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Hiking in Nashville, Tennessee and beyond

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Hiking Fiery Gizzard: the Northern Fence Lizard

June 10th, 2008 · 2 Comments · Fiery Gizzard, lizard, photography

By Stephen Frasier; Re: the Nashville Hiking Meetup Group’s Fiery Gizzard hike; Date: Saturday, June 8, 2008; Photos: Stephen Frasier, using Olympus Stylus 790 SW

northern fence lizard found while hiking at Fiery Gizzard in Monteagle, Tennessee

This adult Northern Fence Lizard (Sceloporus undulatus hyacinthinus) was found by the author while hiking the incredible, treacherous, beautiful Fiery Gizzard trail just outside Monteagle, Tennessee with the Nashville Hiking Meetup group. This type of fence lizard is basically the most common type of spiny lizard in Tennessee.

By the way, this is a break-out post, a sub-blog entry, a conjoined sibling of the larger Fiery Gizzard Hike post which describes – probably in far too much detail – certain events occurring on Saturday, June 7, 2008.

northern fence lizard found while hiking at Fiery Gizzard in Monteagle, Tennessee

This Northern Fence Lizard — probably about seven inches long — scurried by my Camelbak hydration system over to the edge of the rock cliff and peered back at me for a moment before moving to the trunk of an evergreen bask in the sun. Spiny lizards usually make themselves scarce pretty quickly; they seem to magically occupy the side of the tree trunk opposite you, getting out of your line of sight as does a squirrel. But this adult fence lizard – another enlightened reptile, perhaps 🙂 – demonstrated a clear desire to be photographed, thus continuing my reptile photography streak which began with a 6+ foot-long gray rat snake at Radnor Lake just the other day.

headshot of a Northern Fence Lizard found while hiking at Fiery Gizzard in Monteagle, Tennessee

Once the fence lizard settled into its sweet spot on the trunk of this cliff-dwelling evergreen, it was content not to move another inch – even when I stealthily approached to within two or three feet of the thermoregulating creature. I remembered to take plenty of pictures to increase the odds of having at least one blogworthy photo in the bunch.

I declined to capture this spiny lizard by hand, not because of the spines (which are usually no big deal to the human hand); rather, I remembered what a firm bite this critter can deliver on queue: it’s like a very firm pinch.

a northern fence lizard found while hiking at Fiery Gizzard in Monteagle, Tennessee

These fence lizards are extremely common in Tennessee, much like the Southeastern Five-Lined Skink; so seeing one – or even getting a good close-up of the lizard – is no big deal. This is one of the (hopefully few) ways a wise one might be able to determine my novicehood in the realm of reptile photography. Therefore, in future editions of HikingNature.com, you’re not likely to see such bragging rights being claimed over a photographed adult Northern Fence Lizard or Eastern Fence Lizard (same thing).


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    2 Comments so far ↓

    • Michael Arnett

      It may be common in the southeast, but I think it’s the first I have seen. The spiny back looks more southwestern than south/northeastern. What is your estimate on this lizard’s length?

    • Carolyn

      I had one of these as a pet. Caught it and it laid eggs sadly it died somehow after living with me for a month. Kujo, my lizard, was about 3-4 in. tip to tip.