Bobtail lizards sunning on the road

bobtail lizard in the Perth suburbs by Fred Coles With a title like that, things could only end in tragedy. Last week I found a dead Western Bobtail lizard (Tiliqua rugosa) on my street a couple of houses down from mine. He was in front of the empty block, which would make good bobtail habitat with all those weeds and long grass. He may have been crossing the road because one block is not necessarily the extent of a lizard’s territory or he may have been warming up on that toasty road. My street isn’t so busy and the speed limit is 50km/hr, but people drive faster than that and most drivers aren’t looking out for foot-long lizards on “their” road.

When I saw the dead lizard, his death had only just happened because he wasn’t quite flat and his insides were still glistening. It was the saddest sight.

Last year I was driving along a busy road near my house which borders a bush reserve and I saw a bobtail crossing the road. I slowed and avoided him, but then I wished I had stopped my car in front of him, put on my hazard lights and waited until he got across. He was close to the other side so I’m hoping he made it, but bobtails often don’t. I wish they would stay in the bush reserve or at least stick to the path for their sunning, but of course they don’t notice our fences and arbitrary lines in the sand; and the black bitumen road gets warmer than a pale cement-coloured path.

Last year I blogged about the bobtail who visited my garden a couple of summers ago. I saw him a few times, but when Sheeba the dog saw him, she stood next to him and barked constantly until I intervened. Despite the strawberries in my garden which initially attracted him (lizards love strawberries) I didn’t see him after that. I hope it was the barking that scared him off and not a car that killed him.

The other thing that could have killed a bobtail was the poisonous snail bait I used to use. I now use iron chelate (EDTA complex) snail bait which is only harmful to snails and slugs. The active ingredient is certified as an organic farm input by the UK organic certification body, but NASAA refused to certify it because of a disagreement with the manufacturer over the name of the active ingredient – bureaucracy! Even if a lizard eats a snail poisoned by iron chelate, they’ll be fine. The plentiful snails, slugs and caterpillars entice bobtails into gardens, so if the bobtail had stayed I wouldn’t need snail bait.


photo credit: Bobtail lizard in the Perth suburbs on Flickr by Fred Coles

PS. Thank you to the 10,000 visitors who’ve dropped by my blog. I know that includes repeat visits and clicks between pages, but it’s more than I thought would read my random thoughts during the past year.

7 thoughts on “Bobtail lizards sunning on the road

  1. Hi ,
    Gardening is about enjoying the smell of things growing in the soil, getting dirty without feeling guilty, and generally taking the time to soak up a little peace and serenity.

  2. We’ve just had our local bobtail give birth (live) to 4 young ones ( in Albany). She dropped 3 last year. “Re-located” a tiger snake just a fortnight ago so that was fortunate. They love young bobtails. Any ideas what to feed the young ones on ?

  3. Oh wow, that’s so cool. I never knew they didn’t lay eggs. Do you have photos? The book “Reptiles and frogs in the bush: southwestern Australia” by Brian Bush et al (UWA Press, 2007) says,

    they feed on most things they can swallow, including a large amount of plant material, especially fruit, insects, slugs, snails, faeces and carrion, including the maggots!

    sounds like my dog’s eating habits :)
    But won’t the mother feed them, or at least find food for them?

  4. i live in scarborough on the beach and in the last week weeks we have had 3pairs of bobtails pop up on our front and rear lawn[early mornings] and also neighbour house. pairs seem to be very diff.
    then theres 1 absolutely huge and agile bobtail [approx60-70cm long and as wide as ya hand. NO JOKE!]. this one is aggressive and is always by its self. the local jack russell cross has tried to go it but thought twice once it turned on it…..
    scarbs seems to be bobtail country, with the odd snake around….

  5. That’s so cool you see so many. Btw do you grow strawberries in your garden? they love eating them off the bush, which they used to do with mine, until my dog barked for an extended period of time at one and he never returned.

    There’s a number on the empty block a few doors down from me, they go into surrounding gardens (and cross the road :( to one garden they really like). My neighbour and I both have dogs that bark at them when they see them, but the neighbour’s dog is obviously less scary coz the bobtails go to their garden and not mine (and I grow native plants to try to attract them). Luckily for me my neighbours are terrified of bobtails and I have to go in and rescue the little fellow when they find one in their garden. I put him back on the empty block. He’s terrified and wants to bite me, but holding him behind the head stops that, but he does twist his tail toward his mouth as if he’s going to bite that (which is probably just a way to make himself smaller and less of a meal for a predator). I rescued one last week and I so wanted to make friends, but when I put him on a brick in the long weeds he didn’t move coz he was still terrified. I had to leave so he could calm down.

    My other neighbour said he’d seen one 60-70cm long and I didn’t believe him, but I guess I have to now :) I’ve never seen them that big, only up to about 30cm.

    When a bobtail opens his mouth wide on a dog trying to attack, the dog will always back off! It even scares me at an instinctual level, but I know its all bluff and if I quickly grab him from behind he can’t bite me.

    But I don’t recommend handling them, coz if you’re not sure of what you’re doing you could get bitten.

    And yes scabs in summer is the place for bobtails, snakes, bearded dragons, and monitors. The bush reserves near the beach eg. Trigg and Star Swamp are full of them. I was very happy when I found this Gould’s monitor at Star Swamp.

  6. I have numerous bobtailed lizards in my backyard in City Beach but in the past 2 weeks i have found to dead lizards in my backyard.

    I was checking if there were any bird marks but there was nothing i was wondering if Lizards can just die?

    Thank you

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