The Creepy Beneath Our Feet: The Real (And Not Actually Creepy) Thing

Most of you probably know that there are lizards in Los Angeles: The real kind you can find in Audubon field guides and herpetology texts. During my morning runs in the hills above Los Feliz, I commonly see at least two or three per day during the warmer months, skittering across my path.

The nice thing about these lizards is that you can actually see them.

Reptiles abound in Los Angeles County, and you don’t have to go snooping through pedestrian tunnels or the seedier segments of the Internet to find them.  Here’s a quick list of what you might be able to find in some of the less urban parts of the county.

Western Fence Lizard. Photo by Walter Siegmund.

Western Fence Lizard. You can usually find these guys sunning themselves on rocks in Griffith Park other spots with relatively high elevation — that is, until they spot you and scurry into the undergrowth. A cinch to find, these will be visible (but only for a few seconds) along any hiking trail.

Western Skink. USGS photo.

Western Skink. These are a little harder to find, but easy to recognize due to their smooth, streamlined appearance. Younger specimens have brightly-colored tails. Look for skinks in less populated areas during the summer months.

Southern Alligator Lizard. Photo by Althepal.

Southern Alligator Lizard. The word for the southern alligator lizard is adorable. But beware — they’re feistier than Canadian indie music festival. They’re not hard to catch, but once you do, there’s a good chance you’ll get bitten and/or pooped on. Yeah, they poop defensively. Kind of like grandpa during those last few months.

Pacific Gopher Snake. Photo by K. Bell.

Pacific Gopher Snake. Technically not a lizard (duh), these are also called bull snakes or pine snakes. These also make good pets, though I don’t think it’d be right to pull one from its natural habitat. Like the other animals on this list, you can usually find gopher snakes in places where they have lots of undergrowth to hide in.

So, you heard it here first: The real story on the lizards of Los Angeles. You’ll note that none of the reptiles on this list are affiliated with any extraterrestrial or extradimensional threat; nor do they commonly disguise themselves as Hillary Clinton or King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

We’ll close up shop tomorrow.