Nature (Published on TBNWeekly.com - Oct. 6,
Lizard mystery solved There were many surprises and little joys for a young
girl to discover while walking along the leaf littered secret paths of the Great
Smokey Mountains: Mushrooms, brightly colored insects, dragonflies, snakes sunning
upon large stony overhangs, rambling bubbling brooks, fresh mint, chestnuts,
blackberries, pecans, fiddlehead ferns, pinecones, Indian paintbrush, violets, broken
bird egg shells, shed snake skins, mounds of moist green moss, soft lichen, acorns,
owl pellets, and lizards, lizards, lizards.
There were blue-tailed lizards, bright green lizards, spiny lizards and then geckos,
skinks and salamanders. This is where my love and fascination began for lizards
miniature dinosaurs, ancient.
About 13 years ago as I was working in my garden, I heard my sons excited
voice from behind me, Look at the lizard, Mom! I stopped working to
glance over my shoulder to see the lizard Ryan was excited about.
To my surprise he was holding a small tank hed brought home from a neighbor
equipped with litter, water bowl and a miniature buffalo skull where a speckled
lizard head was peaking out. Hes mine, Mom. Isnt he awesome?
he said, as his blue eyes beamed.
Ryan knew he was allowed to bring just about anything home and we would feed it and
nurture it to health, including squirrels, blue jays and, once, an entire brood of
The leopard gecko quickly became a member of the family. Ryan gave him the name of
Genghis Khan of great warrior reputation. Genghis was about six years old at the time
he came to live with us and in very good health. He was docile as are most Leopard
Geckos, seemed to enjoy being handled and a perfect choice for a beginning lizard.
Today my firefighter-paramedic son, Ryan is twenty-three and Genghis is pushing near
twenty years old himself.
Ryan works hard helping people and saving lives. Genghis has spent his days visiting
many classrooms delighting and educating hundreds of children.
Genghis remains in good health. If properly taken care of and given a healthy, safe
environment to live, Leopard Geckos can live twenty years (and beyond) charming their
families with their captivating lizard antics.
Some pets arent as fortunate as Genghis. They are brought home with little
supervision, planning and care. These families are best to leave the pets to those
that deserve them while otherwise enjoying some of our naturally living wildlife
lizards instead, such as: the green and brown anoles and the Mediterranean gecko.
One of our readers Steven Jenkins called to express concern about how there are few
green anoles today as compared to previous years. I discovered after a few pointed
questions that Steve is a reptile enthusiast like me. He was curious as to why it
seems the green anoles are being replaced by the brown anoles. We both wondered about
the dominance of the brown anoles over the green and discussed some rumors wed
heard but, Steve, you will be most surprised at the answers I found.
It seems that, after some research, brown anoles may not actually be dominant over
green anoles. In fact, there are areas where green anoles are dominant over brown
First, for the benefit of readers who arent lizard enthusiasts: How can
someone distinguish between a green and a brown anole?
For identification purposes: Green anoles can turn brown, but brown anoles are
unable to turn green. Brown anoles can turn darker brown and even black. Brown anoles
have strong markings down their backs. Green anoles have a bright blue eye ring while
in their green color change and their dewlaps are a quieter shade of burgundy.
Brown anoles typically display near ground level, moving back and forth, up and down
while showing off their bright orange dewlaps to impress other males. Green anoles
prefer higher and more secretive perches out of the way so, in fact, they may not
actually be as visible.
The green anole is the only official native member to the genus in Florida. There
does seem to be evidence that there are less green anoles today than in the past. One
factor is brown anoles multiply more prolifically. Yet another explanation came as a
surprise. Because the brown lizard chooses to display low to the ground making them
more visible, they become easy targets for roaming pet cats. Once a kitty has
discovered the joys of and becomes more adept at capturing brown anoles he/she then
may turn predatory interest to capturing the less conspicuous green anoles. The green
anoles are killed off by cats and the more heavily populated brown anole
So to answer your question, Steve, about the disappearance of green anoles you might
want to check what the neighbors cat had for dinner. This conclusion brings us
to another column about whether or not cats should be allowed to roam free and
unhindered as wild unnatural predators. That column I shall leave for another
Drop Karen a line at: MyMuddyPawsStudio@gmail.com.