NOTE: There is no collecting, fishing, or hunting on the preserve. If you see any animal or plant on the preserve, please
take only pictures and memories. Do not disturb nesting birds. Do
not go off trail.
CALIFORNIA LEGLESS LIZARD
This slender lizard has a
shovel-shaped nose, smooth scales, blunt tail and no
legs. The presence of eyelids makes this a lizard,
not a snake. The color on the back is generally a
metallic silver but can be darker. The belly color
varies from whitish to a bright
it can vary there is
generally a dark line along the back and
several thin stripes between scale rows
on the flanks.
If uncovered this lizard may
become active on cool days.
The legless lizard lives
mostly underground, burrowing in loose sandy soil.
Moisture is essential. It can
often be found under surface objects such as
rocks, boards, driftwood, and logs.
It eats mostly larval
insects, beetles, termites, and spiders.
LIZARD Uta stansburiana
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.
Elgaria multicarinata webbi
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.
LONG-NOSED LEOPARD LIZARD Gambelia
This is an extremely rare lizard on the
Kern River Preserve as it was only discovered on July 20,
2010 by our land steward, Sean Rowe, in the desert habitat off of Fay
This is a large lizard with
granular scales and tail almost twice as
long as the body.
WESTERN FENCE LIZARD Sceloporus occidentalis
The most common lizard along
the Kern River and throughout the
forested areas of the preserve and near the buildings. 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.
The scales on the back are keeled.
SPINY LIZARD Sceloporus magister
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.
Found on the preserve's rocky slopes and
desert washes. This lizard looks similar to its cousin the
fence lizard but is larger with the noticeable neck collar.
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 Plestiodon
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
DESERT BANDED GECKO
Mistaken for a salamander this
small, slender lizard with movable eyelids and
vertical pupils. The head is
wider than the neck with a triangular shape.
The skin is spotted and quite
soft with fine granular scales.
The toes are long and thin.
The base of the tail is
The color can be variable ranging
from pink, yellow or light gray. There are tan to
brown bands or blotches around the body and tail.
The width of the dark bands is equal to or
less than the width of the light areas.
Males have spurs on each side of the base of
the tail. Geckoes are nocturnal. They
hibernate in winter. They eat
invertebrates and live in arid
areas preferring rocky areas.
One of nature's most camouflaged
animals, horned lizards are also known as horny
toads. They are flat-bodied with wide oval-shaped
body's, scattered pointed scales on the upper body
and tail, and a large crown of horns on the head.
The sides of the body have two rows of fringe
scales. The color can be reddish, brown, yellow, or
gray, with dark blotches on the back and large dark
spots on the sides of the neck. The belly has smooth
cream to yellow scales. The diet is usually
harvester ants, but will eat spiders, beetles,
termites, flies, bees, and grasshoppers. It is often
found in lowlands along sandy washes with scattered
shrubs and along dirt roads, and frequently found
near ant hills.
DESERT NIGHT LIZARD
This tiny lizard inhabits desert
areas on the preserve. It is found in leaf litter in
arid and semi-arid areas,
habitats include Joshua tree, desert scrub,
pinon-juniper, basin sagebrush, chaparral, pine-oak
woodland, and yucca. This lizard
has soft skin that looks like it is covered with
beads on its fine granular scales.
is covered with large
plates, and unlike most lizards
has lidless eyes with vertical pupils.
The color is olive,
grayish, or brown with light brown or black spots,
sometimes forming narrow stripes.
Even though this is called a night lizard it is
active during the day. The
night lizard eats ants, termites, beetles,
caterpillars, crickets and spiders.
Desert Rosy Boa Lichanura
The rosy boa lives in arid
scrublands, semi-arid shrublands, rocky deserts, canyons,
and desert oases.
It has been reported on the uplands of
the Kern River Preserve. This is a gentle snake that is
among a group that have vestigial hip bones. The scales are
smooth shiny scales and the tail
tapers to a blunt end. The head is
slightly wider than the neck. Its
pupils are vertical.
The sides have three well-defined
dark stripes that vary in color from:
tan, brick red, rose, or reddish-brown.
