What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

An unofficial first sighting on the hill

We need to take a slight detour here to indulge ourselves. People use the term “Bug” for many reasons. Scientifically, a True Bug is an insect in the suborder Heteroptera, but our humble site has used the slang term bug for other insects as well as spiders, scorpions, crustaceans, worms, amphibians and even reptiles, because these are things that “bug” some folks. Now that we have justified ourselves on this one, we will relate the story. The lovely rustic neighborhood of Mt Washington is currently being raped by insensitive developers. There is a new Notice of Intent sign posted with an address 1538 N. Randall Court, Los Angeles, 90065 and this lot was cleared of brush Sunday. We suspect this California Legless Lizard, Anniella pulchra, was living a carefree life, enjoying the loose sandy soil and eating all manner larval insects, beetles, termites, and spiders before it was disturbed by the weed wackers. Last night, the little bugger was found in the pristinely manicured and landscaped front yard of Phot across the street. We were lucky enough to capture what we thought was a snake of unknown taxonomy. Since moving to our current home/office over 8 years ago, we have sighted two others of this unusual species. We rushed home with the thrashing “snake” in a paper bag and quickly telephoned Julian Donahue, the local keeper of species sighting records, to get an identification. Julian identified the creature as a California Legless Lizard and noted this would be the first local sighting that he knows about. More information on this unique species can be found on the California Reptiles and Amphibians website. We brought the California Legless Lizard home and took some photos in the kitchen sink. After a short night’s rest in the paper bag, the California Legless Lizard is soon to be released into the open space of our gem of a state park, Elyria Canyon State Park where it won’t need to worry about being evicted ever again. We are sorry to have leapfrogged in front of our faithful and curious readership on this one, but it seemed so significant. Meanwhile, we are continuing to plow through all the letters that arrived in our week long absence, and we are only scratching the surface of June 9 right now. Thanks for your patience.

Released into Elyria Canyon Park

Update: (06/14/2008) Legless lizard
Great site and if I am correct you are also a fellow member of MWHA. I grew up on Mt. Washington and began finding what I assumed were newts when the clay soil was very wet as far back as the early 1990’s when my wife and I bought the family home. Very interesting to learn that they are not newts but California Legless Lizards. I occasionally come upon one or two when gardening or doing slight excavation, but they only seem to be in the front garden for some reason, maybe due to bark or proximity to the main sewage line. I also occasionally find something similar but with very immature and short legs. Should I come across one again, I will photograph and send photos. We are generally gentle with our bug friends (not very fond of the damn slugs which devour much of my herbs) but we have a pesticide free (and petrochemical free for that matter) garden. It has been nice to see the eco system rebound after all the malthion orgy during the 1980’s. Again great work neighbor, your site is a great resource.
Doug Nickel Mt. Washington

Hi Doug,
Thanks for the additional information. The California Legless Lizard inhabits sandy soil. It burrows quickly into the ground, so hard packed clay would not be an ideal habitat. Crumbled sandstone slopes found in certain areas of Mt Washington are ideal. The California Legless Lizard grows to 7 inches in length. Much more common in Mt Washington are Slender Salamanders in the genus Batrachosep , which sound like what you are describing. They are smaller and have tiny little feet. The ones I find are dark. If you are certain you are finding two different creatures, then perhaps the population of California Legless Lizards on Mt Washington is bigger than Julian Donahue supposed. Come to the next meeting of the MWHA and introduce yourself. I expect to write a piece on the California Legless Lizard for the next newsletter, and perhaps I can get some information from you.

Julian Donahue Comments: (06/14/2008)
Hi Doug,
You may be talking about two different critters. The California Legless Lizard is, indeed, legless, but is fast moving, almost like a skink. Its body is covered with small scales. The other is the Slender Salamander, which has very small legs. As an amphibian it is smooth-skinned and moist, with no scales. It prefers damper locations than the lizard. Both have now been confirmed on Mt. Washington. Your neighbor down the street,
Julian

Update:  September 22, 2013
It seems there is more diversity among Legless Lizards in California than was originally believe.  Read about the four new species of Legless Lizards in California on Popular Science and Yahoo News.

Julian Donahue provides information on the Legless Lizard diversity:  September 19, 2013
Just discovered a new paper that splits four species of legless lizards from the one species, California Legless Lizard, making five in all in California.
Ours is now Anniella stebbinsi, the Southern California Legless Lizard. I have just posted this info on the Alliance Facebook page, updated the Mt. Washington herptile list, and attach a PDF of the full article for your files.  Anniella-4 n spp
Julian

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What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
Location: California

4 Responses to California Legless Lizard sighted in Mt Washington

  1. pmartinez1205 says:

    A friend of mine and I were hiking the Falls Creek Falls Trail in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Skamania County, Washington on Thursday, July 5, 2012 and came across a California Legless Lizard just resting on the trail. We didn’t know what it was at the time (neither of us having seen one before), but looked it up after returning home (it looked just like the photo in this article). I wish now we had at least taken a picture of it, but we just looked at it for a while as it started to slither away and continued on our hike.

  2. pmartinez1205 says:

    Bugman: we can’t say for sure that it was a “California Legless Lizard”, but it was definitely a legless lizard and looked almost exactly like the top photo in this article. It was a clear, bright day and we looked at it for quite a while before it moved on and we moved on. Though I had never seen one before in the wild, I knew it was a lizard and we refrained from picking it up for fear that we would scare it and it would drop its tail. In hindsight, of course, we really wish now that we had taken a picture of it, but it was just a curiousity at the time.

  3. pmartinez1205 says:

    Bugman: here is an update. My friend was looking up other sites on the internet and came across a section on Rubber Boas, which are apparently native to Washington state, as well as other areas of the West. After seeing the photos in the article and reading about it, what we saw was definitely a Rubber Boa! The legless lizard and boa look remarkably alike, but what we saw had more of the subtle features of the boa. It was still cool to see a boa; we had never seen one of those either. Mystery solved!!

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