Panamint Alligator Lizard

A juvenile Panamint alligator lizard (Elgaria panamintina) sits on a rock.

First discovered in Surprise Canyon, in the Panamint Mountains of Inyo County, California, this elusive lizard has also been sighted in Pleasant Canyon, Wildrose Canyon, Johnson Canyon, and Hanaupah Canyon, from around 3,800 to 7,500 feet in elevation.

They have also been found in the Nelson Range, Argus Range, Coso Range and the Inyo and White Mountains.

Panamint alligator lizards often dwell in dense thickets of wild grape, Clematis, willow, and other vegetation, but also venture into rock talus, desert scrub, and pinyon-juniper woodland.

Great habitat for alligator lizards in Surprise Canyon: wild grape vines sprawling over talus slopes.

Panamint alligator lizards climb readily, and are well-shaped for hunting insects in thickets and stony crevices. They apparently become crepuscular (dawn and dusk-active) and nocturnal during the hot summer months. During the cooler spring and fall they may be more diurnal.

Climbing through wild grapes and willows: with a slow slithering movement they deftly climb up vines, on plant stalks, and up twigs and branches using the tail as a counterbalance and support -- the tails are not pehensile.

A panamint alligator lizard munching down a cricket. They also eat moths, grasshoppers, and beetle larvae. Their hunting methods include both sitting and waiting for an insect to pass by, and actively searching for prey. They hunt through leaf litter, in rock piles, and by climbing into foliage, lunging quickly with their jaws to snap up insects.

Hunting through Honey mesquite.

Adult on rock.

Good climbers, alligator lizards will drop to the ground to escape predators, and will also bite, defecate on an intruder, run away, and even play dead.

Panamint alligator lizard hiding out in rock talus, branches, and Ephedra.

--the Roving Naturalist


HOME..........Surprise Canyon