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‘Iipay Aa name: Haakwal

Common name: Fence Lizard

Scientific name: Sceloporus occidentalis  

Have you heard of a fence? What about a Fence Lizard? Fence Lizards, or Haakwal in ‘Iipay Aa, are 8-inch-long reptiles covered in spiny grey or tan scales with darker stripes up their sides. If you catch a glimpse of their neck or belly, you may see some gorgeous blue scales. Male Fence Lizards use their blue scales to attract mates and defend their territory against other males. They display their scales by doing push-ups rapidly. Make sure to give a Fence Lizard space next time you see them trying to show you how buff they are. They may confuse you as a threat or a predator.


Western Fence Lizard Courtesy Connor Long.jpg

Photo courtesy Connor Long.

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Lizards were once a common food for Kumeyaay People. They could be roasted or pounded and stewed. While humans aren’t currently their main predators, they do have to worry about a long list of other species that will eat them. Snakes, coyotes, bobcats, and hawks are just a few of their common predators. To protect themselves from predators, Fence Lizards will use one adaptation for the chaparral habitat: their ability to change their bodies’ colors to match their surroundings. Fence Lizards are amazing at camouflage. It protects them and helps them hunt. Fence Lizards eat beetles, flies, ants, and caterpillars. All move fast, so the fence lizard needs to hide before they can catch their prey. Fun fact: Another way Fence Lizards will defend themselves against predators is by detaching their tails. If they feel threatened, they will release their tail to appear harder to catch and to move faster away from a threat.

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