Recently I have noticed a plethora of large hulking lizards. It seems like the rocks have burped up spiny lizards everywhere. In the past if I saw one or two in the summer it was memorable. For some reason, unknown to me, I am seeing them everywhere. We even had one brought in to Liberty after being stepped on by a horse. There’s a testament to the size…it survived the assault.
They are a very pretty if sullen looking reptile. Both the males and females sport a noticeable black collar under or around the neck. The males are easy to notice with the psychedelic splash of turquoise, green, blue scales on the ventral side with a gray to tannish topside. The females, equally impressive in bulk and sulk have a tendency to an orange-ish head in breading season. If you look closely both have a splash of yellow scales on their sides….
Spiny lizards are found throughout the southwest, mainly on the ground and most often in a rocky substrate. They lay 4-24 eggs in the summer that take 60-75 days to hatch. Like many lizards they are metachromatic which means they change colors related to the ambient temperature…with a darker tint to absorb sun/heat in the cooler times and lighter color to reflect the sun/heat. They live on small insects, small lizards and small plants.
I am wondering if the supply of food has something to do with the plentitude of spiny lizards that I am seeing…which brings me to the lizard I miss the most…the regal horned lizard. I used to see them all of the time.
They look like fierce little dinosaurs. They have a frowny face with these wicked looking horns on their heads. They are about the size and shape of a man’s palm with a tail…and lots of nasty looking spikes covering the body.
While they have the same basic characteristics of other lizards their defense is the one that most appeals to me. They spit blood out of their eyes…you have to admit that is one cool defense. (Don’t you kind of wish you could do that every once in a while?) It must have a nasty flavor to a predator or just be surprising as heck! If that doesn’t work they suck in a lot of air and puff out their bodies and using appropriate motions try to stab and scrap the predator with their pointy, nasty horns. Nature is so cool.
Their scarcity is probably because their favorite food, harvester ants (eating 2500 at one meal) is one of the first “pests” homeowners remove from their property when they move in from somewhere else. At 2500 ants a meal, it would seem to me that to have a bunch of “horny toads” around would be much more fun and entertaining and way better for the environment than toxic pesticides.
I wish I could see a plethora of “horny toads” from now on.
This Week @ Liberty
The intake total for the year is 4440. Released of 08/14/2014: 62 misc. doves, 31 quail, 6 Gila woodpeckers, 3 curved bill thrashers, 1 gilded flicker, 1 cactus wren, 1 mockingbird, 1 misc.LBB
This week will be the first herpetological H3 and TW@L in which we present examples of animals mostly within the Testudines (turtles, and tortoises) and Squamata (snakes and lizards) suborders that have come into some kind of close contact with Liberty. The one exception is the GHO that come into close contact with a car bumper and subsequently arrived for treatment. Let’s take a look at these interesting ectotherms who got injured in their unfortunate confrontations with humanity…
The red eared slider that had been run over by a car was surgically repaired by Dr. Todd Driggers recently. The turtle came in with large pieces of her shell broken and hanging out, exposing several internal organs including a lung. Dr. Driggers patched most of the shell with resin and reinforcing fiber to hold it together while the lengthy healing process goes on. In the meantime, a special bandage keeps medicine in and infection out while the unfortunate animal continuous it’s battle to survive. Although no creature is turned away from Liberty Wildlife, some are never released, notably non-native species such as former pets like turtles. They are placed with permanent care-givers or placed in closed environments preventing their escape into the wild.
Just as the slider starts her treatment, a native desert tortoise arrived with a suspicious hole in it’s shell. The investigation is ongoing, but since the wound is so localized, symmetrical, and without much collateral damage, it appears it could have been caused by a hammer. In any case, this little native Arizonan also made the trip to Dr. Driggers in Gilbert for another surgical procedure to repair the damage to the carapace. Since desert tortoises that spend any appreciable time in the custody of humans are no longer releasable and must be adopted, this one is another candidate for long-term care before placement in a permanently sequestered habitat.
A week ago on Saturday, R&T volunteer Shane Crabtree and his son went out to retrieve a juvenile great horned owl from the grill of someone’s car. The owners must have hit it the night before and thought it was dead. Amazingly, he survived the collision, the subsequent drive home, and the night impaled on the bumper and grill. He has a broken wing, a fractured leg, and a head injury of unknown severity. All of this is believed to be repairable – if he survives the head trauma. The next day he appeared much improved and is now being treated for the multiple injuries, including some eye problems caused by the impact to his head. We’ll keep you posted.