Category Archives: Critters

Unwanted Guests

Being where we are and the ecosystem we’re in, we get gophers. Annoying little bastards, they’ll ruin your lawn in weeks if allowed to. Our gardeners deal with them as needed. But this morning…

As soon as I came to a spot in the house where I could see out of the sliding glass doors to the backyard, it was obvious this was no simple visitation from gophers.


The other problem with them, especially since the back yard is on the edge of a sizeable hill, is that if left unchecked the gophers can dig enough holes and tunnels to undermine the stability of the hill. Given enough gophers and a good soaking rain this winter (please, we could REALLY use that rain!) then a chunk of our (rented) house ends up in the downslope neighbor’s back yard and the house gets red-tagged and we’ve got 24 hours to find a new place and move out.

Not my idea of a good time.

So the powers that be have been notified and in a couple of days someone will be out to encouraging the gophers to move to someone else’s yard. In a couple of days.

In the meantime, tomorrow morning might be “interesting.”

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Lounging Squirrel – Chapter The Second

Walking through the kitchen to get a soda mid-day. Wait – what’s that out on the porch?

First of all, is it dead? It looks dead… Nope, it twitched. Is it dying? (And please excuse the Dodgers doormat out there. We’re really NOT that sort of people1 But when we moved in the landlord said it had to stay and three years later I still haven’t figured out if he was joking or not.)

I don’t want to move because he’ll bolt, but let’s use the zoom on the iPhone a bit.

Yep, he’s alive, and alert now that he knows I’m here. But he’s not tearing off across the yard and up the tree like he’s training for the Olympics.

This is definitely the closest I’ve ever seen him come up to the house. And he never lounges up on the porch. So what’s up?

When I posted his first lounging photo a few days ago, long-time follower of this blog Jemima Pett thought that it might be because when it got really hot, the concrete in the shade might still be cooler than the air and the critters would do it to stay cooler. That makes sense, but it would still be the first time that I’ve ever seen it. And today wasn’t “stupid hot,” just in the mid 90’s, when we’ve had plenty of days up above 110°, or even 120°. Maybe he was lounging by the pool at the neighbors house on those days, but now they’ve gotten a dog and we’re a pale, pathetic substitute.

I just hope this little beastie doesn’t figure out we’ve got the A/C on inside or he’ll be making a dash for the door when it opens. I don’t even want to think about all of the screaming, crying, and panic that would follow.


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Lounging Squirrel

How can I hate his furry, mangy, potentially rabid little butt when he’s this cute?

It was hot in the sun, but nice in the shade.

So the sidewalk was juuuuuust right for his tummy.

He was digesting and relaxing, haven eaten his fill of the birdseed that was supposed to be for the birds!

He might have just been too full to run away. His daily birdseed theft is one of the reasons for my hatred. But then he’s so cute…

I hope I don’t get bubonic plague from him.


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The Tiniest Lizard

I had thought that the new lizards generally hatched in early spring, like late April to early May. That’s when I’ve seen some of the smaller ones last year and this. But today when bringing in the trash barrels I spooked one who’s itsy-bitsy and teeny-tiny and can’t be that old, but he’s late if he’s just hatched. Whatever. He skittered, I froze, he froze, I very, very, very slowly and carefully pulled out my phone and thumbed it on, and he was nice enough to sit still for four quick pictures, leaning down a bit on each one. The he said, “Hit it, Chewie!” and jumped to light speed into the bushes.

Can you see him?

He probably isn’t more than two inches long at most. I think he was sunning himself on or under that black plastic debris that blew in today. Maybe I’ll leave it there for now. It’s a tough universe out there – we all can use a little help.

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Friends Of Old Friends

If you’ve been following this drivel for any length of time, you’ll remember that at our old house we had some raccoons that were regular neighbors. (Actually, “tenants” might be a better term than “neighbors” since they lived up on our roof and in our trees.) The most famous incident (and best pictures) came from the great Racoon Rescue episode, but we had then around pretty much constantly., sometimes in some not quite safe-for-work situations, which in turn led to encounters with up to five curious and trouble-making kits.

Then we moved about a mile away, but at the top of a hill.

Since we’ve been here I’ve seen pairs of raccoons in the early evening around sundown sometimes, but always at the bottom of the hill. Never up here.

Until last night.

