PEEC Offers Reptile and Amphibian Guide

‘Reptiles and Amphibians of the Pajarito Plateau’ is PEEC’s latest publication. Courtsey photo

PEEC News:

As you are out enjoying your hike or walk around the neighborhood, a medium-sized lizard skirts your path and disappears under a rock. Was it a Tree Lizard, or more likely, the common Eastern Fence Lizard?

Learn how to identify the salamanders, frogs, toads, lizards and snakes found around Los Alamos in the Pajarito Environmental Education Center’s newest publication, “Reptiles and Amphibians of the Pajarito Plateau.” The booklet was written by Jennifer Macke and Garth Tietjen and is available for $5 ($4 for members) in the PEEC gift shop.

In the booklet, two types of salamanders, six types of frogs and toads, 11 types of lizards and 18 types of snakes are identified with photos and short descriptions. Venomous snakes are specifically pointed out, though the only venomous snakes native to the Pajarito Plateau are rattlesnakes.

There are two species of rattlesnakes in this area: the Prairie Rattlesnake and the Diamondback Rattlesnake. Both are distinguished from non-venomous snakes by their wide triangular-shaped head, stocky body and rattle or button on the tail.

“The aim of this publication is to introduce Los Alamos residents and visitors to the reptiles and amphibians of the area, so they can become more familiar with what they may encounter as they explore the Pajarito Plateau,” co-author Jennifer Macke said. “It will also give them the chance to learn about some seldom-seen species that are secretive or nocturnal.”  

Macke also pointed out that becoming aware that most of the species of snakes we encounter around here are non-venomous, may make hiking and enjoying the outdoors more comfortable for residents and visitors. Snakes are helpful to the environment, and PEEC hopes that more knowledge about snakes will make people less afraid.

 The reptiles and amphibians detailed in the booklet represent the vast majority of species found around Los Alamos. There are some small, isolated populations that could not be included, however the list encompasses the area’s main species. It was derived both from published references and eyewitness accounts, relying largely on Garth Tietjen’s many years of local experience.

“As much as possible we included a picture of a typical specimen to represent each species,” Macke said. A dozen photographers contributed to the booklet.

 The gift shop is located at the PEEC Nature Center, which is open noon-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday. The center is at 3540 Orange St., behind Los Alamos High School. PEEC also offers a wide variety of programs, including classes, day trips, hikes and more.

For a full calendar of events, visit PEEC’s website at Entrance to the Nature Center is free, and there are many exhibits on display for learning and having fun.

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