Island Night Lizard Removed from Endangered Species List Due to Recovery

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Date: March 31, 2014
Contact: Yvonne Menard, 805-658-5725

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced the removal of the island night lizard (Xantusia riversiana), a soft-skinned lizard found on three Channel Islands off the southern California coast, from the protection of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The lizard's recovery is due primarily to the successful habitat conservation and restoration actions of the U.S. Navy and National Park Service. The final rule delisting the species will officially publish in the Federal Register on April 1, 2014.

"The removal of the island night lizard from the Federal List of Threatened and Endangered Wildlife is testament to the power of working hand-in-hand with our partners to recover an endangered or threatened species," said Service Director Dan Ashe. "This success story, more than three decades in the making, would not have been possible without the dedicated and persistent efforts of the U.S. Navy and National Park Service to bring the species back to health."

Island night lizards are found on three of the Channel Islands off the southern California coast: San Clemente Island, San Nicolas Island and Santa Barbara Island. A very small number of lizards are also found on Sutil Island, situated several thousand yards from Santa Barbara Island. 

"We are pleased that protection by the Endangered Species Act along with our ecological restoration efforts are paying dividends with the recovery of unique species like the island night lizard," said Channel Islands National Park Superintendent, Russell Galipeau.  

The island night lizard was listed as threatened under the ESA in 1977 due to severe habitat loss caused by ranching, grazing and the introduction of non-native goats, pigs and rabbits. These non-native herbivores stripped the islands of much of their vegetation and caused significant erosion. Cats introduced to San Clemente and San Nicolas islands also posed a predation threat. 

The U.S. Navy and National Park Service removed the non-native species, and by the mid-1990s all goats, sheep and rabbits were removed from the islands. Feral cats were successfully removed from San Nicolas Island in 2010. Although there are still cats on San Clemente Island, they do not pose a significant threat to the island night lizard. 

"It is a proud moment for the Navy to be part of the successful recovery of the island night lizard and its removal from the Federal List of Threatened and Endangered Wildlife. The incredibly high number of lizards on San Clemente Island shows that unique island species can thrive alongside high-tempo Navy operations through proactive management. We will continue to manage the island night lizard at San Clemente Island through our Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan, ensuring its existence for generations to come," said Capt. Christopher Sund, commanding officer of Naval Base Coronado. 

"The Navy works tirelessly to ensure that we are good stewards of the resources entrusted to our care, including the sensitive habitat and wildlife found in places like San Nicolas Island. The delisting of the Island Night Lizard is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the Navy's environmental professionals and all the partner organizations with whom they work," said Capt. Larry Vasquez, commanding officer of Naval Base Ventura County, of which San Nicolas Island is a part. 

Both the U.S. Navy and National Park Service are cultivating native plants to further habitat restoration on the islands. To ensure lizard populations remain secure, the species and its habitat will be monitored for nine years following the delisting. 

The adult island night lizard averages between 2.6 to 4.3 inches in length from snout to vent. Their coloration varies from pale ash gray and beige to shades of brown and black with varying uniform, mottled and striped patterns. The species lives about 11 to 13 years, although some individuals have been estimated to live as long as 30 years. 

A copy of the final rule is on public inspection at the Federal Register today. It will officially publish on April 1, 2014.

A photo of the lizard is available on Flickr. Images of Santa Barbara Island, courtesy of the National Park Service, are online at SBI Images. Additional information about the species is available on the Service's Environmental Conservation Online System (ECOS):

Last updated: February 28, 2015

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