The different species range through a variety of habitats, generally frequenting moist areas of foothills and mountains, but also found ranging down into the drier grasslands, staying near rivers and streams. Secretive in nature, they hide under windfall, undergrowth, and in rocky crevices. Pugnacious when caught, they will thrash around, often delivering a painful bite.
Alligator lizards sport a flat, wedge-shaped head. There is little neck definition, with the body about the same width as the head. The legs are small, thin, and end in five fine toes. Notable is a distinct lateral fold running along their lower sides from the corner of their mouth to their tail. Their scales are large, slightly keeled, and shingled. Ground color is pale to medium brown with darker crossbands. They shed in one piece, like a snake.
Coastal North America, from Washington to Baja. Three subspecies. To 20 inches (50 cm). Shades of brown with black crossbands, white edged posteriorly. Ventral scales with indistinct dark lines on scale rows. Male head broader than female. Oviparous, laying 1-3 clutches of 5-20 eggs in May-July. Inhabits grasslands, chaparral, oak woodland, and open pine forest. Partly nocturnal during warmest part of the year. Diet includes slugs, scorpions, centipedes, insects, and spiders, including black widows; will also eat small lizards and mammals. May climb bushes and trees in search of prey, including bird eggs and chicks.
G. panamintus Panamint Alligator Lizard (Protected Species)
The alligator lizard on the left just lost it's tail, can you guess how?
If you catch a lizard at Kaweah Oaks Preserve, please
observe it with gentleness and care then release back into its own habitat.
images - I. Lindsey