Friday, April 21, 2017

Life on the Watershed: Lizards, Lyme Ticks and Us

They’ve been hibernating through winter, but the new clear weather is bringing out the sun-loving Western fence lizards--which happen to lower our risk for Lyme Disease. 

From grassland to brush and forest, we spot them basking on rocks, logs, trail-side benches, and other open areas—where they can be easy prey for certain birds and small mammals. But the native reptile has protective devices too, like quick reflexes and the ability to scurry quickly into a crevice or other shelter. It can readily discard its tail to get away--and the tail will grow back.  
Spring is mating season, when males establish and defend a territory. The "push-ups" we see them do are indicators of another nearby male, or a female. Females lay eggs, which hatch in mid- to late summer.

Western fence lizards eat spiders and insects. In turn, they are favorite hosts for tick nymphs--and that's a good thing for us.

It turns out that Lyme disease (carried by a tick species called the deer tick) is much lower out here in Western fence lizard country. That's because there's a particular protein in the lizard blood that permanently kills off the Lyme-causing bacterium inside the young insect, So only a small percentage of adult deer ticks are Lyme carriers.


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