Gambelia sila — Blunt-nosed Leopard Lizard
Also known as:
Bluntnose Leopard Lizard, San Joaquin Leopard Lizard
Blunt-nosed Leopard Lizards are an endangered species, primarily due to habitat destruction. They used to range far and wide across the grasslands of California's San Joaquin Valley, but nearly all of their original habitat has been converted to agriculture or rangeland and made inhospitable for these lizards.
I had searched for this species unsuccessfully at least six times before finally coming across this beautiful specimen.
Since I was heading from the central coast of California down to the deserts, I thought I should stop by Carrizo Plain and look for some more leopard lizards to photograph. My friend Jackson Shedd had given me some useful advice about the area where he had seen them earlier. His advice was sound, as I came across five of these fine lizards in the couple of hours of prime morning basking time, before it got too hot. Unfortunately four of them saw me before I saw them, and I only witnessed them bolting off to the safety of the nearest burrow. This was the lone leopard lizard that I saw first, and even with my careful slow approach it too disappeared into a burrow just after I got this photo.
While I was planning an upcoming southern California desert trip, I listened to an episode of my friend Mike Pingleton's podcast in which he describes visiting a group of Blunt-nosed Leopard Lizard researchers in the Carrizo Plain and wandering about in the landscape until he found one of them there lizards. I was already considering passing through Carrizo Plain on my way south, but this sealed the deal. Was I going to be out-lizarded by a midwestern frog guy? No way! Despite high heat and drought conditions (not a flower to be seen in this oft-majestically flowering locale), I didn't stop wandering about in the landscape until I found two.
- The California Department of Fish and Game has a page on this species.
- The San Joaquin Valley Endangered Species Recovery Program site has a page on this species.
- Behler, J. L., King, F. W. 1979. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles & Amphibians
- Crother, B. I. (ed.) 2017. Scientific and Standard English Names of Amphibians and Reptiles of North America North of Mexico, with Comments Regarding Confidence in Our Understanding, Eighth Edition
- Schoenherr, A. A. 1992. A Natural History of California
- Smith, H. M. 1995. Handbook of Lizards: Lizards of the United States and Canada
- Smith, H. M., Brodie, E. D. Jr. 1982. Reptiles of North America: A Guide to Field Identification
- Stebbins, R. C. 2003. Peterson Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians, Third Edition