Rewilding

At some point I decided the best thing to do would be reintroducing lizards to our yard space. The Western Fence Lizard is abundant in the surrounding area, and we’ve been working to make our little yard more reptile correct with the stacks of rocks, drought-friendly plants and whatnot. But try as we might, no lizards were enticed to set up housekeeping here. I mention my interest in hosting lizards to pretty much everybody I talk to, and most people say “that’s interesting” and then immediately ask “why?”. Well, they used to live here, and we welcome their return. Like the oak trees and grasses that formerly covered the neighborhood, the lizards have been pushed to the wayside. Step out into the neighboring open spaces, and the lizards are a dime a dozen. If we could only get a few pioneers to settle in here, I’m sure they’d like it.

Then this happened. I’m in a gardening interest group at work, and you can be sure that these people heard about my lizard interests. One of the group members lives outside of town, and has plenty of lizards around his place. Gardeners like to share stuff like seeds and plant starts, so if you have more lizards than you need right now your native instinct is to share them with those who are short on lizards. So this shows up on my desk.

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Work harder not smarter.

That’s a pair of young Western Fence Lizards, who are real interested in watching me work from their temporary home in an empty plastic water bottle. I’m not sure how much they enjoyed the ride home on the train, but once they were released into their new habitat it looked like they were ready to settle right in. The first few weeks might have been a little tough for them, as they were in strange territory and we get more rain and cool weather than the place they came from. But we really need them to be a couple of little heroes and plant the lizard flag here.

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What the! The lizards begin exploring their new home.

And they stayed. We would see them scouting out different areas of the front yard, and they eventually settled into a nice sheltered rock grotto. They had favorite spots to sunbathe on warm days and a readily available supply of insects to consume. When I walked up to our house on my way home from work, I’d see one or the other out in the afternoon sun. We named the pair Tenspeed and Brown Shoe. Harmonious coexistence – what more could one ask for? Apparently, something was missing. The lizards started venturing out to our neighbor’s yard, which has even sunnier rocks to sunbathe on. And then we started to only see Tenspeed taking in the sun. That’s her in the picture at the top of this post, on the last day that she was seen in the front yard.

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Taking in the view from Half Dome.

Springtime brings a lot of birds to the yard, and we get the Northern Mockingbird on the telephone wires along the street in front of the house. One in particular (let’s call him Romeo) was out there for several weeks singing his little brains out. He was positioned right above our lizard grotto. I think you can guess what I’m suggesting what might have happened here. But we won’t know what became of our lizard friends. They have not been seen for a couple of weeks now (although I still check every day when I come home from work). They either decided to look for an ecosystem more to their liking, or they re-entered the food chain, as we all must do one day.

This brings me around to the rewilding project that we tried to jump start with imported lizards. As we discussed, there are plenty of lizards in the surrounding area. There’s nothing stopping them from moving into the neighborhood if it is to their liking. But they’re not doing that. Maybe we should do a little soul-searching and try to understand why that might be. For now, I will continue to enjoy meeting lizards when out hiking, and not try to force the issue with further re-introductions. If we all just backed off a bit with the physical imprint of the neighborhood, the lizards might re-introduce themselves. We’ll see what can be done about that.

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