Urban critters: European wall lizard
Posted by Miqe on January 20, 2008
What it’s called: The European wall lizard, or in Latin, Podarcis muralis.
What it looks like: It’s small. The longest males are only 23 cm from the points of their noses to the tips of their tails, so if the word “lizard” makes you nervous, get over it. And given that their tails are more than twice as long as the rest of their bodies, they’re very streamlined too, like scaly whips with legs — four of them all bent at right angles. Their backs are green or brown with black blotches, while their tummies are a light creamy colour. Males also have bright blue spots that run down their sides.
Where to find it: As its name suggests, it’s native to much of Europe, but back in 1970 a roadside zoo east of Victoria closed and stupidly let their lizards go. That means the European wall lizard is an invasive species in B.C. and therefore a potential threat to the native northwest alligator lizard which is similar and occupies similar habitats. These include rock faces, open woodlands and even man-made structures such as walls, railways and roadsides. So far it’s confined to Greater Victoria, but given how comfortably it’s made itself at home there, that could change.
What it eats: Flying and ground insects such as flies and beetles along with many types of spiders. Wall lizards are tenacious predators and have been seen jumping off the ground to catch insects that fly. When they catch a large one, they bite into it firmly and then thrash their heads back and forth ’till the hapless bug stops moving.
What eats it: Raccoons and various birds of prey are known to eat small lizards, but given that the wall lizard is not native to B.C., there’s no predator that’s evolved specifically to include it in its diet.
How it breeds: They hibernate between November and March, so don’t expect to see any now unless it’s warm. Mating occurs in March, and eggs are laid a month later. If it’s a good year with lots of sun and food, a female may produce two more clutches of eggs before the summer is over.
What to do if you see one: Because the European wall lizard is an invasive species, scientists are trying to keep an eye on how and where it spreads. So if you see one, contact your local environment ministry office.
From The Vancouver Sun