During our walks at Row River Nature Park last weekend, we saw tons of wildlife, including this little guy. We don’t often see lizards at the Park and this was different from the lizards I am used to seeing basking on hot rocks — it was wide and stout (qualities that aren’t showing the best in this picture). And see the pointed tail? I love that! I took a couple photos so I could identify it once we got home.
It turns out this is a northern alligator lizard. It likes cooler temperatures and is found in riparian zones, so it makes sense that we saw it there. It also has the ability to detach its tail to escape from a predator. The tail comes off and writhes on the ground, distracting the predator while the lizard escapes. The pointed part of this lizard’s tail is its tail re-growing.
My online research indicates that northern alligator lizards are one of the few lizards to give birth to live young (as opposed to laying eggs). Because of this, the females only breed every other year so that their bodies have the opportunity to recover. The mothers are also “tolerant” of their young, meaning they are not prone to cannibalism (!) that other lizards exhibit.
If you want to know more about our native northern alligator lizard, this fact sheet from The Mountain Loop Conservancy in Washington is the most comprehensive information I could find.