Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Large-Spotted Leopard Lizard

The large-spotted leopard lizard is a sub-species of the long-nosed leopard lizard.
It is found in southeastern California, Nevada, large portions of Arizona, western and southern New Mexico, southern Idaho, southeastern Oregon and bits of Colorado and northern California.
It is found in arid and semiarid planes with scattered low plants and gravel, hardpan or sand. It avoids dense grass and brush which intereferes with its running. It oftens waits for prey in the shade of a bush where its spotted pattern blends in.
They eat insects, spiders, other lizards, small rodents, like pocket mice, blossoms, berries and soft leaves. They are capable of marked color change. In a light phase, spots and cross-bars are found on body and tail. In a dark phase, the spots are nearly hidden and the light cross bars are found.
I saw my first one recently, in early April 2010, just south of Joshua Tree National Park off the Hayfield Rd. exit of the I-10 freeway.
It was found in a gravelly area full of teddy bear cholla, ocotillo, hedgehog cactus and low shrubs. It hid beneath shrubs and ultimately disappeared into a hole beneath a shrub. Then on May 15, 2010, I took a hike to Carey's Castle with my brother, Chris, and saw two more large-spotted leopard lizards. They were both in a small wash with bushes and rocks, one sunning on a rock before it vamooshed. They are very wary and very fast. I got just this poor photo of one of them.
I have seen two leopard lizards previously. One as a young boy at Lake Powell, in a hole in some sandstone. And one much later, when the kids were young and we were visiting Hovenweep National Monument in southeastern Utah. Both of those were a different sub-species, the small-spotted leopard lizard, and looked significantly different. They were green with dark small spots. That is why when I saw my first one recently, I wasn't sure if it was a leopard lizard or a desert iguana.

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