Diablo Range Garter Snake

Diablo Range Garter Snake_4320

This is a neat reptile that occasionally find when visiting California (the only place where it lives). It belongs to a species atratus, often called the “aquatic garter snakes.”

Diablo Range Garter Snake_0491

Since there are no water snakes native to the Golden State, these fill the ecological niche that water snakes would otherwise occupy. This serpent is often found along waterways and when threatened, it usually escapes into the water, hiding on the bottom.

Diablo Range Garter Snake 2015 9360

Like many other garter snakes, it has three yellow stripes on a dark background. I tend to find it found on the edges of brushlands, woodlands, grasslands, and forests near ponds, marshes, streams and lakes.

Diablo Range Garter Snake_0489

The Diablo Range Garter Snake as an adult tends to be less than three feet long. It is active in the daytime and forages for prey near water sources. It mainly eats frogs, tadpoles and fish.

Diablo Range Garter Snake_0426

Like all North American garter snakes, this species produces live offspring, having about a dozen babies in late Summer or early Fall.

Third Eye Herp

Rough-skinned Newt

Rough-skinned Newt_2793

Rough-skinned Newts have relatively grainy and dry skin compared to other salamanders. They also have a fairly stocky shape. This distinctive salamander is two toned: dull grey to brown on top, and bright orange to yellow below.

Rough-skinned Newt 148

Their bright belly color serves as a warning to would-be predators. When disturbed, the newt will curve its head, neck and tail upwards to display it.

Rough-skinned Newt_01

I often find them in forested environments under rotting logs. Like most amphibians, newts become more active and come out of hiding when it rains, but unlike other salamander species they will venture out during the day.

Rough-skinned Newt 143

Adult newts eat a variety of organisms, including insects, slugs, worms, and even amphibian eggs and larvae.

Rough-skinned Newt 144

Protected by powerful tertrodotoxins, the Rough-skinned Newt is the most poisonous amphibian in the Pacific Northwest. One contains enough poison to kill 25,000 mice.

Third Eye Herp

Yellow-cheeked Chipmunk


While visiting Van Damme State Park in California, I saw a few of these cool rodents. Also known as the Redwood Chipmunk, this is a member Squirrel Family. It is endemic to areas near the coast of northern California in the United States where it inhabits coastal coniferous forest.


The Yellow-cheeked Chipmunk is tawny olive in color with five dark stripes on the body and three on the head. As the name implies. As its name implies, a pale patch of fur is found immediately behind the ear.


This animal is secretive in its habits and rarely seen, but it can often be heard emitting its characteristic shrill double-syllable “chuck-chuck” call. These animals rely on Coastal Redwood forests and mixed conifer or Douglas Fir forests for their habitat.


At the end of winter and beginning of spring, a significant portion of their diet consists of fungi. The rest of the year they consume is a very wide range of seeds. The Yellow-cheeked Chipmunk has a limited range with a total area of occupancy of only 7,700 square miles, though its population is steady and it faces no particular threats.


This is a neat creature that few people get to see – and a great part of my California adventure.

Third Eye Herp

Northern Alligator Lizard

Northern Alligator Lizard 20078

This lizard occurs along the Pacific Coast and in the Rocky Mountains from southern British Columbia to central California. Square bony scales, a large head on an elongated body and powerful jaws probably give this reptile its common name.

Northern Alligator Lizard 0096

Northern Alligator Lizards are small to medium-sized rough-scaled lizards with short limbs and a long tail. Their body is around 4 inches long and their tail adds an additional 6 inches.

Northern Alligator Lizard_4134

I often find them in grassy, bushy, or rocky openings in forests, but they can also reside in areas of low to moderate development, including in rock retaining walls, woody debris and rock piles. Lizards need the sunny openings to bask in to thermoregulate.

Northern Alligator Lizard_1734

Northern Alligator Lizards are found in cooler and wetter environments than other species of lizards in the United States. This reptile feeds on a variety of food items, including crickets, spiders, beetles, moths, snails, small lizards and baby mice.

Northern Alligator Lizard_9372

Alligator Lizards are characterized by a distinct fold of skin along their lower sides. This allows the body to expand when the lizard is breathing, full of food, or in the case of females, carrying offspring.

Northern Alligator Lizard_0811

This creature has the ability to “release” (autotomize) its tail. The dropped tail acts as a decoy, distracting the potential predator. Over time, the lizard will regenerate a shorter, fatter tail.

Northern Alligator Lizard_9378

Unlike its relative the Southern Alligator Lizard (an egglaying species), this reptile gives birth to live offspring.

Third Eye Herp