SCV Outdoor Report: Giving Thanks For The Small Stuff (Part 2): Western Fence Lizards
By Wendy Langhans
In honor of Thanksgiving, we’ll be taking a closer look at
the small things in nature we often take for granted.
You’ll find them perching on a rock or log on sunny fall
day, basking in the warmth of the sun while they keep an eye out for food and
predators. But if you get too close or
move too fast they’ll quickly dart away into the undergrowth.
Like all reptiles, Western Fence
lizards are cold-blooded, which means they regulate their internal
temperature by moving into a sunny or shady spot.
Western Fence lizards are sometimes known as “Blue Bellies” because
of the blue patch of skin on their ventral (belly) sides. This blue patch is especially large in mature
males, who “flash their colors” through push-ups as a way of chasing other
males from their territory and attracting females.
Besides amusing us with their push-ups, what else can we be
thankful for about Blue Bellies?
We can be thankful for their protection against Lyme Disease, a bacterial
disease that is spread by black legged ticks (also known as deer ticks). The blood of Western Fence Lizards contains a
protein that destroys the spirochete that causes Lyme Disease. When an infected tick feeds on a lizard, it
ingests this protein. Later, when that
same tick feeds on a human, there are no spirochetes left to transmit an
Some studies estimate that in sections of the northeastern U.S.,
50% of black-legged ticks (Ixodes scapularis) carry the spirochete that causes
Lyme Disease. But in California,
only about 5% of western
black-legged (Ixodes pacificus) ticks carry it. For that, we can give thanks for Western Fence
Upcoming Outdoor Events:
Saturday, November 22nd, and every Wednesday, 8:00 AM. Trail Maintenance Volunteers at Towsley Canyon.
Come join our trail maintenance volunteers for camaraderie
and a heart-thumping workout. For more information contact Steve Ioerger at 661-291-1565.
Saturday, November 15, 8:00-10:00. Bird Hike at Towsley
Canyon. Fall is a great time to say goodbye to those
southbound birds until we meet again next spring.
We meet at the front entrance to Towsley Canyon.
Sponsored by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation
You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on "The Hike Report",
brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the
Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.