Horned Lizards: Another side project in Alpaugh

As it turns out, there was a lot more going on with the grazing study I participated in that was apparent at first blush. While I spent a two weeks of early mornings squinting at a fading GPS unit and laying down transects there was another team entirely surveying plots for evidence of reptile life.

A week into the grazing experiment we were joined by two wandering herpetologists, (snake gypsies, toad-hobos, call them what you will). Who were loaned to the project by our mutual bosses at A.C.E (The American Conservation Experience, see the resources section above for details). They spent a few hours each day searching each experimental plot for lizards and snakes. Balancing their need to be thorough with an equally pressing need to move through each plot before it got either too hot or too cold for their cold blooded subjects.

It turns out that the grazing study, which at one point was looking only at the effects of cattle graze on Kangaroo Rat Habitat, had had a few riders attached to it as it worked its way through the BLM’s approval process. Every BLM scientist, no matter what they studied, wanted a piece of the pie. This meant that the studies goals quickly became quite a bit more ambitious, which isn’t a bad thing at all, unless you’re caught in the grinder.

I didn’t have time to go out “herping” with the lizard people, but I did seek out the local Horned Lizards on my own later. They’re adorable after all.

They're absolutely adorable, and the young ones are smaller than the palm of your hand.

There were larger individuals as well, although reportedly not full adults. Flattening out like that makes them harder to swallow, as if the spikes weren't enough.

Luckily their "horns" kept them safe from the unfair predatory attentions of my hungry coworkers.

Those horny projections are really the best defense they've got, although they camouflaged well on the sandy desert ground, they were terrible at escaping our careful grabs.

See how well he blends in with the ground.


Posted on January 11, 2012, in Alpaugh California and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Don’t know about adorable lizards, but your photographs are stunning!

  2. These little guys are SO cute! Great photography on them also. Looks like a lot of fun! I’m not fast enough to catch lizards ever, they always seem to evade my grasp.

    • I ate sand quite a few times trying to grab them. They weren’t as quick as they might have been, but were definitely quick enough to avoid easy capture…

  3. I grew up in Alpaugh as a kid and the larger ones would squirt blood out of their eye at you. A few of the other reptiles to be found west of town on the sand hills (edge of the old lake I think) were the blunt nose leopard lizards, the sidewinders, and rattle snakes.

    The lizards would get up on their back legs and man could they fly. Really something to see.

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