Bufo exsul

Black toad of Deep Springs, only species of toad restricted to one college/ ranch, where it thrives. I think it is the handsomest toad in the US as well. Photo by Jackson Frishman.

It lives in the pond at the low point ahead here (almost invisible at the foot of the wall), period. We were blocked by mud that day. It was still summery a few weeks ago, and we didn’t want to do a hot hike down 2 1/2 miles with a yearling and a Parky old fart of 63; oh, I probably would have done it, but was not unrelieved when they decided not to! Right or double click to see better.

New Lizards

Not one but FOUR new lizard species discovered in California!

“Throughout the history of lizard evolution, several lizard lineages have lost their legs, James Parham of Cal State Fullerton
said. Snakes are the best-known and most diverse of these lineages, but
more than 200 other types of limbless lizards exist throughout the

“In California, five legless lizard species have been identified, all of them part of a group called Anniella.
Four of these legless lizards are new to science and were recently
described in Breviora, a publication of the Museum of Comparative
Zoology at Harvard University.”

These animals are so secretive that descriptions of their habitat can sound ridiculous.

“One of the four newly identified species of Anniella, the Southern California legless lizard, was found under some dead leaves in dunes at the west end of LAX.

“The Bakersfield legless lizard was found in three vacant lots in that city’s downtown.

“The southern Sierra legless lizard was spotted in three dry canyons
on the edge of the Mojave Desert, and the Temblor legless lizard was
found in the oil fields around Taft, a city on the southwestern edge of
the San Joaquin Valley.”

They are looking for more. HT Reid.

Baby Lizards 1

The heavier and later local rains have led to lush greenery and a profusion of insects (the only one in 30 years I have been bothered by mosquitos here); as well as their predators. I had never before see the babies of the abundant local fence lizard (Sceloporus), as well as the more ground- dwelling Cnemodiphorus. Got some photos of the first with Lib’s hand for scale; right or double click for size.

Wildlife In Your Yard

In the depths of the drought (which is real, even if our town well crisis is man- made), wildlife comes to town. Human activity tends to make a green oasis composed of the non- native plants that come with civilization, not to mention gardens, flowers, leaky wells, and other sources of plant nourishment. Deer and coyotes are feeding in peoples’ yards, not just at dawn but in broad daylight. I am sure, as in years past, lions are here too, following their food and competitors. We just don’t see them because here, unlike in Boulder, lions are also prey.

Random observations by John Wilson and me suggest that bird reproduction is not going well in the hills this year. Mixed-species flocks that should be breeding throng all day around John’s water points a little way out of town.

With the birds come their predators. When I lived outside of town, the common gopher snake, Pituophis catinefer , was a fairly frequent visitor around my pigeon loft. If a snake found a hole larger than the 1/2″ mesh of aviary wire, I was likely to lose some eggs or nestlings; bigger, bolder, individuals sometimes killed a full grown pigeon though they didn’t seem able to swallow it.

As the non- nesting birds come to town, and rodents, their predators must follow. A
few days ago Libby came in to tell my there was a snake in the main
flight loft. Hindsight says it was obviously a bull snake, but it had
more yellow in the background than I had ever seen. Therefore I used my
snake hook until I could clearly see its head. It was extremely agile in
the heat, but I finally managed to get the bucket in front of it, and
it poured itself in. First photo shows it coiled in the bottom of the
temporarily co-opted waste basket; the second [right or double click for bigger] as it crawls hastily away
when we released it on the edge of town in the arroyo. The third is a
picture I found on the net of an individual as yellow as mine.

Snake Alphabet

Tom McIntyre’s Ophidian Abecedarium (story below with “Gun Alphabet”). Pix, anecdotes, suggestions all encouraged. Right click photo to enlarge…


Death Adder
Eastern Diamondback Rattler
Flying Snake
Garter Snake
Hognose Snake
Indigo Snake
Japanese Striped Snake
King Snake
Lyre Snake
Mamba (Jonathan Hanson’s friend Neels with pet)

Night Snake
Olive Sea Snake
Queen Snake
Rat Snake
Vine Snake
Water Moccasin
X (Equis in Spanish, another name for the fer-de-lance)
Yellow Anaconda
Zebra Spitting Cobra

Bill Haast dead at 100…

The legendary reptile man Bill Haast died in Florida last week at 100.

According to the NYT:

“Mr. Haast was bitten at least 173 times by poisonous snakes, about 20 times almost fatally. It was all in a day’s work for probably the best-known snake handler in the country, a scientist-cum-showman who made enough money from milking toxic goo from slithery serpents to buy a cherry-red Rolls-Royce convertible.

“A secret of his success was the immunity he had built up by injecting himself every day for more than 60 years with a mix of venoms from 32 snake species. He suspected the inoculations might have explained his extraordinarily good health, but he was reluctant to make that claim, he said, until he reached 100.”

Housman had his number– and possibly inspired him.

There was a king reigned in the East:
There, when kings will sit to feast,
They get their fill before they think
With poisoned meat and poisoned drink.
He gathered all that springs to birth
From the many-venomed earth;
First a little, thence to more,
He sampled all her killing store;
And easy, smiling, seasoned sound,
Sate the king when healths went round.
They put arsenic in his meat
And stared aghast to watch him eat;
They poured strychnine in his cup
And shook to see him drink it up:
They shook, they stared as white’s their shirt:
Them it was their poison hurt.
–I tell the tale that I heard told.
Mithridates, he died old.

Crotalia 2: Hot Snake

After the last post LabRat linked in Comments to a pic of the delightful little Crotalus lepidus, the neurotoxic but sweet- natured banded rock rattler. Around here they live at elevations from about 7500 feet and up, in talus slopes, and have a very short “growing season”. Because of this they may be less picky about food than other crotalids; Floyd Mansell once caught one that disgorged a centipede. Here is a pic of me ca. 1983 with one in a jar labeled “hot” (for pickles); venomous snakes are known as hot snakes by their keepers.

We are certainly in Crotalia here; in addition to the banded rock we have the local version of C. viridis, Western diamondbacks, black tailed rattlers, desert massasaugas, and we aren’t far from Mojaves.