Spiders, Snakes, Lizards, and Newts!
 A Reader Inspired Reflection on Trail Friends

Coming across wildlife while riding can be a rewarding reminder of the benefits of traveling at ‘bicycle speed’; fast enough to cover significant ecological diversity, slow enough to bear witness and observe the animal kingdom all around us. Keep nature wild, look don’t touch (you knew that right?)

By the BAT, Photos by James Panzer, and BICYCLIST Archives

Inspired by a photo sent by reader James Panzer, we wanted to pay a tribute to some of wildlife encountered on ‘rides in our backyard’ – a ride beginning and starting at home, no extra travel required. Within the confines of office walls and singly-occupied vehicles, it can be easy to forget these living beings are all around us. But away from humans, and off the beaten track, the animal kingdom continues on its way. Even in the heart of suburban Orange County. Go forth and explore!

California Ebony Tarantula (Aphonopelma eutylenum)

California Tarantula in Whiting Ranch. Credit: James Panzer
BICYCLIST reader James Panzer came upon a California Ebony Tarantula (Aphonopelma eutylenum) crossing the Whiting Ranch trail in Orange County. Oddly enough the California Tarantula are nocturnal hunters so it’s not often they appear during the day.

Southern Pacific Rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus helleri)

Rattlesnake curled up on a pile of leaves. Adobe.
The Southern Pacific rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus helleri) is a local to SoCal with a range extending south down into Baja, Mexico. It is an extremely venomous snake, adults growing to nearly 5 feet long.  They are shy and typically stay off trail, usually often hidden under rocks or logs, but will strike if provoked! If you happen upon a trail-crossing serpent, wait and give it room to pass before continuing your journey.

California Kingsnake (Lampropeltis californiae)

California king snake. Adobe.
Another creature you may encounter on the trails of our backyard are the California Kingsnake (Lampropeltis californiae). The non-venomous colubrid takes its namesake for its constricting strength and penchant for preying on other snakes, including the Southern Pacific rattlesnake. #natureismetal.

San Diego Alligator Lizard (Elgaria multicarinata webbii)

Alligator lizard on a rock. Adobe.
The San Diego alligator lizard (Elgaria multicarinata webbii) is common on both road and trail. They are active during the day and frequently dart in front of oncoming wheels. The ‘suicide lizard’ doesn’t know better, keep your eyes sharp, with a bunny lizard-hop at the ready.

California Newt (Taricha torosa)

California Newt basking on a rock near the water. Adobe
The California newt is one of few animals you will ONLY find in California. Look, but don’t touch – this distinctive coastal salamander secrets poisonous toxins. You can find them basking in the sun on rocks, or around small ponds and creeks in California’s coastal areas.
Snapped any wildlife while riding your local trails? Send us your photos for consideration in our future series!
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