While in Africa with cousin Ty, he showed me a jury-rigged lizard catcher he made from a long, pliable twig and a piece of dental floss. I was impressed. I didn’t realize how much better it could be.
Ty took a group of us on a lizard-catching hike in the Malibu hills. Standing in a patch of tall Mediterranean rye grass, he plucked a suitable specimen: long, soft, and green. He explained the importance of stripping off all the leaves downward, so they’d leave the stalk smooth.
Ty looped the end of the grass and made a tiny slip knot. He bent to help almost-9-year-old Dax strip and knot his stalk. As he turned to find a lizard to catch, I wondered how long it would take to find one. But Ty already had his eye on a beauty. Like thiefhunting and mushroom hunting, you only need to train your eyes.
It was a blue-bellied western fence lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis, on the wall of a small building at the trail head. Ty extended his long lizard-catcher with a steady hand, slipped the loop over the creature’s head, and jerked it a little—not too hard.
The lizard came off the wall and dangled at the end of the grass, but not without a fight. It wiggled and kicked wildly, so that it was impossible to photograph. We all laughed, amazed to see success on the first attempt.
Ty reached to steady the lizard, but instead of standing nicely on his palm, it bit into his flesh and dangled by its jaw. Ty worked it free as he explained the rules of lizard-catching. Don’t hurt the lizards. Release them exactly where they were caught.