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Reptiles and Amphibians of Griffith Park


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A summary of reptile and amphibian monitoring during 2008 and 2009 at Griffith Park, Los Angeles, California (USA). Author: Daniel S. Cooper,

A summary of reptile and amphibian monitoring during 2008 and 2009 at Griffith Park, Los Angeles, California (USA). Author: Daniel S. Cooper,

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  • 1. Griffith Park Reptiles and Amphibians Daniel S. Cooper Cooper Ecological Monitoring, Inc. Los Angeles, California [email_address] February 2010
  • 2. Why do we care? Reptiles/Amphibians are integral parts of nature Many are indicators of ecological integrity Knowledge of natural systems brings understanding of earth, our relationship to earth Understanding enriches our lives, like art, music, food, etc.; otherwise, why have more than one kind of anything?
  • 3. Herptile diversity of Santa Monica Mountains Entire range (n = 31) Newts/Salamanders (5) Frogs/Toads (4) Turtles (1) Lizards (7) Snakes (14) Source: “Reptile and Amphibian Checklist for the Santa Monica Mtns. NRA” (undated) In eastern Santa Monica Mtns. (n = 21) Salamanders (4) Frogs/Toads (2) Lizards (6) Snakes (9) Source: Delisle et al. 1986
  • 4. History of investigation into Griffith Park reptiles and amphibians Earliest known collection (1911): CAS 33184,5 Aneides lugubris “Arboreal Salamander” (2) CAS 33151-83 Batrachoseps nigriventris “Black-bellied Slender- salamander” (33) CAS 33186 Ensatina eschscholtzii “Monterey Salamander” (aka Ensatina) Collector: E.C. Van Dyke Location: “On hills in Griffith Park”
  • 5. Griffith Park reptile and amphibian specimens known from museum collections (16 spp.) (as of 2009; most recent specimen: 1976) Aneides lugubris Arboreal Salamander (4) Anniella pulchra Calif. Legless Lizard (2) Batrachoseps nigriventris/attenuatus Black-bellied Slender-salamander (66) Batrachoseps major/pacificus Garden Slender-salamander (2) Ensatina eschscholtzii Monterey Salamander/Ensatina (2) Hyla regilla Pacific Treefrog (1) Bufo boreas Western Toad (2) Elgaria multicarinata Southern Alligator Lizard (2) Sceloporus occidentalis Western Fence-lizard (1) Uta stansburiana Side-blotched Lizard (1) Diadophus punctatus Ringneck Snake (2) Lampropeltis zonata Southern Calif. Mountain Kingsnake (1) Masticophus lateralis Striped Racer (2) Pituophis catenifer Gopher Snake (2) Salvadora hexalepis Coast Patchnose Snake (2) Thamnophis hammondii Two-striped Garter Snake (1)
  • 6. History of investigation into Griffith Park reptiles and amphibians Only comprehensive publication: DeLisle et al. 1986 “ The Distribution and Present Status of the Herpetofauna of the Santa Monica Mountains of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, California. Special publication No. 2 of the Southwestern Herpetoloist Soc., Dec. 1986” DeLisle listedjust five species listed as specifically occurring in Park (ignored specimen data): Western Fence-lizard Side-blotched lizard Southern alligator lizard Silvery legless lizard California striped racer This lack of information has contributed to historically low appreciation of park as natural area.
  • 7. History of investigation into Griffith Park reptiles and amphibians “ The Postfire Era” Postfire Recovery Team convened after 2007 fire, which burned 800 acres. Wildlife Team led by Daniel S. Cooper, Cooper Ecological Monitoring, Inc. In partnership with USGS, initiated herptile surveys of Griffith Park in spring 2008, continuing through summer 2009.
  • 8. Goals and Methods How much of original species diversity is left? What habitats are/were important for which species?
    • Year-long trapping study (w/ USGS)
    • Opportunistic searches (after rain, on hot days)
