Reptiles and Amphibians

Reptiles and Amphibians of Torrey Pines

While eight species of lizards and at least eight species of snakes occur in the Reserve, visitors will usually see only two or three species of lizards and rarely a snake. However, it is not uncommon for first-time visitors to report sightings of rarely observed species, so the recommendation to visitors is always be alert for unexpected viewings of these animals.

Thanks to an authorized reptile survey in 1995-97 by the Biology Dept. of the University of California at San Diego (U C San Diego), the Reserve has recent data on species abundance and distribution. This survey, believed to be the most extensive ever done in the Reserve, provides a base from which to evaluate species status in the future. The data unfortunately confirmed observations in recent years that suggested significant declines in some species populations, such as of the coast horned lizard. For more information on the survey, see the lizard notebook comment in the next section.

Because of the mild year-around climate here, lizards may be observed throughout the year, but they are most active during spring and early summer, when two species in particular (Western fence lizard and side-blotched lizard) are very common on and near trails.

Rattlesnake caution: The Reserve is a natural undeveloped area and does have a small population of Southern Pacific rattlesnakes, which may be active even during winter on warm days. While visitors are unlikely to encounter a rattlesnake, they should always watch where they are walking, the same precaution as in all undeveloped areas in Southern California.

NOTE TO VISITORS, ESPECIALLY THOSE WITH CHILDREN:
ALL ANIMALS ARE PROTECTED.
PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB THE REPTILES IN ANY WAY.
ENJOY THEM BY JUST WATCHING AND OBSERVING THEM.

Visitor Center Information

In the main room of the Visitor Center there is a bookcase containing notebooks on the Reserve’s plant and animal life. Look here for a notebook titled “Lizards (and a Snake Summary).” (The Docent on duty or Reserve staff can point out the bookcase location.) This notebook was prepared to help visitors identify the Reserve’s lizards. It contains a brief overview of the UCSD reptile survey, descriptions and color photographs of the lizard species here, a summary of lizard biology, a summary of the snakes here, and a photograph of a Southern Pacific rattlesnake.

Useful Field Guides

Western Reptiles and Amphibians by R. C. Stebbins, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1985.
A Field Guide to Snakes of California by P. R. Brown, Gulf Publishing Co., 1997.

Next topic: Snakes