October 9, 2017

Wildlife Managers Moving Large Lizards out of Freeway Project's Path

The relocations of chuckwallas will continue until construction starts next year.

Chuckwalla hero Chuckwallas are being relocated to a nature preserve, where they will be protected from hunters by an order. (PHOTO: Arizona Department of Transportation)

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PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Department is working with the Department of Transportation to safeguard species in the path of a Phoenix freeway project, including a large lizard found throughout the desert Southwest.

Chuckwallas can reach 16 inches long and will wedge into rocky crevices when threatened. Since the fall of last year, Game and Fish biologists have dug out and moved 160 of the iguana-like lizards to adjacent South Mountain Park/Preserve, where a Game and Fish Commission order shields them from hunters.

Game and Fish herpetologist Daniel Leavitt says the preserve was happy to take them.

“They said, ‘Yeah, we’d love to get wildlife from anywhere,’ so especially downslope. So, it was a great opportunity to keep them within their population and to keep them out of the right of way,” Leavitt said.

The order stops hunters from wrecking habitat to get at the orange-tailed males popular among pet owners. Leavitt said relocations will continue until freeway construction begins in the area next year.

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