Territorial!

Many animals (and some plants) establish territories. They protect these areas for their places to live, eat and mate. When I think of a territory, I usually imagine a natural area, but that’s not true for all lizards. Some lizards establish their territories on patios!

Several male Desert Spiny lizards, Sceloporus magister, have divvied up my patio, spacing their areas three to four feet apart. They respect each others’ space.

Don’t worry, I put out treats in all of their territories to encourage harmony. I’m happy to cede my patio to such wonderful lizards.

I enjoy writing about the animals in my life and have created a good number of children’s science education books that are fun to read. They are written in rhyme or as animal adventure tales–I believe fun reading makes the science stick. Looking for some fun science for your children? Check out my books on my Books page.

colorful children's book cover with a curly-tail lizard riding on the back of a hutia
This is a special story for readers who like to solve problems. It takes Curtis Curly-tail on his second adventure, but is based on real ecological events taking place on Warderick Wells Cay in The Bahamas. The hutia are endangered rodents native to the islands. Some are transplanted to Curtis’s cay, and Curtis meets his new friend, Horace. When the scientists come back to check on the hutia, they find that the native shrubs are almost gone, due to the hungry hutia. But Curtis and Horace do not understand what is happening when the hutia are captured and put into cages. Curtis decides to do everything he can to help Horace and his family. It is you, the reader, however, who must decide how the story will end. How do you solve a problem when an endangered species threatens a protected environment? There are three endings to the book. Which one will you choose? Or, will you come up with another solution? Lesson plans for teachers are also available at iginspired@gmail.com.

Desert Dwellers Worshipping the Rain! by Curtis Curly-tail Lizard

colorful children's book cover with a curly-tail lizard riding on a hutia's back
Here I am catching a ride on my friend, Horace’s back! Available at Amazon.com.

Hello, everyone! I’m Curtis Curly-tail. You may know me as the perfect Curly-tail lizard from the Bahamas with an itch for adventure. OR, perhaps you’ve seen me starring at my very own YouTube page, Curtis Curly-tail Speaks. Well, of course, I do! I am perfect, as they say!

Every morning I start the day by basking in the sun to warm up my body. I am a Sun Worshipper, after all. It’s warm on my cay but nor overly hot. I love to pose for visitors, and I’ve heard them say that I look my best when the sun is glinting off my shiny scales. I turn this way and that so they get their best shots. When I’m not riding Horace the Hutia, that is! YEE-HAW!

Zoe is definitely the Boss Lady of the backyard!


However, some of my friends who live in the Sonoran Desert don’t worship the sun. I agree with them that there’s a bit too much sun when it gets to be 110 degrees, so I shouldn’t have been surprised that my tortoise friends all run out into the rain when a storm starts.

Flipper found a puddle, too!


Sonoran Desert Tortoises, like Zoe, pictured above, prefer to drink from the puddles that form when it rains. That ensures the water is fresh. Zoe carries all her water around in her bladder so it’s important to keep her reserve filled. The scarcity of water in the desert is why you should never pick up a desert tortoise. If she empties her bladder to scare you off, a popular defense mechanism for reptiles, she will lose the water that keeps her alive.

Cantata arrived at the party just a little late…

Alligator vs. the Marshmallow

As a science book writer, I am asked to speak at schools and libraries about my favorite subject: reptiles. I often use props to help people visualize the facts I present. For instance, an iguana egg is about the size of a marshmallow. So, I bring a bag of marshmallows to use and, when allowed, for the kids to eat. The last time I spoke, one bag didn’t get used and the soft puffs got hard. These hard marshmallows brought back a memory from my childhood involving alligators on Sanibel Island, FL.

When I was a child, people in the park gathered at a bridge to feed marshmallows to the local gators. It was not well understood then how we were affecting the local alligators’ behavior. We know now how bad it is to feed wild animals. Not only is the food not good for them, they lose their fear of people and become “problem” animals. Simply relocating them doesn’t usually work, because they are plopped down in the middle of another’s territory and a moved individual can be killed by its own kind already there.

But back to my story about feeding marshmallows to alligators. The only marshmallows Mom could find in the trailer was a forgotten bag way back on a shelf. The usually fluffy confections were rock hard. But we were going to throw them in the water and gators have a bite strength of 2125 pounds per square inch, so a hard marshmallow should be no problem, right? I soon joined the other feeders tossing the treats into the water. Their marshmallows bobbed until a gator stealthily approached, snatched it rapidly, submerged, and re-emerged a short distance away, waiting for the next one. Several gators took turns gobbling down the sugary snacks.

Until they got to my marshmallows. A gator approached, quickly bit down on one and submerged.  Suddenly, the water erupted with thrashing. The marshmallow was released . . . unscathed. The gator swam away. This happened again and again until all the gators failed at damaging my marshmallows and swam away in disgust. The other people looked at me angrily. I had driven all the alligators away, leaving only my hardened marshmallows bobbing in the gently moving water.

I like to think that in my unintentional way, my disgusting marshmallows helped prevent a few alligators from becoming “problem” animals.

I guess I was a conservationist even back then.

a collage of books about conservation

I hope you will check out my books on the subject of Conservation. I love to make science books fun–it is a part of who I am–but conservation is a subject deserving of both our respect and action. Saving endangered species and looking out for all life on the only planet we and they have is up to all of us.