Wildlife Portfolio of the Western National Parks
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REPTILES constitute a large portion of the animal life native to Death Valley National Monument, California. Many kinds of lizards and snakes have been found in this area and there are doubtless other species yet to be discovered.

The combined total length of head, body, and tail of the leopard lizard is frequently in excess of 12 inches. Its head is not noticeably larger around than its body. The upper portion of this lizard is grayish brown with white or creamy lines across its back; between each pair of white lines is one or more round dark brown spots. The long tapering tail is marked like the back, but less regularly.

In many lizards the male assumes a special color during the breeding season, but in this species we find a noteworthy exception. The female becomes brilliantly colored with deep salmon red which extends along the sides of the body often involving the sides of the tail, whereas the male retains his plain coloration during the breeding season.

The range of the leopard lizard extends across the desert plains from Texas to California, and north into southern Idaho. In Death Valley this species is most numerous at elevations of from 2,000 to 5,000 feet in the broad sandy desert washes near the bases of mountains. I have never found them numerous on the floor of Death Valley, which is below sea level, though specimens have been recorded from Furnace Creek and Saratoga Springs.

Dr. C. Hart Merriam reports finding this lizard eating the blossoms and leaves of plants, while other observers ascribe to it a more carnivorous diet of insects, such as grasshoppers, robberflies, and beetles. Although an innocent looking reptile, this lizard is at times a ferocious cannibal, eating other smaller lizards. It is harmless as far as human beings are concerned.

Although it does not have the ability of making as sudden a departure as does the gridiron-tailed lizard, which starts off as though shot from a gun, the leopard lizard has greater endurance. In short, he is a "miler" instead of a hundred-yard clash runner.


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Last Updated: 01-Jul-2010