Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Eastern Fence Lizards

Last Sunday I joined up with some fellow Ohio University students and traveled to the Raccoon Ecological Management Area (REMA) in Vinton County. The goal of the trip was to capture as many Eastern Fence Lizards as we could in order to collect habitat data and later collect data on the individuals themselves.

Eastern Fence Lizard
Here are 7 of the 9 individuals we captured that day. I'll explain how the capturing process worked later in the post. Anyway, those are all Eastern Fence Lizards, Sceloporus undulatus. Now, you might think "Lizards? In Ohio?" But it's true; most people don't think of Ohio as a home for lizards, but we actually have 5 species (Eastern Fence Lizard, Common Five-Lined Skink, Broad Headed Skink, Little Brown Skink, and the non-native Common Wall Lizard). Eastern Fence Lizards are found in southern and eastern parts of Ohio, where hills and forests are the norm.

Eastern Fence Lizard
Eastern Fence Lizards are a smaller lizard; they only reach lengths of 4-7.25 inches long. As you can see, they can easily fit in the palm of your hand. They like to bask in the sunlight on rocks, fallen logs, and other similar things in the forest. You will also find them on trees; in fact, they will many times run up trees to get away from anything.

male Eastern Lizard
This is the underside of a male individual. This view is something most people don't see unless you have a lizard in hand, like we did. The sparkling blue is brilliant, even more so in person than in the photo above. Males also have some blue under their head, but the females will get blue there as well.

Noosing Lizards
So how in the world did we catch a small, quick lizard? Have you ever seen people on TV try to catch alligators by putting a snare around its head? That is basically the same thing we did, except the snare was very tiny. As you can see above, one of the students is holding a fishing rod out toward the lizard, which is the tiny thing on the right side of the base of the tree. At the end of the fishing rod is the tiny snare. You would simply try to get as close as you can to the lizard without scaring it off, reach over with the fishing rod, put the snare around the lizard's head, then carefully yank it so the snare closed around the head. And now you have a captured lizard! The hardest part, though, is trying to find the lizards in the first place to snare. They blend in so well with their surroundings that it takes a very sharp eye to find one.

Eastern Fence Lizard
This is the lizard that I personally captured. It was a very calm individual; it never tried to bite me when I was holding it. I was, however, bitten the next day when I was helping gather stamina data. Their mouths are so tiny that it only feels like a small pinch.

Carphophis amoenus
We also looked for snakes, but sadly only found one. This is a Wormsnake, Carphophis amoenus. I believe this individual is one of the Midwestern Wormsnakes, a subsecies. Wormsnakes are small snakes found in the southern parts of Ohio. Wormsnakes burrow in the dirt and leaf debris, searching for food. As a result, people do not see them often, even though they can be really common. This one was only found because someone decided to flip the rock it was hiding under. Timber Rattlesnakes have also been found in the area we were at and we were all really hoping to find one, but sadly we didn't see any.

Reptiles weren't the only things we came across on the trip. Spring bird migration is really starting to pick up, and this trip turned up a few singing Black-and-White Warblers and a singing Prairie Warbler. Keep on the lookout for migrants these next few weeks!

1 comment:

  1. I remember as a child I saw a baby lizard in Ohio. It was so fast I couldn't catch it when it ran for the bushes. I told someone about it and they told me "We don't have lizards in Ohio". Now I knew it wasn't my imagination. Here in Florida it is expected to find lizards. How did you learn about them initially?