Lizards Get a Helping Hand in the Presidio

Close-up of a western fence lizard's face
This fence lizard is being relocated from western to eastern parts of the Presidio to help to bring back this species to recently restored sites.

Presidio Trust / Jonathan Young

April 2018 - Western fence lizards (Sceloporus occidentalis) are important consumers of invertebrates. They are also a food source for larger predators themselves. However, over a decade of surveys and citizen science observations, they have only been found in the western part of the Presidio.

The cause of their extirpation across the park’s eastern sites is unknown, but habitat degradation has certainly played a significant role. Although restoration efforts have created large patches of prime lizard habitat across numerous central eastern sites, dense eucalyptus forests, a sprawling golf course, and Highway 1 all prevent the lizards from recolonizing those areas.

Beginning in spring of 2018, Presidio Trust staff and interns began translocating fence lizards from western areas into dense woody debris piles clustered among the grassland and scrub habitats of El Polin and Inspiration Point. Individuals are only taken from robust populations and the numbers of lizards collected are limited to minimize the impact on those populations. This effort will continue over the next several years with a target goal of relocating around 50 fence lizards per year. Contact Jonathan Young for more information about this project.