Saturday, February 3, 2018

The Great Chuckwalla Safari

My friend Nikki and I went on a chuckwalla safari a couple of weeks ago at Camelback Mountain.  I'd only seen one in the wild before, and she hadn't seen any, so we were on the lookout:

The common chuckwalla (Sauromalus ater) is a very large lizard.  Some people call them desert iguanas. They're the second-largest lizard in the US (first is the gila monster, also found in Arizona, but much rarer). Chuckwallas are non-venomous and harmless.  They have flabby skin, especially around their necks, and many adult males sport some orange coloring, leading people to occasionally mistake them for Gila monsters. 

Chuckwallas are not always so active in the cooler months, so we weren't sure we'd have success.  It was a beautiful day, however, with bright sun and short-sleeve temperatures.  On the way to the summit, much of the trail was in shade, and we had no success. 

But just below the summit, on the way down the other side of the mountain, an uphill hiker spotted this little beauty:

Then, a little lower down, Nikki spotted this one on the next ridge.  Awesome!

SoonI want to go on a South Mountain chuckwalla safari.  There's a special variation there--and only there--where the chuckwallas have bright orange tails.

We took great pleasure in pointing our our chuckwallas to other hikers, many of whom had never heard of them.  A great day for a new experience!

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