Lizards, Pacific Northwest
European Wall Lizards are an invasive species that looks like our Alligator Lizard. The wall lizard, unlike the Alligator lizard, has a relatively flattened body with long limbs and very long toes. Like other species of Wall Lizards, they have an angular head and strong looking jaw. Males are up to 23 cm in total length, and females are a bit smaller. They have a very long tail.
They are green or brown with black blotches on their backs, and their bellies are a light brown with spots that are more pronounced at the throat. The sides of the males have bright blue spots running down them. Although females can have these blue spots, they are usually less bright.
European Wall Lizards are a very active and can be seen basking in sunlight or out and about looking for food, but they are quite timid and can run very fast when you approach, if caught by the tail, they can drop it. The dropped tail keeps wiggling for several minutes, making the predator think they still have them. The broken tail will start to regrow right away and a new tail grows back relatively quickly, but it will be a slightly different color than the rest of the lizard.
European Wall Lizards usually hibernate between November and March. However, here on the island, they are sometimes spotted basking in the sun on warm winter days.
Wall Lizards are egg layers and they will deposit eggs several times through the year. They will lay up to 11 eggs, depending on the size of the female. Mating occurs in mid March, right after they come out of hibernation. the eggs hatch in about 30 days. In a year where it is warm and there is plenty of feed, they can lay up to 2 more clutches of eggs.
The eggs can be buried, placed in wood piles or laid under rocks. After hatching, Wall Lizards are on their own, they will start to search for food while keeping a low profile to avoid being eaten by predators.
The wall lizards eat insects such as flies and beetles along with many types of spiders. They are fast predators and have been seen jumping up from the ground to catch flying insects in the air. When Wall Lizards catch a large insect they firmly bite it and then thrash their head back and forth until it stops moving. They then put the prey item down and carefully eat it. These lizards also enjoy fruit and berries.
In the 70s, in Saanich, there was a private zoo that had them on display, the zoo closed and the lizards were let loose. Since then these little guys have become firmly established and are actively spreading. Some people have captured them and taken them to their yards, this has started new colonies of lizards. Wall lizards compete with our local alligator lizards for food and territories and could be harmful to them so please enjoy them but leave them alone so not to help in the spread. We know very little about how they effect each other, but studies are going on to determine this.