The base color can be light gray,
ivory, tan, or yellowish..
The coastal subspecies can have flecks of
color within the lighter areas. The belly is
whitish to gray with dark flecks.
Mojave Glossy Snake
Arizona elegans candida
The glossy snake lives in open
sandy desert, desert scrub, rocky washes,
grasslands. Sometimes called the faded snake due to
the bleached out appearance of its glossy scales.
The color ranges from light tan, gray,
ivory, or pink
base color with tan
to gray blotches on
the back and sides.
The belly is whitish and unmarked.
Ring-necked Snake Diadophis punctatus
This mildly venomous snake lives
in wet areas, including meadows, grassland,
chaparral, mixed conifer and
It has been found along Fay
Creek. This small, secretive snake can be identified
by its bright coral-colored belly. The back is
or dark olive dorsal colorings.
The snakes have an orange band around the
Hypsiglena ochrorhyncha nuchalata
This mildly venomous snake lives
in arid areas, including meadows,
saltbush scrub, grassland,
chaparral and deserts.
Notice the black mark that
travels from the eye to the back of the neck. The
base color varies from light shades of brown or gray
to ivory, there are dark blotches on the back and
along the sides. The pupils are vertical in a yellow
eye. The head is flat and narrow. The belly is
Length 30" - 85"
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.
One of two subspecies in Kern
County, the red racer is also known as red coachwhip.
Coachwhips are fast and although non-venomous they
bite hard. The color varies from light to medium
hues of pink. The top of the head is generally
blackish with a light chin and throat. There are
pink, brown or black bands on the neck. All down the
body the banding appears braided with the tail
looking like a whip. This snake can be found in
sandy areas along streams, hills, and can also be
found in sparsely vegetated rocky areas.
Pacific Gopher Snake
Common Length 2.5-7'
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.
This snake looks like a kingsnake
with coral patches on its back and sometimes sides
giving it a saddled look.
It has black rings on a cream colored base, but the
rings do not go all the way around the body. The
head is just wider than the body and the scales are
smooth. This snake is found in arid to
semi-arid deserts, grasslands, shrublands, and
For a garter snake the Sierra garter is
pretty terrestrial. It is frequently found in areas with
little water. The coloration
generally a murky brown with obvious yellow stripes on the
sides but no stripe on the back. This snake is
variable in appearance. A light dorsal stripe may be
present, but it is not distinct, except on the neck. Light
lateral stripes may or may not be present on the 2nd and 3rd
scale rows. It may be found along Fay
Creek and some of the drier areas of the preserve.
- 6th is wider than 7th,
Internasals longer than wide,
scale count at mid-body pointed in front 19 or 21
Unstriped morph with no stripes.
Length 18" - 55"
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. They eat amphibians and
their larvae, fish, birds, and their eggs, small mammals,
reptiles, earthworms, slugs, and leeches.
Supralabials occasionally 8,
rarely 6 or 9 - Often with
black wedges, Infralabials
10, Chin shields rear longer
than front, Scales at mid-body
19, Dark with red spotting
on sides. Yellowish vertebral and lateral stripes. Little or
no red on head. Large eyes. Upper labials. Chin shields.
Northern Pacific Rattlesnake
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 Kern County the Southern Pacific and the
Northern Pacific Rattlesnakes.
SOUTHERN PACIFIC POND TURTLE
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 Sacramento (northern
subspecies) 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
See our Pond Turtle
Trachemys scripta elegans
Introduced Rare (we hope to keep extant)
A medium to large freshwater turtle with a prominent broad
reddish stripe behind the eye. The carapace
(back shell) is olive, brown,
or black with streaks and bars of yellow or eye-like spots.
The unhinged plastron (belly) is yellow with dark markings.
This turtle will bask with others
sometimes stacked on each other on banks, rocks, logs, or other
It prefers calm waters and abundant aquatic
vegetation; sluggish rivers, ponds, shallow streams,
marshes, lakes, and reservoirs. Eats invertebrates, crustaceans,
mollusks, fish, insects, snails, tadpoles, and aquatic
plants. Introduced throughout California, especially in populated
areas, primarily as a result of the release of pets by
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.
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