Visiting San Fran

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Visiting San Fran

Post by BBastarache » November 30th, 2015, 6:15 am

My girlfriend and I will be visiting San Francisco for a 3-4 day weekend. While I am not asking for anyone to divulge locality information I would appreciate a few suggestions.
1. We would like to take a few hikes and love searching for wildlife, even non-herps. I am looking at the Muir Woods (because its Muir's woods) and Pt. Reyes for elephant seals and elk. Are there any other sites that should be on my list? (Since we are coming from herp-lite New England, even common species, especially lizards, would be great.)

2. Are snake hooks frowned upon in the National Parks, other areas or CA in general? We'll have no containers or bags, just cameras.

Thank you,


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Steve Bledsoe
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Re: Visiting San Fran

Post by Steve Bledsoe » November 30th, 2015, 6:48 am

I don't know anything about the SF area, but for certain, carrying snake hooks in National or State Parks or Monuments is not a good idea. It can be cause for ticketing or confiscation.
It's not a problem, however, in National Forests or on federally owned BLM land.

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Re: Visiting San Fran

Post by Jimi » November 30th, 2015, 7:45 am

What's the timing of your trip?

There's a lot of preserved open space in the Bay Area, often local-govt-managed (e.g. see Local voters & taxpayers have passed many ballot measures to establish and manage these preserves. Working private lands - farms and ranches - aren't very friendly to hiking & exploration. So you're mainly going to be walking around on public land, except for any roadside trash flipping you can accomplish.

Personally, I'd skip the hook and just bring a good pair of leather gloves. They are way more useful for flipping and grabbing, than a hook. Don't think they're for preventing an envenomation, they're not - that requires watching where you put your hands. They're just to protect you from normal punctures and slices and such.

There's a lot of blackberries and poison oak in NorCal, you'll be glad for the gloves. With a hook, you'll stick out and might get harassed. It makes you look like you're contemplating activities (e.g., "hunting") incompatible with the land-use designations of the places open to you. So again, I suggest you skip the hook. If you see a rattlesnake - a definite probability most of the year, away from the immediate coast - well, just look and enjoy.

If you want more "+/- do what you like" public lands to play on, you'll need to head for e.g. a national forest. Those are available in all directions, just a longer drive. Probably a little far for your weekend trip.


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Re: Visiting San Fran

Post by Calfirecap » December 1st, 2015, 7:24 am

This time of year you will do better with Salamanders than lizards in the SF Bay area, but finding both lizards and some snakes is still a reasonable goal. Be sure and familiarize yourself with the Cal Herps website before going out (, it's the best thing going for updated reference to CA herps. The Stebbens field guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians is also a good field guide.

Although I've never been to either of the places you mentioned, but you should be able to find herps at both, but as others mentioned, don't bring a hook. It will only get you into trouble in a National or Calif. State Park as all animals are protected from touch and harassment.

If you are into Marine Mammals you can usually see Sea Otters and Dolphins along West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz, and Sea Lions are always present at the wharf in Santa Cruz.

The Open Space Preserves that can be found in the web site Jimi referenced will probably be your best bet for all around wildlife viewing.


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El Garia
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Re: Visiting San Fran

Post by El Garia » December 1st, 2015, 12:56 pm

Sound advice from Jimi and Lawrence. In regards to Winter lizard-hunting, you'll have a better shot at finding fence and alligator lizards along the coastal areas, as the inland regions have been experiencing freezing temps. The relative warmth of the ocean usually prevents the coastal temps from dipping too low at night.

Aside from the elk and elephant seals, Pt. Reyes is a great place to observe Mountain Beaver and River Otters.


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Brian Hubbs
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Re: Visiting San Fran

Post by Brian Hubbs » December 3rd, 2015, 10:30 am

Carrying a snake hook in CA is like wearing a sign on your back that says "I'm searching for reptiles and plan to detain them with this hook. Please give me a ticket." :lol:
A potato rake looks more like a walking stick, and is far more useful than a snake hook...even better, a straight claw hammer tucked in your belt will draw no attention to you...but works really good for lifting rocks and logs.

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Joseph S.
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Re: Visiting San Fran

Post by Joseph S. » December 4th, 2015, 10:17 am

Just a friendly tip. Seeing as you are a herper and therefore probably enjoy a more natural environ, I would pass on Muir woods. That place is a bit of a tourist trap. If you enjoy interpretive signage and a boardwalk then feel is spectacular.

Samuel P. Taylor State Park isn't too much further and you can actually explore a redwood forest this way.

Their are some trails in the Muir Woods area there that lead away from Muir Woods proper into the boondocks(and therefore vise versa ;) ) for more info.

Snake/lizard activity isn't great right now...but especially with the recent rain your chances are halfway decent. Salamanders are a much better target.

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