A Helping Hand

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Published on: Aug. 2, 1999

Last revision: Nov. 3, 2010

bushes and trees--especially red cedar--colonizing glades.

Collared lizards require habitat that is open and sparsely covered by prairie grasses and forbs and has an abundance of exposed bedrock and flat rocks for shelter. These lizards heat themselves up by basking in the sun on exposed rocks. The open glades and associated native herbaceous plants provide an abundance of insects--an important food for lizards.

Adult collared lizards have large, chunky heads with strong jaws. This allows them to capture and eat large grasshoppers, crickets and--another important prey--other kinds of lizards. Northern fence lizards, skinks and racerunners all can live on glades and become part of a collared lizard's diet.

The Conservation Department is restoring some former glade habitats to their natural condition. Periodic, controlled fire, along with the cutting of cedars and other woody vegetation, has made a dramatic difference and restored these habitats so collared lizards can live and thrive.

But collared lizards need a way to get to these newly restored habitats. Most glades and glade/savanna systems are isolated from each other. Thousands of years ago these dry habitats were connected by a prairie/savanna/glade network that stretched across the Ozarks and allowed western plants and animals to slowly move east.

With a lack of natural fire, this travel network vanished. Small, scattered collared lizard populations became isolated from each other with no natural way for them to migrate to newly restored glades.

Enter a helping hand--in the form of wildlife managers. About eight years ago, wildlife biologists knew of several stable collared lizard populations in southwestern Missouri that could withstand the removal of a few live specimens for a relocation project. Long-term research by Dr. Alan Templeton, of Washington University in St. Louis, had proven that collared lizards can do surprisingly well if a handful are collected from several populations and moved to newly restored glades.

In 1996, we drew up a five-year collared lizard relocation plan and, with the help of several natural resource agencies and Washington University researchers, wildlife managers established new populations in several Ozark counties.

Scientists select only newly restored glades on Conservation Department managed lands for this program.

Herpetologists from Washington University, wildlife biologists with the U.S. Forest Service and the Conservation Department cooperate to gather, transport and release them. Lizards are not released until we are satisfied that selected managed glades are within the species' known range and have a good supply of rocks, appropriate plants and insect prey. We also make

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