Primary Source

by Pete Holloran


A San Francisco Garter Snake

Photo: Margo Bors

Amphibians and Reptiles of San Francisco

As a prominent port and military establishment during the frontier days of scientific exploration of California and the west, San Francisco attracted numerous naturalists and collectors. As a result, San Francisco became the type locality for at least seven different species of amphibians and reptiles. Though the earliest collections were by Eschscholtz in 1816, it wasn’'t until 1966 that the first complete checklist was published (Banta and Morafka 1966). Refer to that excellent publication for more details, including localities.

Checklist of Amphibians and Reptiles of San Francisco (after Banta and Morafka 1966)

Most of the species listed below are much less common now than they once were; some have been eliminated from the city.

Coast range newt (Taricha torosa torosa)

Farallon Island salamander (Aneides lugubris farallonensis)

Oak salamander (Aneides lugubris lugubris)

Northern slender salamander (Batrachoseps attenuatus attenuatus)

Yellow-eyed salamander (Ensatina eschscholtzi xanthoptica)

California toad (Bufo boreas halophilus)

Pacific tree toad (Hyla regilla)

California redlegged frog (Rana aurora draytonii)

Bullfrog (Rana catesbiana)

Southwestern pond turtle (Clemmys marmorata pallida)

San Francisco alligator lizard (Gerrhonotus coerleus coeruleus)

California alligator lizard (Gerrhonotus multicarinatus multicarinatus)

Western skink (Eumeces skiltonianus skiltonianus)

Northwestern fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis occidentalis)

Pacific rubber boa (Charina bottae bottae)

Western yellow-bellied racer (Coluber constrictor mormon)

Sharp-tailed snake (Contia tenuis)

Pacific ringneck snake (Diadophis amabilis amabilis)

California kingsnake (Lampropeltis getulus californiae)

Pacific gopher snake (Pituophis catenifer catenifer)

Santa Cruz garter snake (Thamnophis elegans atratus)

Coast garter snake (Thamnophis elegans terrestris)

There are questionable records for an additional seven native species. The booming trade in exotic reptiles in recent years has added other non-native species to the herpetofauna of San Francisco, including the brief, non-breeding occurrence of an alligator in Mountain Lake.


Banta, Benjamin H., and David Morafka. 1966. An annotated check list of the recent amphibians and reptiles inhabiting the City and County of San Francisco, California. Wasmann Journal of Biology 24:223-238.

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