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Reptiles and Amphibians

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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."

Common Side-Blotched Lizard

(Uta stansburiana):

The Common Side-Blotched Lizard, subspecies nevadensis, is around 4-6 in long. Their small size allows them to warm up quickly, so this may be one of the first lizards you see out in the morning. They are brown with dark blue/black blotches behind front legs and may have scattered blue speckles/stripes on back. Males are more colorful and have blue, orange, or yellow throats.

  • The males of this species have three different genetic morphs, identified by the color of their throats and their mating behaviors: orange-throated males aggressively defend large territories, blue-throated males guard their mates closely, and yellow-throated males sneak into other males' territories and mate with their females. 

  • These three strategies have a "rock, paper, scissors" relationship: orange males beat blue males by stealing their territory, yellow males beat orange males by stealth, and blue males beat yellow males by guarding their mates too closely to let yellow males sneak past. 

  • This balance has allowed these differences to survive for millions of years, since any strategy that creates the most offspring in one year will be evened out by the dominance of the strategy it "loses" to in subsequent years.

Californiaherps: Nevada Side-blotched Lizard 

The Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at Berkeley: Side-blotched Lizard 

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA: Polygyny, mate-guarding, and posthumous fertilization as alternative male mating strategies 

National Parks Service: Side-blotched Lizard

 
 
 
 

Long-nosed leopard lizard

(Gambelia wislizenii):

The long-nosed leopard lizard may appear as a light cream color with small dark spots, or as a dark brown or gray color with traces of cream/tan (like a giraffe print). The tail will show alternating stripes of these light and dark colors. The main body (snout to base of tail) of this lizard measures 3 - 6 inches, and the tail can be twice as long. In full, the length of the long-nosed leopard lizard can be up to 18 inches.

  • These lizards can change colors between lighter cream and darker brown/gray.

  • They are omnivorous, meaning they will eat both plants and animals. While they typically eat insects or small lizards and rodents, they will also eat berries and leaves.

  • When long-nosed leopard lizards are threatened, they may hiss along with fleeing to safety.

National Park Service: Long-nosed Leopard Lizard

 

Desert Collared Lizard

(Crotaphytus collaris):

The most stunning feature of this lizard is it’s collar with two thick stripes of black scales around the neck. In juveniles, the stripes continue behind the collar, but here they appear light and dark brown, and speckled. For adults, the remainder of the body is speckled and has greener scales. The legs and tail are light with brown spots. Only when pregnant, females will show bright red-orange marks as well. Desert collared lizards can grow to 10” long (tail included) are found in desert scrub as well as juniper-pinyon woodland habitats.

  • These lizards can run on their hindlegs, maintaining balance with their bodies at 45 degree angles (that is, halfway between being flat on the ground to standing straight up).

  • A single stride can be 3 times their full body length!

  • Unlike many lizards, the desert collared lizard will not grow back a lost tail.

  • While they mostly eat insects, these lizards will also eat other desert collared lizards.

Arizona Sonora Desert Museum: Common Collared Lizard 

Arizona Sonora Desert Museum: Animal Fact Sheet

 
 

amphibians

Pacific Treefrog (Pseudacris regilla)

Small frog, only reaches 2 inches in length. Bright or pale green, with pale underside and dark “eye mask” stripes. Can be found in wetlands, meadows, and woodlands.

  • Pacific treefrogs will eat their own skin after they shed.

  • The “ribbit” sound of their call is often used in movies. 

  • Toe pads help them climb up trees and other objects. 

  • Tadpoles are primarily herbivorous, adults consume small invertebrates.

  • They live for about 2 years.

Oregon Fish and Wildlife: Pacific Treefrog. 

 

American Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus):

Large frogs reaching up 8 inches in length and 800g in weight. Smooth body with no spikes or warts. Often bright green at snout, dark green mixed with brown on the rest of the body. Has a large circular eardrums. Found in larger bodies of water and streams.

  • The tadpoles can take up to two years to metamorphasize. 

  • Tadpoles are mainly herbivorous (feed on plants) but occasionally will eat tadpoles of other species of frogs. Adult bullfrogs’ diets consist of eating other frogs, snakes, insects, birds, mammals- essentially anything they can fit into their mouths! 

  • Males are slightly smaller than the females. 

  • They are considered invasive in most states, and are only native to the Eastern United States. They often out-compete other amphibian species.

  • American Bullfrogs can live up to 10 years.

US Fish and Wildlife Service: American Bullfrog  

California Department of Wildlife: Invaders - American Bullfrog  

Northern Leopard Frog (Rana pipiens):

Brown, green or yellow-green coloration and covered with dark spots, each of which have a halo of a lighter color. Length ranges from 2-4.5 inches. Can be found in a variety of habitats, but prefer slow-moving or still bodies of water.

  • Northern leopard frogs can live up to 4 years.

  • Tadpoles are mainly herbivorous (feed on plants) but can consume small invertebrates. Adults consume small invertebrates. 

  • The northern leopard frog is experiencing threats from habitat loss, disease, non-native species, pollution, and climate change. 19 states seek to protect this species.

US Fish and Wildlife Service Nevada Office: Northern Leopard Frog

 
 
 

local resources

Check out these organizations to learn more about reptiles and amphibians in our area!
  • Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation Facebook
  • Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation Twitter
  • Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation Instagram
  • Truckee Meadows Parks FoundationLinkedIn
  • Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation Youtube

Protecting & enhancing our community through public engagement, education, and the sustainability of our parks, open spaces, and trails.

 

50 Cowan Drive, Reno, NV 89509 | (775) 410-1702 

info@tmparksfoundation.org