Preliminary Results from a Translocation of Dunes Sagebrush Lizards (Sceloporus arenicolus) in West

Parker, Mickey R.

Hibbitts, Toby

Fitzgerald, Lee A.

Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Science

Texas A&M University

College Station, TX

Ryberg, Wade

Natural Resources Institute

Texas A&M University

College Station, TX

The Dunes Sagebrush Lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus) is a habitat specialist that is restricted to the shinnery oak and dune blowout formations in the Mescalero Sands of southeastern New Mexico and the Monahans Sandhills of west Texas. The species’ high level of habitat specificity, coupled with its reluctance to cross roads, makes it unlikely that it can colonize new areas of habitat or repopulate areas that have experienced local extinctions. In 2016, we began a project examining translocation as a conservation strategy for the lizard. Prior to this study, Dunes Sagebrush Lizards had not been detected in Crane County, TX since 1970. During the breeding season (April-June), we collected 36 adults (24 female, 12 male) from nearby populations and translocated them to a site in Crane County with suitable habitat that is contiguous with the historical locality. We used a soft-release strategy, keeping the newly translocated individuals in six temporary enclosures constructed from Animex® wildlife fencing. After an acclimation period, we removed the enclosures and monitored the translocated population using a trapping grid of 519 pitfall traps. In 2017, we conducted another round of translocation at the site with 34 adults and 6 hatchlings. Gravid females successfully laid clutches in both years. We will continue monitoring the incipient population over the next two years to examine growth, survival, reproduction, and dispersal. Here we will present findings to date and discuss factors that will likely affect the dynamics of the incipient population.

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