Psychedelic Garden Guard

Jul 15, 2016

Credit nature.mdc.mo.gov

In the past week, I met a garden neighbor.  Apparently, this blue/green juvenile racerunner lizard moved from his burrow or wherever his last digs were into my 12 x 18 foot raised-bed garden.  Our hilltop is too rocky to support an in-ground garden, so we had to create our own little haven for tomatoes, peppers, onions, and okra.  Mr. Psychedelic must enjoy the insects that also call the Salsa in the Makings Ranch home, and he is now dining al fresco under the tomato vines.

While I was on my hands and knees pulling weeds, this little character’s reptilian movements alarmed me to leap swiftly to my feet.  After all, we live on a sunny, rocky hilltop that translates into perfect snake habitat.  I have found it is best to be on the lookout since slithery things live here too.  After my brain settled and eyes focused, I realized the new garden guard was a cute little lizard called a racerunner.

Once I tossed the weeds out on their ears and loosened the soil around my salsa-in- the- makings, I did a little racing myself to the computer to find out about my new friend.  He’s a six-lined racerunner, apparently in his juvenile stage since he has so much green and blue about his person.  He is about 9 inches long with his tail taking up twice as much of his length as his body.  All of this sounded correct, but I could not get the little guy to hold still long enough to take the measurements that the herp site indicated were his vitals.

On that same site, I learned the reason I could not catch this fellow is that he can run 18 miles per hour.    I gave up any ideas about races and decided he was the winner because I know I can’t run 18 miles per hour even with a bear chasing me. 

While I have spotted a few lizards keeping local toads and snakes company, I haven’t seen one like this guy. A friend tells me racerunners are a sign of a healthy environment. I hope so since I live in it too.  What I did learn is we have the perfect situation with our rocks and sandy soil for this species, which should mean I will see more blue/green lizards with long tails sunbathing on my hilltop.

While our environment seems perfect with the sun, rocks, and sand, these little guys do need to be alert. Hawks and owls, which also share our hilltop home, feast on lizards as well as rodents. It helps that racerunners can run 18 miles per hour, and they have a nice little one-time trick of shedding their tail and leaving it wriggling to deceive  their prey. This tail does regenerate, but not swiftly so it is probably good for one get away a season I am guessing.

It is good to know the neighbors, and now I know a bit more about my garden lizard. I hope I see him often with long tail intact.