As I had folded up the camera tripod after photographing the ISS pass, I took a couple steps toward the front door and noticed that the bushes next to the door were rustling and moving about. I thought it was a cat at first (we have feral cats we see once in a while, often with a writhing lizard in its mouth) but if a feline this would have been a bobcat, not a house cat. Nope, not a cat. Instead, out wandered a raccoon that was almost as big as a mid-sized dog. He/she was ignoring me but headed over to the flower beds (I should have been wondering why those were being dug up) but freaked a bit when I pulled out my camera and grabbed a couple of pictures with the flash.

It’s a lousy shot, but under the circumstances and with the equipment at hand, good enough.

So – they will climb the hill. Duly noted.


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Circle Of Life

I went out today to find a better resting place for Monsieur Badass than the middle of the driveway under Hissy’s wheel. While the ants and crows might have appreciated it, the bushes where he used to hide seemed more appropriate. When I looked up from placing him there, I spotted something under the Volvo.

Can you see it? He’s tiny, probably less than an inch long.

All I had was my iPhone, not the good camera with the telephoto lens, and he was deep in the shadows. But it was a brand new little lizard, probably in the sense of “very recently hatched” given his size and also in the sense of “first time I’ve seen it!” He was EXTREMELY skittish and bolted as soon as I made the smallest step toward him to get a better picture. That’s good! That’s how you stay alive long enough to get to the size of M. Badass or Dr. Lizardo!

A couple hours later I went out on a break and took the aforementioned good camera with the telephoto lens, hoping to find the tiny, tiny guy, but instead finding this guy.

Again, right where M. Badass always hung out, but I’ve never seen him (or her) either. Ever. It could be a huge coincidence. Or it could be that M. Badass was keeping all of the ants and spiders to himself and these guys somehow know that he’s gone and they’re moving in.

Remember that scene in “When Harry Met Sally” where Billy Crystal is talking about how they should combine the obituaries and the apartment ads so that you could see who died and what sort of place is now on the market? This is the lizard version of that in real life!

While moving around and taking pictures I was probably 8′ to 10′ away and constantly waiting for him (or her) to bolt.

He (or she) was pretty patient as long as I stayed well outside his (or her) comfort zone. But in this picture, look behind her (or his) back legs, at that wide base of the tail that then gets much more narrow. Is that a sign that this is a female?

Or, as this picture clearly shows, is that just where she (or he) lost their tail and had to start re-growing it?

It turns out that when I squat down to take a ground level picture instead of standing up, THAT’s the key to “RUN!!!” Or at least scurry like hell to the safety of the tire. Um, let’s talk about that concept for a second…

Looking back, this dude (or dudette) has very distinctive markings and coloration. Those big black splotches behind the front legs, that regenerated tail, the big 3-D spots or warts above the front shoulders, the desert camo coloration.

Monsieur Badass might be off in the final patch of flowers, but there is apparently no shortage of replacements who want a warm spot on the driveway and are willing to risk his fate to get it. That’s good news – but I might wait a while to see if these guys get used to me and are willing to not run at first sight before I start getting too attached.


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RIP Monsieur Badass

I guess it was inevitable.

I had gone into the office for the morning, so our favorite tough guy fence lizard was hiding from the birds and cats under the wheels of Hissy. When I got home I found that he had been squashed flat when The Long-Suffering Wife went out for errands.

I checked out the remains to confirm it was him – stumpy tail being re-grown, no feet and only partial legs on his left side. Yep. That’s him.

There are plenty of other lizards running around the yard, but I’ll miss Monsieur Badass. He was the only one that had been around long enough or was badass enough so that he didn’t run like hell as soon as I got within twenty feet of him. He would stick around and even seem to be listening if I felt like sitting down next to the driveway to chat.


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It’s All Fun & Games Until Someone Gets Squished!

Monsieur Badass has developed an annoying habit of treating it like a game of hide-and-seek when he’s sunning himself while simultaneously hiding from the crows by hiding under the tires of the car.

This is not Monsieur Badass but a different lizard. Still, you get the idea. M. Badass tends to be way, WAY in there in the shadow and it’s tough to get a decent picture of him there.

It’s COVID’s fault. For the past fifteen months these cars have only been driven twice a week, sometimes only once. To this generation of Household Fence Lizards, these are permanent objects.

