Breakfast gone wrong: Cannibalistic lizard chokes to death on fellow reptile

A long-nosed leopard lizard is dead with a common chuckwalla lizard in its mouth. The scene was captured in a photo taken by a hiker on the Bearclaw Poppy Trail in St. George, Utah, April 21, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Kevin Anderson, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — It seemed like a lizard’s eyes were bigger than its stomach after trying to chomp down on another lizard.

A long-nosed leopard lizard is dead with a common chuckwalla lizard in it’s mouth. The scene was captured in a photo taken by a hiker on the Bearclaw Poppy Trail in St. George, Utah, April 21, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Kevin Anderson, St. George News

In what a local biologist called a “fairly rare” picture, a dead long-nosed leopard lizard is seen with a common chuckwalla inside its mouth. Kevin Anderson found the reptilian crime scene while hiking near the Bear Claw Poppy Trail (also referred to as Bearclaw Poppy trail) in St. George Saturday.

“I was kind of scrambling up along the rocks a little higher on the side of the trail when I found them,” Anderson said. “I caught a few pictures of them because I thought it was really cool.”

The lizards looked like they had recently died when Anderson found them at about 7:30 a.m. over the weekend, he said. They were originally on their backs when he found them.

Kevin Wheeler, a wildlife biologist for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, said the long-nosed leopard lizard probably got a little too ambitious when it tried to swallow the chuckwalla. The chuckwalla is a species that is able to inflate itself with air to escape predators, he said.

“It appears that the chuckwalla may have inflated and choked the leopard lizard in this case,” he said. “Most predators don’t nab prey that are too big for them, but (it) does happen every once in a while. The fact that the prey likely made himself bigger in the process would have complicated this meal.”

Long-nosed leopard lizards are known to prey on other small lizards, Wheeler said. They also can deliver a painful bite if picked up by humans. Chuckwallas are mostly herbivores. Both species of lizards are common across Southern Utah.

Wheeler said he’s also seen snakes similarly die by trying to eat prey that is too large.

Email: sricks@stgnews.com

Twitter:  @STGnews | @SpencerRicks

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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7 Comments

  • Brian April 27, 2018 at 8:02 am

    Natures metaphoric prediction for the democratic party… It’s already eating its own. When will it choke?

    • theone April 27, 2018 at 10:24 am

      Take a perfectly natural event and politicize it, way to go Brian.
      You Republicans can’t even wait for the grieving period to end,
      oh wait, that argument only works when innocent humans are mowed down.
      Drink more coffee Brian I think you’re too preoccupied with dogma.

      • mesaman April 27, 2018 at 9:28 pm

        The won, I think you just exposed your political leaning.

    • comments April 27, 2018 at 8:52 pm

      gotta agree w/ theone on this (which is rare). Really idiotic thing to say Brian. Completely idiotic…

  • Carpe Diem April 27, 2018 at 10:49 am

    Reminds me of the Boa that ate the gator in FL and blew up. Rare but happens… never saw a lizard go big game hunting before. For some reason we have had an explosion of smaller lizards at our place but I guess the good part of that is, I never see any bugs.

  • DRT April 27, 2018 at 11:45 am

    Sort of reminds me of one of the last dinners at JB’s in Hurricane before they closed.

  • comments April 27, 2018 at 9:01 pm

    thats really disgusting. lol. don’t bite off more than you can chew i guess haha

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