Be on the lookout for these special reptiles

rare reptiles and amphibians of columbia county

You may have noticed that snakes, turtles, lizards, and frogs are all out right now. There are several rare species in our county that we would love for you keep an eye out for. Sighting any of these, especially with a picture, would be a huge help for our study of reptiles and amphibians in our region.

Any reptiles or amphibians you see can be added to our project simply by making a free account on and uploading your photos to their website.

Western Pond Turtle

western pond turtle vernonia st. helens scappoose rainier clatskanie deer island columbia county oregon

Western Pond Turtles are the less common of our local turtle species. They can be distinguished by their drab shells and lack of stripes on the face. We’re making a special effort to survey these and would love any reports.

Western Fence Lizard

fence lizard oregon northwest pacific st. helens vernonia scappoose

Also called “blue bellies”, fence lizards have rough scales, very different from alligator lizards and skinks with much smoother scales. They are considered a warm-weather lizard, but there have been several nearby reports in Multnomah and Washington counties. Any sightings would be greatly appreciated.

Western Skink

Western Skink Liberty Hill St. Helens Columbia County northwest Oregon

This is the only local lizard with stripes. As youngsters, they have blue tails. They are more secretive than fence lizards, but can be found in a few places in St. Helens. Have you seen one anywhere?

Ringneck Snake

northwestern ringneck snake ring-necked northwest oregon columbia county st. helens scappoose rainier

These tiny snakes live mostly underground, feeding mostly on worms, slugs, salamanders, lizards, and small snakes. They are the only local snake with a orange/red ring around its neck.

Gopher Snake

This is our largest local snake, and a voracious rodent eater. It can be recognized by its yellow/brown pattern. Despite their size, they are quite hard to find here.

Rubber Boa

Northern Rubber Boa found under rock in meadow

Another secretive subterranean snake, these slow-moving burrowers eat lizards and raid rodent nests. Their fat bodies, tiny eyes, and many scales make them unique. They are much more common than the previous species, but we rarely see them outside of the Scappoose/St. Helens region. Have you seen one anywhere else in the county?

Western Yellow-bellied Racer

A fast-moving, active hunter that eats rodents, lizards, and other snakes. They are the only large grayish snake without stripes that moves quickly. We see them exclusively in St. Helens and Deer Island. Have you spotted one anywhere else?

Western Terrestrial Garter Snake

Western Terrestrial garter snake Thamnophis elegans black and white columbia county northwest oregon

By far our rarest species of Garter Snake, it can be identified by black-and-white or black-and-yellow coloration, with a dorsal stripe that appears broken or indented rather than smooth on the sides. These garter snakes appear far less likely to be found near towns and habitations than our other two local species.

Western Toad

Western Toad Anaxyrus boreas boreas columbia county oregon boreal toad

These are the only local frogs with large “warts”. They have become rare in western Oregon, and currently are only known from one location in Columbia County.

Coast Tailed Frog

Our coolest frog, the small “tail” on males is actually a sexual organ that helps them breed in the swift streams they live in. They are distinct in their vertical pupils and presence near rapids.

Clouded Salamander

clouded salamander columbia county oregon pacific northwest st. helens, oregon

A fascinating arboreal species that can jump off branches and glide to the ground. They are only found in older-growth forest, differing from other salamanders by their long legs/toes and clouded appearance.

We would love to hear from you if you’ve seen any of these species nearby! You can message us on the following contact form, or upload the pictures directly to More information on the project can be read in the following link:

Thank you for helping us study which reptiles and amphibians are present in our area. Every sighting you contribute makes a difference.

Published by Jonathan

Educator, Herpetologist, Hiker.

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