But now that I’m going out several times a week, they have to either be shoo’d away from instant death by squishing flatter than a pancake, or they have to be squished to death (see, “flatter than a pancake” reference).

The guy shown in the picture and the other Doctor Lizardo clan are as skittish as normal lizards are, so if you walk to the care and look at them funny they’re scurrying for the bushes and rocks. No worries.

But Monsieur Badass is different! He’s started to turn it into a game.

First of all, he doesn’t run away when you approach. He’ll actually wait until I get to the car, bend over, and poke my finger or some paperwork at him.

Then, if he’s behind the rear tire, he’ll run around to the front side of the rear tire, which only means that he’ll get squished by the front tire.

So I poke at him again and he’ll run back around the backside of the rear tire. Poke again and he’ll go over to the left side rear tire. Poke again and he’ll go up behind one of the front tires…

This can go on for several minutes, especially when it’s HOT out there. He loves it! Me? Not so much.

Yesterday I thought that I had killed him. We did this whole dance, I knelt down on the scorching driveway to peek under the car, and it looked like “all clear!”

Just to make sure to scare him off if he was hiding I turn on the car, let it idle a minute (as well as get the air conditioning going on full), then put it into reverse and rock the car just a skosh a couple of times, let it roll back just a smidgen, and then finally back up slowly. I mean, jeez Louise! How much warning does he need?!

But then when I got down to the bottom of the driveway and was ready to back out into the street, I looked back up into the driveway and saw him sitting there, right where he would have been underneath the car as it backed up. From that distance I couldn’t tell if I had squished him or if he had been in the middle between the tires and I had backed right over him. He was gone when I got home a couple hours later and was back out there this morning, so it looks like he’s not only a Badass, but a Daredevil.

I want to think that he’s figured this out and he’s only moving as much as he needs to. Then I remember that his brain is like 1% the size of the head of a pin and the only three thoughts it’s capable of are “eat,” “lizard sex,” and “RUN!!”

Long live Monsieur Badass! Or, at least, if he gets squished as I’m backing out, let some crow haul off the carcass before I get back so that I can carry on in blissful ignorance!

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Golden Hour Backyard Lizards

You’ve seen plenty of the front yard lizards recently, hanging out under the Volvo or the van, eating ants, living their best lives (except for all of the missing limbs and mutilations). But what about those in the back yard? I think the last one I showed you there was probably Tux.

Can you find that lizard? (That’s not original – watch on Twitter for the #FindThatLizard game to return in a few Wednesday nights. Earyn McGee [@Afro_herper] runs the game and she’s been successfully completing and defending her doctoral dissertation!)

It was one of those times when my watch had whined at me to get off my ass and walk a bit, so as I often do, I took a lap around our backyard sidewalk. This time it was just before sunset, the “golden hour” for photography due to the light. As I walked, almost every step had one of these little guys darting from the grass or bushes or dirt off into the shrubs that border the yard.

This dude didn’t make it to the shrubs, but made the smart move of freezing and hoping his natural camouflage would save him. It didn’t, but the fact that I wasn’t interested in killing and eating him (not necessarily in that order), did.

These skitterish backyard lizard dudes need to chill!


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Lizard Diet Conundrum

As you all remember since you’ve been following this deluge of daily diatribes, Monsieur Badass (a partially crippled Western fence lizard) hangs out under the Volvo when it’s parked in the driveway. Aside from the protection from birds and other predators, I also suspect that he hides there because there are ants to eat.

It’s also been hotter than Hell here in Southern California, and one side effect is a sharp increase in the number of black widow spider webs around the yard. Including one that keeps rebuilding under the Volvo, very near where Monsieur Badass hangs out. Now, I’m really not a fan of arachnids of any kind, but I’m really, REALLY opposed to the venomous arachnids. My first immediate reaction is to shriek and run away, but my second, more thoughtful, more mature and considered reaction is to rain nuclear fire on them (preferably from orbit). Or at the very least, soak the area in insecticide.

But doing that stands a good chance of also poisoning Monsieur Badass, which would be very bad.

Then on a hunch I checked out what Western fence lizards eat in the wild. There are ants, crickets, other small bugs and spiders…including black widow spiders.

As a result, I’m not going to scream, nor nuke, nor soak the web and car in poison. I’ll leave the widder spidder’s web there for now, on the off chance that it’s another food source for Monsieur Badass.

The things we do for our friends and pets… 🥴

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