How to Catch a Leopard Lizard

The blunt-nosed leopard lizard is the poster child for the San Joaquin desert grassland habitat. This fast running lizard that can leap more than 23 inches to escape predators and catch prey!

A small lizard sits on a man's fingers.
Listed as an Endangered Species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Fully Protected status from the State of California, the blunt-nosed leopard lizard is one of the many species that BLM biologists and ecologists are actively working to put on the path to recovery. Photo by Michael Westphal, BLM.

As an Endangered Species, scientists are actively working to put the blunt-nosed leopard lizard on the path to recovery. The timing the 2012-2014 drought facilitated a study by the BLM, University of California, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and The Nature Conservancy to assess the potential effects of climate change on blunt-nosed leopard lizard. This multi-year drought in southwestern North America was considered the most severe in the past 1200 years, on the endangered blunt-nosed leopard lizard of the San Joaquin Desert of California. 

A pregnant female leopard lizards with bright colorful markings along its side sits on the ground in dry brushy habitat.
A pregnant female leopard lizard. Photo by Mike Westphal, BLM. 
A young lizard with unique markings rests on the hand of a man.
Bureau of Land Management staff, in collaboration with multiple partners, has been collecting data on juvenile blunt-nosed leopard lizards in order to promote the recovery of the species. Photo by Michael Westphal, BLM.

The geographic specificity of the study aided scientists to identify key climate refugia for the lizard. The study provided a unique glimpse into the potential effects of future droughts expected in California as a result of climate change. The results are anticipated to guide ongoing conservation efforts and avoid species extinction in the San Joaquin Desert region of California. More importantly, the success of the study should provide encouragement to other researchers to take full advantage of extreme weather events such as historic droughts to learn about the future potential effects of climate change.

Mike Westphal, Ecologist

Blog Topic: