Carolina Anole

Beside our patio is a big ol’ cast iron plant. Axl loves to squeeze in behind it and flush all the lizards out from their hidey-holes. It’s usually a bunch of five-lined and broad-headed skinks that scurry away up the side of the house, but yesterday instead of skinks, I found this guy.

I knew he was a male because of the bright red dewlap on his throat. Male Carolina anoles extend the skin of the dewlap to attract mates.

I was surprised to see him. He’s the first Carolina anole I’ve seen in Fayetteville. Brandon swears they’re common around here but not as prolific as in Wilmington.

That’s probably true. The lizards are native to the subtropical climates of the southeastern United States. The further west you go in North Carolina, the fewer anoles you’ll find. There aren’t any in Appalachia.

I was fascinated by them when I moved to Wilmington. I swear the latter part of my childhood was spent chasing them through bushes and up trees. Other kids would let them bite their earlobes and walk around with them like living earrings, but I was content to catch and release.

Growing up, we called them chameleons because they can shift their color to any variation of brown or green. The Carolina anole isn’t a true chameleon, though. They’re lizards – the only lizards with the ability to change color.

The one I found yesterday shifted into a bright green, blending in with the leaves of the cast iron plant. Unable to see the lizard, Axl found other things to amuse himself. And so my Carolina anole friend lived to see another day.

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