Western Fence Lizard

A Western Fence Lizard sheds its skin.

Toshimi Kristof took this photo at her home in Bear Valley Springs of a Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis longipes) that was shedding its skin.

In this case the process happened fairly quickly, because Toshimi's husband, Les, saw the same lizard 10 minutes earlier and the old, fading skin was still intact up to the lizard's head. This lizard appears to be a male, since it has small dots of green or blue markings on its upperside.

Western Fence Lizards, commonly referred to as "Bluebellies" because of the bright blue underside patches of color on males, shed periodically, as do all reptiles. Some lizards with smooth scales, like Southern Alligator Lizards, tend to shed their old skin in one intact piece like a snake.

Western Fence Lizards, on the other hand, have coarser skin with rougher scales, and their old skin tends to shed off in pieces, like they were wearing raggedly old clothes that gradually disintegrated.

Reptiles need to shed as they grow, because their skin, while flexible, cannot accommodate their growth indefinitely and must be replaced occasionally with new, larger skin. Young reptiles that are growing quickly need to shed more frequently than older, more slow-growing adults.

Most reptiles eat little or nothing during the shedding process. It is a time of greater vulnerability for them, because they are not as agile until the old skin is completely gone. In many snake species, their eyes turn milky just before shedding occurs.

The Nuwä (Kawaiisu or Paiute) word for Western Fence Lizard is wogosinaz, pronounced wo-go-si-naz.

NATURAL SIGHTINGS is a regular feature of the Tehachapi News edited by Jon Hammond which showcases photos of the natural beauty that enhances the quality of life in Tehachapi. If you have a good quality image of plants, animals, insects, trees, birds, weather phenomena, etc., taken in the Tehachapi area, you may submit it to the Tehachapi News for possible publication. Submissions can be dropped by the News office in the form of a print or CD, or sent by email to: editorial@tehachapinews.com.