A Helping Hand

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Published on: Aug. 2, 1999

Last revision: Nov. 3, 2010

sure no collared lizards are already living there. We may release from six to 12 lizards at a restored glade, depending on its size.

Researchers will monitor new collared lizard populations and their restored glades for a number of years to ensure their progress or to make further habitat improvements. This is one of many wildlife restoration programs going on in Missouri. Such efforts will help ensure a healthy, complex and diverse wildlife heritage for future generations.

Giving eastern collared lizards a helping hand is a part of our overall wildlife management goal. We want to be sure that this harmless, colorful and interesting glade-dwelling reptile will be a part of Missouri's Ozarks for a long time to come.

A Collared Encounter

We had just found a smooth, shady rock to sit on, and I was unwrapping some cheese and carrot sticks when I saw him. No more than five feet away, a male eastern collared lizard was moving among the rocks.

The lizard ignored us at first, as he rooted around two basketball-sized rocks for something to eat. We saw him daub his tongue on the rocks and eat a red ant. His tail and back were an astonishing aquamarine. His neck was moderately long, and his throat was brilliant orange in the middle, fading to squash-yellow at the edges. Altogether, the orange spot was about the size of a half-dollar. Black necklaces--the collars around his neck--were so shiny they looked wet.

Then we saw his skin was wrinkly and loose, collapsing on itself in elegant folds. He had four nimble limbs. They were muscled and strangely human-looking, like miniature arms with formidable biceps. He was about 7 inches long and, with his tail, which tapered slowly to a point, he was at least 12 inches.

The lizard had his back to the sun on this June morning. He did a couple of push-ups, gaped his mouth, blinked, then squinted one eye.

He didn't move much, just turned his head every now and then. Once he turned it up--it appeared--to look at a noisy airplane passing overhead. This went on long enough for us to finish assembling our lunch things and peel one avocado.

Suddenly, with great purpose and intent, the lizard zoomed off to the southeast and perched on a rock about 12 to 15 feet away from us. Less than a minute later, a female came crawling up from the far side of the rock, which was about three feet across and two feet high. She had incredibly bright red markings: two red splashes at the base of her ears, then at least six more down her sides. Her tail was the same brilliant aquamarine color as his, but her back was a rich, mottled brown. She was about three-fourths his size. We stopped what we were doing; we were about to see some lizard action.

They mated four times. They sat side by side, close, but not touching. This all happened in full sun. Total time elapsed: about five minutes.

Shade fell across their rock and maybe as that happened, he lost interest or she found that she could no longer egg him on. Or they were just tired. They stopped, and he slid out of sight. -- Charlotte Overby

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