Reptiles and Amphibians


Snakes are a beautiful and important part of the ecosystem at Cabrillo National Monument.

NPS Photo


The coastal scrub habitat at Cabrillo National Monument makes a good home for the many reptiles and amphibians that live here. The striped racer and San Diego gopher snake are two of the most commonly seen snakes in the park, and can frequently be encountered on the Bayside Trail. The Pacific rattlesnake also makes Cabrillo National Monument its home, and can be seen sunning itself on sidewalks and barrier walls on warm spring days. The ring-necked snake is small and secretive and seldom seen on Point Loma, but is a visual treat if observed: its underside ranges from bright yellow-orange to red.

Two of the most commonly observed lizards on Point Loma are the western fence lizard and the side-blotched lizard. Both species are very active during daylight hours during all seasons, and are seen along trails, sidewalks, and roadways and in buildings.

Once considered limited on the coast, the orange-throated whiptail is more common than previously thought. The tail tips of juveniles are bright blue, and males develop a striking orange throat color during breeding season, giving the species its name.

Resembling a snake, the California legless lizard spends its life burrowing through sand and soil and is seldom seen aboveground. It is the only local lizard species that gives birth to two live young.

Alligator lizards are often seen on trails in early morning or late afternoon in the spring. Their name comes from both their body shape and their aggressive disposition: if handled, they will attempt to – and will painfully – bite.

The single amphibian on Point Loma is the garden slender salamander, which very much resembles a large earthworm. They are most active on wet winter nights, and disappear during the rest of the year, probably living underground along plant roots. Although highly sensitive to drying, they will drown rapidly if placed in water: lungless, they breathe through their skin.

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