Guide to flora and fauna

There are many sensitive, threatened and endangered species in Hellhole canyon. See if you can identify some of these examples on your next visit!

Click here to learn how to identify a rattlesnake and what to do in the event of a snake bite.







Sensitive Species

Within the Canyon at least 18 sensitive resident animal species have been detected. These species either live in the canyon year-round or are a seasonal resident. Another 6 sensitive wildlife species have been observed in the Canyon on an irregular basis.

These species are considered sensitive or rare by the Federal and State governments or are Target Species for San Diego County’s Multiple Species Conservation Plan. The Friends has submitted over 160 sensitive animal and plant locations from Hellhole Canyon to the County of San Diego for inclusion in the North County Multiple Species Conservation Plan database. Several additional species have been detected since then.

Wildlife biologist Kristine Preston collected these data from spring 1999 through fall 2001. Even with Kristine's extensive contributions, much of the canyon is yet to be surveyed. 

Engelmann’s Oak, a California Native Plant Society List 4 species, is widespread in the preserve. To date, there have been no focused sensitive plant surveys in Hellhole Canyon, although we plan to conduct plant surveys in the future.


Threatened and Endangered Species

A single pair of federally-listed California gnatcatchers (Polioptila californica californica) was documented inhabiting coastal sage scrub for over a year near the entrance to Hellhole Canyon Preserve. This is rather far inland for this species to occur in north San Diego County. The pair disappeared after the start of the 2001 breeding season. 

We are keeping an eye out for two federally endangered species: The Quino Checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha quino) and the Southwestern Toad (Bufo microscaphu californicus). Suitable habitat for both species is prevalent in the Preserve.

Please email us at if you are a qualified wildlife expert that wants to conduct a survey in the canyon, or if you encounter any unusual or endangered species while visiting.