The man was driving a truck when he arrived at the San Ysidro border crossing with Mexico on February 25 and was pulled out for closer inspection, US Customs and Border Protection said.
Agents found 52 live reptiles tied up in small bags, “which were concealed in the man’s jacket, pants pockets, and groin area”, the agency said.
Nine snakes and 43 horned lizards were seized. Some of the species are considered endangered, authorities said.
“Smugglers will try every possible way to try and get their product, or in this case live reptiles, across the border,” said Sidney Aki, Customs and Border Protection director of field operations in San Diego.
“In this occasion, the smuggler attempted to deceive CBP officers in order to bring these animals into the US, without taking care for the health and safety of the animals.”
The man, a 30-year-old US citizen, was arrested.