Friday, July 13, 2007

Alligator Lizard

The largest naturally-occurring lizard in my immediate area is the Oregon Alligator Lizard. Nowhere common, this species is encountered infrequently, unexpectedly, and individually. Adults attain 12 inches in total length, and they are quick, with elusive, snake-like movements. They are also feisty, administering a painful bite if not handled rightly and often spewing foul feces on the hand of their captor. For all of these reasons, guys like me (and both my sons) go out of our way to find Alligator Lizards and--once found--to grab them.

The Oregon Alligator Lizard is a subspecies (scincicauda) of the Southern Alligator Lizard (Elgaria multicarinata). The entire species is a very western one, being confined to a narrow range in the Pacific states of Washington, Oregon, California, and Baja California. Its range reaches its farthest inland point in the John Day River drainage of northcentral Oregon. And that's precisely where the individual pictured above was encountered, captured, and photographed by my son Nathan.

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