When the spring temperatures start to warm, around April or May, we see the snakes and lizards coming out of hibernation. But spring was early this year (drought), so it was a joy to come upon this alligator lizard while hiking in mid-March.
Alligator lizards are rare where I live, you might see one once in a summer, if at all. Elgaria multicarinata multicarinata occupy a narrow range along the U.S. west coast. They are medium-sized lizards usually at about 5-8 inches long. Their diet primarily consists of crickets, millipedes, spiders, and other insects. It is thought that their name “alligator” derives from the large head on an elongated body and their powerful jaws.
I used to be afraid of lizards. But I realized when I moved to a rural property where lizards were leaping everywhere, that I had to change my attitude about lizards. So I did. And here is one of the many things that I now love about lizards: many of them can dispense with their tail if necessary, including the alligator lizard.
If a snake or other predator catches the lizard, the lizard will detach its tail tip and escape. The predator is left with only a few inches of tail, while the rest of the lizard has run to safety. The abandoned tail tip flips and writhes for a few minutes, and then stops moving. A new tail tip eventually grows back. That’s got to be one of the coolest things a being can do.
Photo credit: Athena Alexander