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