Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter


from the April 26, 2009 Newsletter, issued from the Siskiyou Mountains west of Grants Pass, Oregon:

On warm, sunny days in certain open, rocky areas every few steps you hear rustling leaves and you spot a Western Fence Lizard, SCELOPORUS OCCIDENTALIS, scurrying to safety. You can see one basking on a rock above.

Something not showing in that picture is the blue throat patches. Occasionally the individual on the rock would do a quick pushup revealing a flash of blue, either hoping to attract a female or else to drive off male intruders.

My friend Anita remembers these lizards from her childhood: "Flip them over and tickle their bellies and they just lie there like a big bullfrog! They seem to like it!"

In recent months we've seen lizards of the genus Sceloporus pretty often -- the Rosebellied and Spiny Lizards in Chiapas, the Mountain Spiny and Mesquite Lizards in Querétaro, the Yucatan Spiny Lizard in Yucatán, and the Eastern Fence Lizard in Mississippi. This latest Sceloporus species has the same general shape as the others, the same blue throat blotches and short snout. I've had a couple of lizard experts write to me asking for more information and pictures, for they're trying to figure out Sceloporus taxonomy. That isn't easy, though, because the various species are so variable. It's a huge genus lustily diversifying and making absolutely no effort to fit its creations into humanity's taxonmomic pigeonholes.

The individual in the above photo is much darker and its side stripe more pronounced than is shown in the Audubon field guide. That book recognizes six subspecies of Western Fence Lizard, of which ours must be S. o. occidentalis.

from the May 10, 2009 Newsletter, issued from the Siskiyou Mountains west of Grants Pass, Oregon:

Not long ago I introduced you to our Western Fence Lizard. At that time I mentioned that the lizard bears blue throat blotches, but my picture didn't show them. Last Sunday it was so cold that my friends' cats carried two lethargic fence lizards into their kitchen. You can see the spectacular bottom of one of those below:

 Western Fence Lizard, SCELOPORUS OCCIDENTALIS, blue splotches