It was a juvenile, all right. The southwestern fence lizard scooting past me on our Cochise County acreage–specifically, on the patch of ground I was digging up for the purpose of laying a bit of PVC pipe to supply our laundry shed–was no bigger’n a minute.
But man, could that little tyke scoot. The tiny critter was lightning fast, darting from place to place. Fortunately, the youngster wasn’t overly spooked by me personally. In fact, its rambling route eventually took it around me more than away from me, as if it were circling the giant human out of sheer curiosity.
Southwestern fence lizards are fairly common in this part of the country. Of course, lots of lizard species seem to be abundant here. We’ve identified more than two dozen during our four and a half years and this land, writing about more than a dozen as photo opportunities made the effort worthwhile.
If this was truly a juvenile, the head should appear larger in proportion to the body than it does on mature adults. Let’s see….
The literature indicates these lizards are voracious hunters, snarfing down bugs galore. Which makes sense; few if any insects could ever hope to match the miniscule reptile’s blazing speed.
It’s also reported they’ll eat smaller lizards. (This one, no more than three inches in total length, will have to grow a bit to find any smaller lizards, I’m thinking.)
Their name seems fitting though. Every shovel the juvie southwestern fence lizard met, it climbed.
Thought it was a fence post.
These particular lizards are really, really good at matching their dorsal colors to their background environments. So good, in fact, that while I could somewhat follow the critter’s movement with the naked eye, I kept losing track of it in the Canon PowerShot’s viewscreen image.
However, the ventral (bottom) of the critter is another matter.
At one point, the lizard came zipping back toward me, and the camera got lucky. Although the sun was still out and the shutter speed had to have been at least 1/200 of a second, the animal’s ferocious forward motion still blurred the image a bit. Which is fine; the blurring gives the view some idea of just how quick this beastie can be.
Beyond that, the camera angle was low enough and the sunlight reflecting enough. The lizard’s creamy underside, with a hint of yellow at the throat, helped produce a remarkable photo.
Luck, not skill. Catching these speedsters in motion definitely requires luck.
Near the top of the dirt pile produced by my trenching work, the fence lizard once paused to pose in full profile, standing as tall as it could (which, when your legs are maybe an inch long, is not all that tall), surveying the terrain.
Which would seem like a mighty fine idea for a predator no longer than your little finger. It’s not exactly dog eat dog around here, but it surely is predator eat predator. Eat anything that doesn’t eat you and avoid the rest; that’s the motto.
The female of this species will lay an average of ten eggs per season. At a guess, our model for this post was one of those eggs in 2013, hatched not so terribly long ago.
One thing is clear: An enterprising lizard-ologist (sounds cooler than “herpetologist specializing in lizards”) could do worse than moving to Cochise County. This is definitely lizard country.