Natural Sightings #709 – Woodland Alligator Lizard.jpg

Alligator Lizards are widespread throughout the Tehachapi Mountains.

Al Crisalli Jr. took this photo of a young Woodland Alligator Lizard (Elgaria multicarinata webbii) on a fallen log. Alligator Lizards are widespread throughout the Tehachapi Mountains, though they aren’t as visible as Western Fence Lizards (“Bluebellies”) because they don’t climb up on prominent locations and bask.

Though Alligator Lizards are fairly swift, their legs aren’t nearly as powerful as other lizards like Western Whiptails or Western Fence Lizards, so they tend to stay more discreetly concealed on the ground level or among leaf duff.

Alligator Lizards originally have very long tails that may be twice as long as their body. If threatened, the lizard can detach its long tail in a process called caudal autotomy. The wriggling tail will then ideally distract a potential predator, allowing the lizard itself to escape.

If the lizard escapes successfully, it will regrow its tail, but the replacement tail seldom reach the full length and degree of slender taper as their original tail.

Alligator Lizards make a poor choice as a pet, because they do not like to be handled, and are the quickest lizard to bite if caught. Uncharmingly, they will also empty the contents of their cloaca and writhe to smear it on someone handling them.

Alligator Lizards eat mostly invertebrates, and occasionally other prey like small lizards, mice or bird eggs. They in turn are at risk from a variety of predators, including birds, snakes and mammals like bobcats, coyotes or foxes. But they don’t go down without a fight, and their biting tendency and pugnaciousness can sometimes save them.

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.