Western Afflictions

The Western Fence Lizard.

Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis)

Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis) (Photo credit: Larry Meade)

The western fence lizard is a cold-blooded reptile.  Their habitat includes all of California, Baja California, Oregon, Southern Idaho, Nevada, and Western Utah.  Generally avoiding harsh deserts, they reside in grasslands, broken chaparral, sagebrush, woodland, coniferous forests, and farmland.  They also occupy elevations from sea level to 10,800 feet.  Although I have witnessed them ingesting tomato worms, their primary diet consists of spiders and insects.  Reaching a length of 8 inches these lizards are also very colorful.  Ranging in color from light brown to black they also have unique stripes and spots consisting of green, blue, black, and white hues.  Nicknamed “blue-bellies” males have deep blue patches on the sides of their stomachs and throats.  These patches are faint or absent on females and juveniles.  Another characteristic of the western fence lizard is their tendency to do pushups.  Males assert their dominance by doing pushups and showing off their brightly colored underbellies and throats to intimidate other males and make themselves look bigger in the face of predators.  Western fence lizards are beneficial to have around.  Because when a deer or wood tick carrying Lyme disease latches on to them (usually behind the ears) a special protein in the lizard’s blood cleanses the tick’s gut and kills the bacterium that causes Lyme disease.   So when they fall off the lizard, the tick will no longer have the Lyme disease producing bacterium and can no longer infect other animals and humans.  So in conclusion, these colorful and advantageous lizards don’t only eat harmful insects like grasshoppers, they also help contain Lyme disease by helping to stop the spread of this devastating affliction.

To watch the ajoining video, go to http://youtu.be/d_03-f5I_RU