Langford lizard sighting excites Victoria museum curator

Curator of vertebrate zoology/knowledge explains the spread of the Wall lizard in the region

Dr. Gavin Hanke, Curator, Vertebrae Zoology at the Royal BC Museum at work. (Photo contributed)

By Rick Stiebel

Leaping lizards need not apply.

Considering it takes the Wall lizard 10 years to spread one kilometre from its point of origin, a sighting in the Crystal View area of Langford is exciting news for an expert in the field.

Gavin Hanke, curator, vertebrate zoology/knowledge at the Royal BC Museum, was intrigued enough to reach out to a Langford resident who took a photo of a Wall lizard that ran in the Victoria News to determine the location of the sighting.

Although there have been sightings south of Langford Lake and in the Goldstream area, there have been “very few” observations in Langford, Hanke noted. “It’s great to get a new dot on the map in an area like that,” he added enthusiastically.

READ ALSO: Catching reptiles and amphibians puts species at risk, Saanich nature sanctuary warns

The Wall lizard was first “accidentally or on purpose” introduced in the Saanich Peninsula in 1967, then intentionally introduced in 1986 on the West Shore through a release in a garden on Triangle Mountain in Colwood, Hanke explained. Common Wall lizards moved from Central Saanich to two separate gardens in Summerland failed to establish.

While lizards are common in almost every garden in the Moss Rocks area of Fairfield, it hasn’t been determined if that’s the case elsewhere, Hanke said.

“It would be great if we could encourage people to report lizard sightings, especially with photos so we can really get going on figuring how evenly spread these lizards are where they occur,” he said. Photographs are especially helpful in identifying if it is a Common Wall lizard or a Northern Alligator lizard, a species native to B.C. “Public help, even kids as citizen scientists can really help with determining species’ ranges, not just wall lizards but anything. Weeds, birds, toads, fish, mammals, mosses, lichen, you name it.”

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Hanke, who has been with the Royal BC Museum for 15 years, has completed a paper on the Common Wall lizard that will be published this winter in the Northwestern Naturalist scientific journal.

“I started out keeping reptiles as pets in kindergarten,” he said. “It’s a dream job. I get to catch snakes, lizards and fish and call it work. It’s pretty awesome.”

If you have a photo or sighting you want to share, post it at iNaturalist.ca or contact ghanke@royalbcmuseum.bc.ca.

rick.stiebel@goldstreamgazette.com

 

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