Fishing for lizards is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel on a hot day near a rock face in a district of Saanich.
Certainly, Gavin Hanke, the curator of zoology / vertebrate knowledge at the Royal BC Museum, has long been capturing them. This one, the wall lizard, is particularly prolific in its neighborhood, which is a relatively new development. A researcher to the bone, he got the plentiful supply from Derby Road a few blocks from 2019 – and they’re spreading fast.
The wall lizard was first introduced to the Saanich Peninsula in 1967. Other intentional and accidental releases over the years have caused the population to flourish.
“I bet we have 700,000 on the island now,” Hanke said.
European Wall Lizard populations roam Metchosin Island in Campbell River with credible reports from Ucluelet, Powell River and even the Broken Group Islands.
The problem with this prolific reptile is that it’s invasive – with largely unknown impacts on local ecosystems.
Hanke knows they eat earwigs – he once slipped wall lizard poo into his hand and found an earwigs tail. They also eat ants, termites and bedbugs, and pollinators – wasps, mason bees, bumblebees and honey bees. He is concerned that they will eat the first form of the chorus frog.
The wall lizards will even eat each other. This is one of the reasons the population spreads so quickly once you appear in a place. Young people flee to new territory to avoid being eaten by a parent. Then their little ones run away from them.
Research shows they spread 40 to 100 yards per year, and Hanke is begging residents to slow this spread by not doing it intentionally. Lizards are also known to hitchhike on plant pots, firewood, and hay bales. The alligator lizard, native to the region, is not as abundant.
“We ask people not to move them,” Hanke said.
When he catches one, for research purposes or for the museum, a few drops of Orgagel in his mouth quickly euthanizes them. Benzocaine enters the brain directly and the creature goes numb and then quickly dies.
Anyone with a photo or sighting to share can post it on iNaturalist.ca or contact [email protected]
Do you have a story tip? Email: [email protected]
follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.