Gilbert's Skink a native species © Alison Sheehey


Kern County Reptile and Amphibian Photo Checklist

Kern Amphibian Checklist

Kern Reptile Checklist

Photo Checklist of KRP Amphibians & Reptiles

Checklist of Kern River Valley Amphibians plus article on Salamander diversity

Simple Checklist of Reptiles of the Kern River Valley


Western Pond Turtle

Field Guide to Birds of Kern County

Black-crowned Night-Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Egret

Green Heron

Lark Sparrow

WHERE TO BIRD - Top Birding spots around Kern County

Rare Bird Photos - Kern Specialties

Backyard Bird and other interesting creature/plant photos

CHECKLISTS - to Kern County Birds

Kern County Bird Checklist

Checklist Birds of Buena Vista Aquatic Recreation Area

Birds of the Kern National Wildlife Refuge

Checklist of Birds of the Kern River Parkway

Birds Of Pin Oak Park

Endangered and Sensitive Species of Kern County

OTHER bird articles

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Southwestern Willow Flycatcher

Summer Tanager

Summer Tanagers on the Kern by Terri Gallion

Hummingbird Identification

Rivers of Birds 



by Alison Sheehey


PACIFIC CHORUS FROG    Pseudacris (Hyla) regilla   (AKA Pacific Tree Frog - Hyla regilla)   Common     Length 1-2"

Pacific Chorus Frog a native species © Alison SheeheyA 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. 

Western Toad by Alison Sheehey © 1990-2004WESTERN TOAD   Anaxyrus (Bufo) boreas           Common           Length  2½-5"

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.

Bullfrog by Alison Sheehey © 1990-2004BULLFROG    Lithobates (Rana) catesbeiana      Common   (Introduced)        Length 3½-8"           

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. 



Side-blotched Lizard a native species © Alison SheeheySIDE-BLOTCHED LIZARD       

Uta stansburiana          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 bugs.

Southern Alligator Lizard a native species © Alison SheeheySOUTHERN ALLIGATOR  LIZARD   

Elgaria multicarinata webbi    Uncommon    Length 10-16¾"          

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 by Alison Sheehey © 1990-2004

WESTERN FENCE LIZARD     Sceloporus occidentalis     Common    Length 6-9¼"          

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 by Alison Sheehey June 3 2000

DESERT SPINY LIZARD           Sceloporus magister        Uncommon      Length 7-12"          

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 rocks.

Western Whiptail by Alison Sheehey © 1990-2004WESTERN WHIPTAIL   Cnemidophorus tigris      

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.

Gilbert's Skink a native species © Alison Sheehey

GILBERT'S SKINK                Plestiodon (Eumeces) gilberti            Rare               Length 7-13"      

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 woodlands.


Sierra Garter Snake a native species © Alison SheeheyWESTERN AQUATIC 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.

Great Basin Gopher Snake P. k. deserticola © Nature Ali 2001


Pituophis catenifer       Common    Length 3-8' 

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, and lizards.

California Kingsnake a native species © Alison Sheehey

COMMON KINGSNAKE  Lampropeltis getulus        Rare       Length 2½-6'

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.

Southern Pacific Rattlesnake a native species © Alison SheeheySOUTHERN PACIFIC RATTLESNAKE  Crotalus viridus helleri           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    Actinemys marmorata pallida     Uncommon     Length 3½-7"

Western Pond Turtle by Alison Sheehey © 1990-2004This 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

(760) 378-2531

Nature Alley is dedicated to protecting natural communities wherever they exist. She is involved in many scientific and educational programs, promoting environmental appreciation and ethics.

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