My interest in herpetology originated from a toddler’s fascination with the huge, mysterious dinosaurs. As I grew, that interest shifted to the smaller “dinosaurs” of today, the amphibians and reptiles. That adolescent exhilaration fueled a passion for herpetology spanning 47 years of reading, learning, and extensive exploring. Culminating from that experience is this book, including its fundamental field observations.
From the moment my family arrived at a campsite, I would begin chasing lizards from rockbound fire-pits, nearby trees, and boulders to capture and examine them. I acquired knowledge from natural history books and observing animals during trips to the mountains and deserts. The trips were inspirational. It was challenging to apply the advice gained from books to find the Desert Iguana (Dipsosaurus dorsalis), Mojave Fringe-toed Lizard (Uma scoparia), and other animals. Growing up, I hounded my friends and family to accompany me. Later, taking day trips alone from sunup to sundown, detailing notes the entire time. Records were made of all herpetofauna encountered, from the Common Side-blotched Lizard (Uta stansburiana) to a Sidewinder (Crotalus cerastes) that had been run over and killed on the highway. Although few, I captured animals to study, arranging terrariums with labels in museum fashion and manicuring soil, rocks, and even living plants to model natural environments.
Enjoying college, proficiency was achieved in the classroom and afield, including lengthy expeditions to Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. As a young man, I dated an audacious young lady, Riechilda, who encouraged traveling beyond California to Alaska and Hawaii and driving across the United States to Florida, Montana, New York, and Washington. Together, nearly stranded in the Arctic Circle to subsist on the blubber of Bowhead Whale (Balaena mysticetus) when whiteout conditions threatened the returning plane. Quests continued to Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico, Philippines, and the West Indies. Reaching Costa Rica’s interior jungle required a tractor equipped with monstrous tires. After arriving and skirting horrendously painful stings from the Bullet Ant (Paraponera clavata) and the life-threatening kissing bugs (Triatoma), we explored rainy nights for tropical amphibians. At the coast, chartering a panga to net the Pelagic Sea Snake (Hydrophis platurus) and trekking lengthy shorelines to witness the nesting of the Leatherback Sea Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea). Rare to California, aspirations for confrontation with those creatures required traveling afar. Taking temporary residence in Hawaii, Oregon, and Pennsylvania allowed the lengthy study of their ecosystems, which are dramatically different from those of California. Today, Riechilda and I are married, living in Southern California raising two beautiful children, Cole (12) and Ava (7). Having children has hampered explorations to potentially dangerous places. We now choose to stay closer to home, further exploring Costa Rica, Mexico, the United States, and remote sections of California.
I am grateful to herpetology for setting forth a life of discovery, for exploring every obscure corner of California and beyond was necessary to uncover and advance awareness of natural history. A life in pursuit of animals revealed terrific surprises, love was found, children were born, and dream fulfilled. For those interested in studying, please be respectful, and as the cliché goes, leave only footprints, take only pictures. Be considerate of the environment and those that may follow the same path. If lifting objects is necessary, return those objects to their original position. The California wilderness holds a myriad of natural wonders waiting for discovery—under a log, basking on a boulder, on a road in the pouring rain or blazing sun. One needs only to leave the concrete cities with a camera, field book, and an overpowering curiosity to find an entirely new world.