Lizards

The species in order of decreasing abundance (U C San Diego reptile survey) are Western fence lizard, orange-throated whiptail, side-blotched lizard, Southern alligator lizard, Western skink, coast horned lizard, coastal Western whiptail, and Calif. legless lizard. The populations of the latter four are so small that they are rarely seen. In contrast to the survey results, the fence and side-blotched lizards are the two species most commonly seen; in spite of being here in appreciable numbers, the orange-throated whiptail is observed only occasionally, and the alligator lizard is rarely seen.

Brief descriptions of the first three listed species are given here with suggested areas to see them.

Western Fence Lizard: The adult overall length is 6 to 8 inches. This lizard has a rough scaly skin with wide color and pattern variations. Colors may be gray, brown to blackish with a blotched pattern, sometimes somewhat striped. Adult males have blue patches on the underside and small turquoise spots on the top. In some springs most adults are almost solid black, with more normal colors and patterns returning in summer. They prefer to remain near dense ground cover to which they can retreat quickly if alarmed. They are often seen resting in the sun on rocks and logs around the Visitor Center and the east side of the Guy Fleming Trail. In late summer and fall, the small juveniles born in late July and August are present but only few adults are observed.

Side-Blotched Lizard: Adult overall length is 5 to 6 inches. This species is smaller than the fence lizard, has a smooth skin, and gets its name from a small bluish black spot on each side in back of the front legs. Colors vary from light tan to brownish, with gray in some specimens. Adult males and females have quite different patterns. Females usually have a chevron pattern on top with (sometimes) faint longitudinal stripes on each side. Males usually show a blue speckled pattern on top. This species prefers loose sandy soil and more open ground cover than the fence lizard. Suggested places to see this lizard are the west side of the Guy Fleming Trail, the Whittaker Garden, and especially the sandy trail at the southern entrance to the Reserve Extension.

Orange-Throated Whiptail: Although the U C San Diego survey found this species to be the second most abundant in the Reserve, it is not that easy to observe. This is a slender lizard with a very long and thin tail, which tapers to a tiny tip. Overall length is up to about 9 inches. It has tan and yellow longitudinal stripes, and in mating season the males have vivid orange color on the underside of both the throat and body (normally not visible when viewed on the ground). The juvenile has a blue tail. When not alarmed, this lizard moves about in a slow ambling way in contrast to the fence and side-blotched lizards, which usually are resting in the sun or running rapidly from what they perceive as threats. There is no easy way to find this whiptail. The only suggestion is to watch the ground near the trails in the coastal sage scrub areas where the vegetation is not too dense.

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