Lizards of two subspecies that are under consideration for federal endangered species status were spotted in the Sycamore Hills area of Laguna Beach last Saturday during a group nature walk, reports Elizabeth Brown, president of Laguna Greenbelt Inc.
She said the two creatures were discovered on ridge-top trails between Laguna Canyon and El Toro roads and north of the proposed San Juan Hills Transportation Corridor. The trails are within the boundaries of land bought by the city for open space.
They were identified by one of the group, herpetologist and author Allan Schoenherr, as a San Diego horned lizard and an orange-throated whiptail. Brown said the sighting indicates the necessity of preserving habitats in open space land, much of which faces development.
The San Diego horned lizard (Phrynosoma coronatum blainvillei) and orange-throated whiptail (Cnemidophorus hyperthrus) are both are category 2 candidates for federal endangered status, according to U.S. Fish and Wildife biologist Dick Zembal, U.S. Rish and Wildlife biologist and chairman of the California coastal endangered species recovery team. Category 2 indicates more information is needed before a species can be declared endangered, Zembal said.
"They're relatively rare, mostly because so much of the suitable habitat has been developed," Zembal said. The whiptail is found in undisturbed chapparal and scrub while the horned lizard prefers sandy areas. Both are fairly common where proper habitat remains, Zembal added.