Northern Alligator Lizard
Everybody knows Alderbrook has big trees, beautiful mountain views, and a glacier-carved fjord. But did you know we have alligators, too? Not actual 10 foot long alligators, thank goodness. Rather, the 10 inch long northern alligator lizard.
These little critters find refuge from predators under logs and in rock retaining walls on the nature trails. Over half the length of their body is their tail, which is used to escape predators by detaching the tail from the body when attacked. The abandoned appendage will flail around for minutes, giving the lizard time to hide from the snake, hawk, or other predator in pursuit. Miraculously, they will regrow a tail over time.
If the tail isn’t enough to keep the predators away, it will bite and excrete a smelly substance. They can also carry salmonella. You don’t need to worry about the northern alligator lizard attacking you on your next outing in the Alderbrook Woods, but this is probably reason enough to look and not touch the little guy.
The male lizard has a questionable approach to breeding that is not recommended for us humans. It bites onto the neck of its potential female mate and holds on for hours to prove its strength and worthiness as a partner. Instead of laying eggs like most reptiles, the northern alligator lizard will give birth to fully-formed offspring, which can live for ten years.
The northern alligator lizard and other reptiles are cold blooded, so the best chance you will have at spotting one will be basking atop a rock on a sunny day. Later alligator!