Who’s not appreciated?

Lizards: Kind of nice to
have around

[First published November 1998; illustration courtesy Bill Canfield]

LIZARDQuestion: What’s the most common animal besides insects and birds we see near the house and on the trail and yet pay it almost no attention? It’s a few inches to a foot long, likes the sun, dashes about very fast. How about the little lizard? You’d be hard pressed to catch one. Don’t see them much in road kill. Aren’t poisonous, don’t attack, don’t do us any damage. We don’t kill them, don’t spray them, don’t put out poison bait for ‘em. We just note their presence and otherwise ignore them.

She eats termites – that’s good; she eats scorpions – that’s good; she eats spiders – that’s good; and she doesn’t eat our plants – that’s also good. Kind of nice to have around.
Need to explain “she.” You see, many of our lizards reproduce unisexually; that’s called parthenogenesis. Many of the lizards we see are whiptails and many reproduce without males but there are some fellows around.

Whiptails are quite common here. There are several species, but I’m no expert. Slim streamlined bodied, long tails up to twice as long as the body, dark colored, squarish scales on top and rectangular ones on the belly if you look closely. Often six or seven light and dark stripes down her length sometime during her growth. She lays eggs.

The reason we see her so often is she moves about, forages during the day. At night she crawls under debris, sometimes into holes she doesn’t dig, and then comes out in the morning to sun and warm up a bit. We often see her in the hottest part of the day as she scurries about. She’s fast, up to 15 miles per hour. Runs wiggling her head back and forth, stops and looks back to see what scared her along. Some hold the tail off the ground. She likes rather open and rocky places where her speed is an advantage.

Next time you see a lizard, don’t ignore her. Tip your hand in a little salute to this least appreciated neighbor living here in our desert.

JANUARY 4, 2012

56th Annual VNSA Used Book Sale: Read & Recycle

Join the book lovers and bargain hunters at the 56th Annual VNSA Used Book Sale on February 11 – 12 at the Arizona State Fairgrounds. VNSA (Volunteer Non-Profit Service Association) is a local, all-volunteer organization with no paid employees. Sale proceeds will benefit local nonprofit human services agencies including Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation and Literacy Volunteers of Maricopa County, Inc.

More than 500,000 books and related items, organized into 27 categories for easy shopping, will be offered at the sale. These items include hardbound books, paperbacks, texts, videos, CDs, computer manuals, maps, puzzles, and other book-related items. Almost all books will be half-price all day Sunday. Since 1987, VNSA has contributed over $5,000,000 to local charities.

Admission to the Book Sale is free. Hours are Saturday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Exhibit Building, Arizona State Fairgrounds, 1826 W. McDowell Road, Phoenix. The Arizona State Fairgrounds charges for parking.

For additional information, visit or call 602-265-6805.

JANUARY 4, 2012

Be prepared in 2012 with Ready Scottsdale classes

The final days of 2011 brought to an end one of the most severe years for natural disasters in recent U.S. history. Hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and earthquakes took dozens of lives and caused billions of dollars in damage.

Scottsdale is not immune from disaster.  Flash floods, wildland fires and other major threats can strike with little or no warning.

Citizens can make a New Year’s resolution to be prepared by attending Ready Scottsdale classes in 2012.

The free, one-hour programs start Jan. 14 and teach such potentially life-saving skills as preparing a family disaster plan, compiling a list of safety and health resources and creating a disaster supply kit.

“By making a resolution to take a few simple steps in advance, we can minimize the impact of an emergency on our families, homes and businesses,” said John Moede, Scottsdale’s emergency management coordinator.

To register for a free Ready Scottsdale class, call 480-312-8000 or visit and click on “Training Opportunities.”