Tuesday, September 30, 2014

creature feature: alligator lizard

thanks to the cats i've seen several examples of the california alligator lizard, Elgaria multicarinata multicarinata.  unfortunately most of the specimens they've shared with me were sans tail---though usually otherwise unharmed.  

the colors and patterns of the scales are quite lovely.

i don't mind picking up the smaller ones barehanded but the larger ones give me the willies a little bit and sometimes i have to put on a glove to handle them.  and the only time i handle any at all is to rescue them from the cats.  the tails come off pretty easily so they shouldn't be handled unless it's really necessary.  they can also voluntarily detach the tail if they feel threatened.  the other reason i'm sometimes reluctant to pick them up ungloved when they're upset is the other defense mechanism they often use---emptying their bowels ( cloaca technically) and smearing the very foul smelling goo onto whatever critter is hassling them---yes, it's happened to me and i'd like not to repeat the experience.

the guy pictured above was pretty big but i once saw one at least twice the size at the friedland ranch---that one was a little scary.  apparently they can grow up to a foot long and get quite broad-bodied.  i think more than anything it's the triangular shaped head that triggers a primal fear mechanism in me---slithery things with triangular heads are often deadly dangerous and i've had enough encounters with rattlesnakes to make me a bit wary of any creature with a similar appearance.
i'm happy to see the alligator lizards here (always good to have lizards in the garden) and i hope enough of them avoid the cats and keep the local population humming along.

you can learn more about the california alligator lizard, Elgaria multicarinata multicarinata
here:  http://www.californiaherps.com/lizards/pages/e.m.multicarinata.html