In The Desert
Content including photographs are Copyright © 2013 - Present - Don & Linda Gilmore
Contact us via e-mail
Herpetologists tell me that the coloration of the Chuckwalla does not change during mating season. However the red on their belly does seem to get brighter at that time of the year. This was taken during mating season. They seem to have decent vision and will watch your every move. Look at the enlargement for more detail.
As you can see, no matter the background coloration they blend in nicely with their surroundings. This is an older male, see the enlargement.
A video of a chuckwalla being fed some lettuce and celery we gave her. She was a young (dark bands on the tail) lizard that we found in the first year of a bad drought. This area had hundreds of lizards during good years. For the most part they will tolerate you being around them. Just not too close.
Back to the Lizard page -----
Chuckwalla lizards are sometimes very abundant, especially after wet years in the desert. Other years, during droughts, they can be hard to find. One area we visited a lot for several years (just south of Wellton, Arizona) seem to be overpopulated with them. After a bad year of no rain it got really hard to find either a Chuckwalla or a Desert Iguana here. We soon realized that the plants had not gone to seed and in fact weren't growing at all. No food, they die. In good years we watched them eat the seeds and seed pods on plants that grew in that area. We really missed them, but after several years of drought they never came back to the area again.
Many people travel in the desert and never see these well camouflaged reptiles. They are hard to see unless they are moving or out in the open. Most of the time they stay hidden to avoid predators, like the Roadrunner, Hawks, Kit Foxes or Snakes. Below is a good example of how well they can stay hidden right in plain sight. In order to find a heavily populated area you sometimes have to just sit and spend time with a good pair of binoculars scanning the rocks.
Female chuckwalla lizards are very different in appearance from the males of this species. Some lizards are hard to tell the gender, but in this case it's very easy. They lack the coloration on the main body and belly as well as the white coloration on the tail. At times the females are even harder to find than a male. Look at the enlargements for more detail and to see what is on the back of the female in the bottom photo..
Here are two very young, small, Chuckwalla lizards. They were sticking together the whole time we watched them. For several hours they followed each other around. We are guessing, but we think they were probably two brothers born at the same time. We never saw them again, but the very next day we found a Roadrunner working the same area.
Most, if not all lizards shed once a year. When they do it must bother them a little. The young Chuckwalla to the right was constantly watching the big pieces of skin he was shedding on his back. I can only imagine that it must also itch, at least a little. They will rub off pieces on rocks till they have their new skin. You can tell this is a young lizard by the black bands on his tail, probably a little less than one year old. The older they are the less visibly the bands are. See the enlargement for more detail.
Linda never had any luck catching a full grown Chuckwalla. They are very wary. This one did let her get very close to him. Notice the gloves, they do have quite a bite.
This little guy was very unhappy and even grunted a few times to let Linda know. We released her right away so as not to cause her too much stress.
This should help you find and identify this species of lizard. Chuckwalla's do get fairly big, much bigger than any of the ones shown here. Keep your eyes open.
A smaller one hid in this hole in the rock. Now we should mention here that in many cases a Chuckwalla will inflate themselves so that trying to remove them from a tight spot can cause a bad injury to the lizard. This hole was too big for this to happen, so no harm could come from this, to the lizard anyway.
Knowing what the different lizard's feces looks like will often times tell you who's living in a specific area of the desert and what they're eating. The white material laying there that has mostly turned to liquid is urine. Lizard's expel a solid form of urine to conserve water in their bodies. It does melt in the heat. This is feces from a Chuckwalla.
( Sauromalus ater )