Reptile Species at Risk
Western Pond Turtle Actinemys (=Emys) marmorata (CSC)
Pond turtles are still common in relatively natural lowland streams, ponds and some reservoirs. Stream populations require upland habitat with dense vegetation or seasonal wetlands for overwintering. Pond populations do not overwinter upland. Females nest in unshaded and sparsely vegetated habitats, such as sparse grasslands, grazed pastures or corrals, and non-irrigated fields; they may travel over 1 mile and may nest more than 1/4 mile from streams. Pond turtles use partially unshaded streams with deep pools with good escape cover (undercut banks, woody debris) and good basking sites (easily climbed logs or rocks). Lagoons may be the most important summer and winter habitats in many coastal streams (ie. Pescadero and Waddell creeks). Pond turtles are rare or absent from shaded streams, channelized habitats without good pools and basking areas, and sites without adequate uplands for overwintering and nesting. Predation on nests by raccoons and on young by predatory fish and bullfrogs, as well as loss of nesting habitat, produces remnant populations of long-lived adults. Basking is an important activity, which is easily disturbed by human activity. Larger, introduced turtles (including red-eared sliders) have apparently replaced pond turtles in many urbanized habitats.
Common Side-blotched Lizard Uta stansburiana
Side-blotched lizards are an abundant small lizard of drier habitats, including the inner coast range and drier slopes of Monterey County. They are uncommon within the bioregion, but common and widespread in the western U.S.
Coast Horned Lizard Phyrnosoma blainvillii (FSC, CSC)
The coast horned lizard is an ant predator of drier, more open chaparral and grassland habitats. Within the bioregion they are probably largely restricted to southern Santa Clara County. Development of lowland grasslands has eliminated much of their potential habitat, and the spread of the exotic Argentine ant is probably displacing their native ant prey in disturbed or developed portions of their potential range. They are still reasonably common outside the bioregion.
California Whiptail Lizard Cnemidophorus tigris mundus
This subspecies of whiptail lizard ranges from the central valley to the south-central coast. They are reasonably common in sparser brushlands east and south of the bioregion, but apparently very scarce within the bioregion. They are known from the Ben Lomond Sandhills and expected also in suitable habitat on the east side of the Santa Cruz Mountains..
California Legless Lizard Anniella pulchra (CSC)
The legless lizard is a burrowing lizard that feeds underground usually in sandy soils and in the surface leaf litter. Within the bioregion they are largely restricted to vegetated coastal dunes in the south of the region around Monterey Bay, where most individuals are dark brown or black. These were originally assigned to the subspecies Anniella pulchra nigra, but the taxonomy of legless lizards is presently unsettled, because of considerable genetic structure within its California range. This structure indicates that legless lizard populations are probably fragmented among their scattered suitable habitats. Development of dune areas and replacement of native vegetation (beach lupine) with nonnative vegetation (ice plant) have reduced habitat and invertebrate food.
Outside of the bioregion, legless lizards are widespread in coastal and inland sandy habitats of central and southern California but excluding desert areas.
San Joaquin Coachwhip Snake Masticophis flagellum ruddocki
The coachwhip is a snake mostly found in rather dry, open habitats, including the inner coast range east of the bioregion. However, there is a record from near Felton, so the status of coachwhip within the bioregion is unknown.
California Whipsnake (Chaparral Whipsnake) Masticophis lateralis lateralis
The whipsnake is widespread in drier foothill habitats of California, especially in chaparral and other scrub lands. They are relatively uncommon in the bioregion. The Alameda subspecies (M. l. euryxanthus) in the east Bay is federally and state listed as threatened.
California Mountain Kingsnake Lampropeltis zonata
More information is needed about the status and distribution of this species in the bioregion. It is a beautiful snake with alternating bands of red, black, and white. It has been reported from Soquel, the U.C. Santa Cruz Campus, Big Basin Redwoods State Park, and open-space reserves along the Skyline-Summit ridge area from Sierra Azul to El Corte de Madera. Its preferred habitat is reported to be wooded canyon bottoms, borders of rocky streams, and openings in redwood forests. A potential risk for the conservation of this species is overcollection by private collectors and snake enthusiasts.
San Francisco Garter Snake Thamnophis sirtalis tetrataenia (SE, FE)
This is an aquatic garter snake associated with slower streams, natural and artificial ponds and marshes in San Mateo County, primarily on or west of the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains. They are also present at marshes near the San Francisco Airport. They depend heavily upon frogs for food, with larger individuals (especially females) preferring red-legged frogs and bullfrogs. Brushy uplands and grasslands are used for hibernation and foraging. They are sensitive to habitat modifications and illegal collecting, but will use artificial ponds if frogs are abundant. Existing populations are now mostly small and fragmented. They are a subspecies of the common garter snake, with a yellow dorsal stripe, red head, narrow, solid red stripes on the sides and a blue belly. They can be found with other garter snakes on or west of the crest, including: the Santa Cruz aquatic garter snake (T. atratus atratus), which has only a bright yellow dorsal stripe; and the coast (terrestrial) garter snake (T. elegans terrestris), which lacks the red head, but has faint broad red flecks or broad orange-red lateral bands. East of the crest the San Francisco garter snake is usually replaced by, and may intergrade with, the red-sided garter snake, T. sirtalis infernalis, which has red lateral spots.
California Black-headed Snake Tantilla planiceps
This is a secretive snake of chaparral, grassland, oak woodland and desert edge habitats. It is found in the inner coast range to east, but may be very scarce or absent from the bioregion.
Night Snake Hypsiglena torquata
This is a secretive snake active in the nighttime whose distribution and abundance in the bioregion is not well known. It is reported to spend most of its time underground in rock crevices or burrows of other animals. In the bioregion, this species has been observed in Monte Bello Open Space Preserve and Sierra Azule Open Space Preserve. It can be expected to occur in the Skyline- Summit Area and along the east side of the Santa Cruz Mountains in rocky, drier habitats of grassland, chaparral, or woodland.
Night snakes in California have been proposed to be two different species. The snakes in the bioregion would be the coast night snake (Hypsiglena ochrorhychus).