19 May 2012

Hunting and Catching Practice

Good evening friends,

Jackie dangling a little lesser earless lizard
Today we ventured into White Sands for the first time this season with nooses in hand. For those of you who are not familiar... we use a slip-knot loop tied with dental floss on the end of a telescoping pup-fish fishing pole. We use this tool to literally noose and hang the small lizards from where they perch (see photo). Because lizards do not have collapsable spines like we mammals, they are not strangled when we pull the pole up and let the lizard dangle. We try not to let the little fellow hang there for too long, and we quickly un-noose them.

Isaiah with his first successful catch
Isaiah wandered off and caught his first lizard today without any help. He nabbed a beautiful male Holbrookia maculata, the lesser earless lizard. He went on to catch a couple others... and experienced the first frustration of lizard catching... chasing a little guy for half an hour through the yuccas!

Jackie also caught her first lizard today... the same lesser earless lizard that Isaiah captured and released. She also successfully noosed a Sceloporus undulatus, the eastern fence lizard, in one try!

Jackie showing off her little find
Mikki and I teamed up to get the third species inhabiting the dunes, Aspidoscelis inornata, the little striped whiptail. Lizard-hunters often have to pair up to catch these little wanderers... both their active foraging ecology (they are always moving around, looking for prey), and their relative lack of a neck (making it easy for them to slip right out of a noose), make it difficult to capture them on their own.

We all felt pretty content after capturing each of the three species in the heart of White Sands... we even had the pleasure of showing off one of our captures to 10 or so eager children co-inhabiting our apartment.

Mikki entertaining a growing crowd with jump
rope before we show them the lizard

Tomorrow we will continue to practice in White Sands and then travel to the mark-recapture sites on the ecotone to glimpse the moon coming between the sun and earth.

Until then, Goodnight wee white dune dragons!
-S. Des Roches


  1. Nice! I first caught the white earless there by hand when i was 11 years old! Is D. Burkett going to help you guys in Carrizozo? He’s helped me with Suboc research.

    1. Hi Dusty! Doug is still at WSMR. I haven't seen him this year yet, but I have in previous years. Have you ever been to his office with all the snakes and herps? So awesome!
      We're not doing research at the lava flow this year. My project is solely on the ecotone of White Sands and the darker soiled desert. I'll have to write a quick blurb about what's going on with my research. So far we've been so busy!
      Thanks for following!

  2. Awesome! How hot is it there anyway? You guys don't look too stressed by the heat.

    1. Hi dad! It hasn't become TOO hot yet, although the sun is strong. It's been low thirties Celsius, but should get to high thirties, low forties by the end of June.