Fun Reptile Vacations

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Spring is also the optimal time to visit  the Desert Tortoise Natural Area near California City, California. As the Mojave Desert begins to warm up in late April and early May, desert tortoises emerge from their burrows to forage. Current population density estimates around the interpretive area are between 20 to 25 tortoises per square mile (in 1979 the same area had well over 100 tortoises per square mile). The natural area is home to many other reptiles, including leopard lizards, zebratails, western whiptails, side-blotched lizards, desert horned lizards, Mojave rattlers, sidewinders, coachwhips and gopher snakes.

This smooth softshell turtle (Apalone mutica) is just one of the many herps the STAR Eco Station rescues every year.


A staff volunteer explained that if you visit when the tortoises are exiting their burrows, walk off the trails and spend an hour or two looking, then you definitely should see a few. Remember, however, that it is unlawful to harass, injure or collect desert tortoises!

There is a dual mission to STAR Eco Station's lost-Mayan-city-and-jungle motif: to rescue exotic animals and provide a fun and educational experience for kids and adults alike. The Culver City, California, facility has 15 interactive learning areas and numerous rescued herps. Eco Station is an official wildlife rescue facility for several U.S. agencies, including the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Coachella Valley Preserve lies just off Interstate 10, near the town of Thousand Palms. This was the first preserve set aside for an endangered lizard: the Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard. The preserve offers a small visitor center/museum, nature trails, and tours can be arranged into the main dune area, habitat for fringe-toed lizards, sidewinders, flat-tailed horned lizards, collared lizards, chuckwallas and other species.

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