How to catch a lizard

Sceloporus occidentalis; How to catch a lizard.

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.

How to catch a lizard

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.

Hot to catch a lizard. Ty strips a single stalk of grass.

Ty strips a single stalk of grass.

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.

How to catch a lizard: The lizard doesn't seem to see the stalk of grass, or even mind being hit on the head with it.

The lizard doesn't seem to see the stalk of grass, or even mind being hit on the head with it. Numerous times.

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.

How to catch a lizard. Naomi strips a stalk of rye grass.

Naomi strips a stalk of rye grass.

A lizard catcher seconds before success. How to catch a lizard.

A lizard catcher seconds before success.

The lizard's jaws clamp onto Ty's hand. How to catch a lizard.

The lizard's jaws clamp onto Ty's hand.

How to catch a lizard. Total time detained: under 5 minutes.

Total time detained: under 5 minutes.

How to catch a lizard. Blue-bellied western fence lizard Sceloporus occidentalis.

Blue-bellied western fence lizard Sceloporus occidentalis.

How to catch a lizard. The little guy's noose is removed.

The little guy's noose is removed.

How to catch a lizard. Dax caught one, too.

Dax caught one, too.

Triumph! How to catch a lizard.

Triumph!

© Copyright 2008-2009 Bambi Vincent. All rights reserved.

I hunt thieves. I film them, interview them, write about them, and teach how to avoid them.

7 Comments

  • May 3, 2009

    Terry Jones

    Nice! But why didn’t you BBQ a bunch of them and have them in toasted bread rolls smeared with tomato, garlic, and olive oil?

  • May 3, 2009

    Bambi

    Terry, we would have done exactly that had Ty not been so strict. I even had my portable BBQ with me, along with high hope.

  • May 3, 2009

    YELU

    “Training your eye” results in a “search image.” Hey, I want equal time, actually equal space, for spider photos.

  • May 4, 2009

    YELM

    great pictures of Dax! The lizard too.

  • May 8, 2009

    karen

    Wow, wish I was there!

  • August 23, 2010

    Robert Hill

    When I was 10 years old I sued to catch lizards and thought it was cool. years later I used to keep some in a terrarium with meal worms, a hot rock, etc…
    It never seemed right to me.
    In ’05 I experimented with the local lizards to see if I could entice them to eat meal worms from my hand or fingers.
    Needless to say it worked and now my patio is a hot bed of activity.
    These animals have some sort of communication, because they all know where to come.
    It’s 100 times more satisfying to have them come to you on their own than ever catching them.
    They’ll climb up on my shoes or line up to be fed. Oh yeah, I have the pics to prove it.

  • August 23, 2010

    Bambi

    I agree with you, Robert. It’s fantastic to have the wild animals come visit. My parents did that for years in Arizona. They had pheasant families, lizards, javelinas, even a bobcat.

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