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SCV Outdoor Report: Drop That Tail And Run

Children get so excited when they see a Western Fence Lizards. These lizards are easy to spot and can often be found sitting on rocks (or fence posts) while they look for insects to eat. 



But sitting out in the open comes with a price – lizards are easily spotted by predators such as snakes, hawks and meat-eating mammals.




When attacked, one way lizards survive is to “drop their tail”.  The predator holds on to or goes after the wriggling tail, while the lizard makes good his escape.  Better to lose your tail than your life.


But this survival tactic is costly for the lizards – they’re less mobile (because their weight distribution changes) and, even more importantly, less likely to attract the ladies.


Not all lizard species are equally quick to shed their tails. Scientists have been fascinated by this phenomenon and want to know “why” – why are some species more quick than others and why did this technique develop in the first place.  One theory has to do with “predator pressure”:  the more lizard-eaters there are, the more likely this defense technique will occur.


But recent studies have discovered that all predators are not created equal; it is the number of venomous predators that determines how quickly the lizard will drop their tail.  Which only makes sense:  those lizards who react slowly will drop dead before they drop their tail.


Quick – drop something and run – is an effective technique for evading all kinds of predators.  This became personal for me last year, when I got a phone call at 5:30 in the morning.  It began, “Mom, I’m OK but…”


Our daughter, who lives in Philadelphia, had been robbed at knifepoint on her way to work.


Although my heart was in my throat, I managed to keep my voice calm (at least I thought I did), “Tell me what happened.”


“Well, I opened my wallet, took out the money, threw it on the ground and RAN!”


I don’t know if she learned this lesson from watching lizards or if she remembered the training she had received in a self-defense class.  I’m just thankful she put it to good use.


Upcoming Outdoor Events:


Saturday, April 18, 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM.  Earth Day Festival & Arbor Day Celebration at Central Park – 27150 Bouquet Canyon Road.  Activities, displays and entertainment for the entire family. Sponsored by the City of Santa Clarita and other local businesses and agencies.  For more information, go here.


Saturday, April 18, 8:00-10:00 AM.  Morning Bird Hike in Towsley Canyon.  Towsley Canyon is a year-round home for birds.  They like our Mediterranean climate, the local bounty and the California sunshine.  Bring your binoculars and meet at the entrance.  Heavy rain cancels.  For map and directions go here.

Sponsored by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.


Saturday, April 25, and every Wednesday, 8:00 AM.  Trail Maintenance Volunteers at Towsley Canyon.

Come join our trail maintenance volunteers for camaraderie and a heart-thumping workout.  For more information contact Steve Ioerger at 661-291-1565.





You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on “The Hike Report”, brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.


For the complete MRCA hike and activity schedule and for trail maps, click here or go to

SCV Outdoor Report: Drop That Tail And Run

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