervals for long periods.
When numerous males are calling their chorus is deafening. Frequently found
in ponds, marshes, grassland, and even in the sinks of the preserve cabins.
This frog has a big voice for such a tiny animal and is the most frequently
heard frog in California.
TOAD Anaxyrus (Bufo) boreas
This is the most encountered amphibian in the west. Common on lawns and in
gardens. The upper surface of this toad is dull green with light brown
warts. There is a conspicuous thin white stripe down the hack. It is most
active at dusk and at night. The small individuals hop but the larger adults
walk. The Western Toad finds shelter under rocks, logs or boards on the
ground in the cooler parts of grassland and woodland areas. If you pick one
up don’t be surprised when the toad 'pees" on you. This toad makes a
'peeping sound', especially when picked up.
Lithobates (Rana) catesbeiana Common (Introduced)
This is the largest frog in California. It was introduced from the eastern
U. S. as a game species. Their introduction has been the cause for the
dramatic decline of many native animals. This frog's appetite is almost
solely responsible for the threatened status of two of California's frog
species. The Bullfrog is usually olive colored with a light green head. A
fold of skin extends from the eye around the large, conspicuous eardrum.
Highly aquatic it is found in marshes, ponds, and along streams. It is wary
by day but can readily be found at night by its eye shine and easily caught
when dazzled with light. Frightened individuals may give a guttural "yaow"
sound when they leap into water and adults give a deep hyung...hyung
vocalization. Bullfrogs eat insects, small fish, frogs and tadpoles,
turtles, small snakes, birds, and small mammals.
Abundant Length 4-6½"
This lizard has very small scales over most of its body. The head has a few
large scales. The color can vary but this is the most pastel colored of all
of our lizards. Pale pink and blue spots are inset in a medium to light
brown base color. A single dark blue spot behind the foreleg is the
characteristic this lizard is named for. The throat is pale with a fold of
skin. The upper color patterns are variable in this area due differences
between sexes and subspecies. This lizard is abundant in the drier brushy
areas of the preserve. Food includes insects, scorpions, spiders, and sow
Elgaria multicarinata webbi Uncommon
An uncommon lizard along the Kern River and throughout the
preserve. A rather hostile lizard that will do the alligator
death roll when trapped. This diurnal lizard is found in
grasslands, and moist riparian woodlands. Foods include any
insect or vertebrate it can capture and gulp down.
WESTERN FENCE LIZARD
Sceloporus occidentalis Common
The most common lizard along the Kern River and throughout the preserve.
This lizard has the nickname Blue Belly. In warmer areas the back turns a
black color, while in cooler areas it is lighter in color with noticeable
blue spots, especially in males. Males also have brilliant blue markings on
their sides and throat. In territorial and courtship displays the males
perform a "push-ups" that serve to flash the blue markings. Generally seen
lurking near the ground in riparian woodlands, fence lizards scamper up
trees to escape predators.
DESERT SPINY LIZARD
Sceloporus magister Uncommon
This lizard is light colored with large pointed scales and black
wedge-shaped markings on the side of the neck that appear to form a collar,
heads are sometimes orange. They inhabit the lower slopes of drier mountain
areas. The Desert Spiny Lizard can most easily be seen basking in the sun on
Uncommon Length 8-12"
This hibernating lizard is seen in summer. The fastest of the local lizards,
they may be glimpsed as they dash for cover. An active lizard of dry areas
where plants are sparse and there are open areas for running. Whiptails are
also found in the warmer areas of the cottonwood woodlands. If pursued it
runs bipedally balancing with its long tail. They take shelter in rodent
burrows. Food consists of insects, spiders, and scorpions.
Plestiodon (Eumeces) gilberti
The adult skinks are plain olive above with some light and dark striping
on the back. The tail becomes orange with age and some individuals develop
red on the head. The tail breaks off easily and wriggles in an attempt to
distract predators as the skink escapes. Unusual bone-reinforced scales
make the skink as smooth as glass. They are found in habitats near
permanent water, especially in the sunnier parts of clearings in the
GARTER SNAKE Thamnophis couchi
Uncommon Length 18-52"
All garter snakes are relatively aquatic. They tend to stay near water,
entering it freely and retreating to it when frightened. The snake in the
photo was eating a small fish it had just caught. The coloration of this
snake is variable but the yellow stripes on the back and sides are usually
obvious, as are red blotches on the sides. If handled they often release a
foul smelling fluid from anal scent glands. They are active by day and at
dusk around the ponds and marshes in the preserve.
Pituophis catenifer Common
Common on the preserve, the gopher snake is found in a variety of habitats,
frequenting grassland and open brush. They are adept at climbing and
burrowing. They are most active during the day except during hot weather.
When disturbed they will hiss, flatten the head, and vibrate their tail.
This defensive behavior mimics the deadly rattlesnake to scare aware
potential predators. This maneuver along with their diamond-shaped markings
causes them to be mistaken for rattlesnakes and killed. The Gopher snake
kills by constriction. Their diet consists of small mammals, birds, eggs,
Lampropeltis getulus Rare
The bold black and white banding pattern easily distinguishes this snake
from all others in the area. This seeming docile snake can pursue and
capture other snakes, including rattlesnakes, being largely immune to the
venom of the latter. Besides snakes it also eats lizards, birds and their
eggs, mice and pocket gophers. All of which are killed by constriction. The
common kingsnake forages in the shadier portions of shrubby areas, generally
in the early morning or late afternoon.
Rare Length 1½-5'
The only venomous reptile found on the preserve, this snake is
blotched with a series of yellow-bordered brown areas on a basic
olive green color. There is a light stripe behind the eye that
extends to the corner of the mouth. Humans encountering this
animal should leave the area, allowing the snake to escape
unharmed. Two subspecies occur in our area the Southern Pacific
and the Northern Pacific Rattlesnakes.
WESTERN POND TURTLE
marmorata pallida Uncommon
is the only turtle native to Interior California. A California species of
concern, this turtle used to number in the hundreds of thousands in
the marshy areas of the San Joaquin and Kern Valleys. It is highly aquatic,
basking on rocks or logs in or near the water, but submerging at the hint of
danger. At some time from May to August the adult female leaves the water
and uses her claws and feet to dig a small hole in a streambank or hillside.
Here she lays 5-11 hard-shelled eggs and covers them with soil. The young
hatch in about 2 months and go to the water. All turtles hibernate in the
mud at the bottom of ponds from November until February.
Based on the
checklist written by Mark Schroeder and published by the Kern River Preserve
1982. Designed and rewritten by Alison Sheehey, this version retains much of
the original text. Buz Lunsford of HerpEcology is helping to update the
list. More species will appear on these pages as time permits.
Have you seen
other reptiles or amphibians on the preserve? Let us know so we can update our
list. Do you have a photo to share? We would love to fill in the gaps. Are you a
herpetologist just aching for a volunteer project, then climb aboard. We need
all the help we can get. Thanks for visiting.
P. O. Box 1662
Weldon, CA 93283