    • Conversation/communication with rangers/hikers
  • 9. 2008 - 2009 Trapping Drift fencing Bucket Snake trap Opened/checked for 5 days every 4-6 weeks “ Herptile Array”
  • 10. 2008 - 2009 Trapping Five “arrays” placed in the park at Brush Canyon (3), Royce Canyon (1) and Oak Canyon (1). 5-day trapping sessions in Apr., May, June, Aug. and Oct. 2008; Feb., Apr., May and July 2009
  • 11. What have we found? - Salamanders No known records of California Newt, California Treefrog or Calif. Red-legged Frog (ever) Sightings, photos 0 26 Western Toad Sightings Many 0 Pacific Treefrog 0 10+ 1 (juvenile, Spring Cyn.) Searches 0 0 Slender-Salamander sp. (TBD) Other (recent) Traps Species 0 1 (adult, Brush Cyn.) Monterey Ensatina 0 0 Arboreal Salamander
  • 12. What have we found? - Lizards No known records of Western Pond-Turtle Sightings, photos 3 (adj. to GP) 0 Coast Horned Lizard 0 0 0 Side-blotched Lizard Mathewson et al. 2008 1 1 Western Skink 10s 5+ 100s 0 Searches 0 0 California Legless Lizard Sightings, photos 3 Coastal Western Whiptail Sightings, photos 32 Southern Alligator Lizard Other (recent) Traps Species Sightings, photos 32 Western Fence-lizard
  • 13. What have we found? - Snakes No records of Yellow-bellied Racer, Night Snake, Coachwhip, Black-headed Snake, Lyre Snake, Western Blind Snake No modern records of So. Calif. Mountain Kingsnake or Coast Patchnose Snake Sightings, photos 5+ 4 Western Rattlesnake 1991 specimen from L.A. River 0 0 Two-striped Garter Snake 1 captured 1990s 0 0 Rosy Boa 0 5+ 0 0 Searches Photo (2007) 0 California Kingsnake Sightings, photos 1 Gopher Snake Other (recent) Traps Species Sightings, photos 6 Striped Racer 3 Sightings, photos Ringneck Snake
  • 14. Most Common… Western Fence-lizard Sceloporus occidentalis
  • 15. Most Common… Southern Alligator Lizard Elgaria multicarinata
  • 16. Most Common… Western Toad Bufo boreas
  • 17. Most Common… Striped racer Masticophis lateralis
  • 18. Most Common… Western Rattlesnake Crotalis viridis
  • 19. Most Common… Pacific Treefrog Hyla regilla
  • 20. Specialized species…sandy/gravelly soil in open scrub, ridgetops Western Whiptail Cnemidophorus tigris Coast Horned Lizard Phrynosoma coronatum
  • 21. Specialized species…oak-sycamore woodland (part I) Ringneck Snake Diadophus punctatus Slender-salamander sp. Batrachoseps sp.
  • 22. Specialized species…oak-sycamore woodland (part II) Monterey Ensatina Ensatina eschscholtziii Arboreal Salamander Aneides lugubris
  • 23. Probably common (but few records) California Kingsnake Lampropeltis getula Western Skink Eumeces skiltonianus Gopher Snake Pituophis catenifer (upper right)
  • 24. Biggest mysteries (clockwise from upper left, next slide):
    • Southern Calif. Mountain Kingsnake Lampropeltis zonata
        • Old specimens; unconfirmed recent sightings; now rare in entire Santa Monica Mtns., but to be looked for in rocky areas, at outcrops or along stream.
    • California Legless Lizard Anniella pulchra
    • Old specimens; unconfirmed sightings from adj. properties; persists even in urbanized areas of L.A.
    • Two-striped Garter Snake Thamnophis hammondii
    • 1991 specimen from cement-sided Los Angeles River vic. Glendale; possibly persists along LAR.
    • Rosy Boa Lichanura trivirgata
    • Specimen captured by L.A. Zoo staff along northwestern edge of park, at rocky outcrop; only known record for SM Mtns.(?)
  • 25. ?
  • 26. Considered Extirpated in Griffith Park (unless we learn otherwise!) Side-blotched Lizard Uta stansburiana Coast Patchnose Snake Salvadora hexalepis Both still persist in Verdugo, San Gabriel Mtns.
  • 27. Thanks!
    • City of Los Angeles, Dept. of Recreation and Parks (including Albert Torres, Chief Ranger)
    • Franklin Hills Residents Association
    • Greater Griffith Park Neighborhood Council
    • Sierra Club - Verdugo Hills Chapter