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Reptiles and Amphibians

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an animal in the park?

Try out our dichotomous key HERE to figure it out! Not finding what you are looking for? Email us a photo and we will try to add the specimen to our dichotomous key. 

Definitions:

Reptiles: A cold-blooded animal (such as a snake, lizard, turtle, or alligator) that breathes air and usually has skin covered with scales or bony plates.

Amphibians: Any of a group of cold-blooded vertebrate animals (such as frogs and toads) that have gills and live in water as larvae, but breathe air as adults.

*Definitions From: Merriam-Webster. 

Key:
ID Characteristics
Funky Facts!
References/More Information 
 

reptiles

Gopher Snake (Pituophis catenifer):

A gopher snake can range in color from cream yellow to tan to greenish gray. Along the back of these snakes are many dark-brown or reddish blotches. In most gopher snakes, a dark stripe runs from the eyes to the jaw. A gopher snake is generally somewhere between 36 to 96 inches long.

  • The gopher snake will imitate a rattlesnake to frighten potential predators! When startled, the snake coils up, vibrates its tail and hisses a warning. The snake can even flatten its head into a triangular shape to resemble a rattler even more.

  • Gopher snakes can also imitate the rattle sound of a rattlesnake. A rattle-like noise is produced by use of an organ in the mouth called the glottis. 

  • The absence of a rattle-like structure at the end of the tail, the lack of any facial pit, and rounded pupils are features that distinguish a gopher snake from an actual rattlesnake. 

  • Gopher snakes hibernate through the winter in communal dens. These dens can sometimes be shared with rattlesnakes, whipsnakes or racers!

DesertUSA.com. “Gopher Snake”.


DesertMuseum.org. “Gopher Snake.”

Unlike most other lizards, the desert horned lizard has a wide, flattened body. These lizards are also covered with small horn-like scales with a prominent crown of horns around the back of their heads. Their tail is relatively short and broad at the base. 

  • Desert horned lizards use their triangle shaped-heads to burrow into the sand to keep warm overnight.

  • They eat insects in a toad-like fashion, with a flick of their long, sticky tongue!

  • While they are variable in color, their coloration generally matches the shades of the surrounding habitat where they live (particularly the color of the soil).

DesertUSA.com. Genus Phrynosoma”.


CaliforniaHerps.com. “Northern Desert Horned Lizard”.


A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians, 3rd Edition. By Stebbins, Robert C. 

Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003.

Desert Horned Lizard

(Phrynosoma platyrhinos):

Western Fence Lizard

(Sceloporus occidentalis):

Western Fence Lizards are spiny and can reach up to 8.4 inches in length. They are grey, tan, or brown in color and have a dark wavy pattern on their backs. The females and young males are lighter in color than adult males. Adult males also have blue patches on their belly, which is why these lizards are also known as Blue Belly Lizards.

  • Western Fence Lizards can be found perching on larger rocks along the river or in plants along trails. To defend their territory and attract mates, males will do ‘push-ups’.

  • A protein in their blood kills the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. If a tick carrying Lyme disease bites a Western Fence Lizard, the tick will no longer carry the disease!

  • Western Fence Lizards tend to avoid harsh deserts, and rather prefer coniferous forests, grasslands, and sagebrush.

  • If their tail is caught by a predator, Western Fence Lizards can detach it and escape. They will eventually grow back their tails, but the new tail will have a different pattern.

Burke Museum. "Western Fence Lizard."


Digital Atlas of Idaho. “Sceloporus occidentalis (Western Fence Lizard).”

Friends of Edgewood. "Western Fence Lizard."

 

amphibians

Interested in Reptiles and Amphibians? 

Help us build this database!

 

 Become a Biodiversity Researcher Volunteer today!

Email:

 info@tmparksfoundation.org

 

local resources

Check out these organizations to learn more about reptiles and amphibians in our area!
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© 2014 by Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation