Pesky Lizards

deshouse(9)August 8, 2008

We recently moved to the Phoenix area, after living in the state of Washington. We noticed the lizards in the front and back yard and did not have a problem with them initially. After living here a month, we noticed that their digging and home building in the front yard had never been really checked.

There are several areas where the ground has really been disturbed. The real problem we have is that they have filled in the front irrigation valve box with dirt. The dirt is actually compacted - the previous owner didn't take care of their yard very well.

Does any one have suggestions to a new comer as to how to place limits on the critters - keep up the front yard's appearance while still allowing them to live here? I also need help in how we can free the valves and prevent the hole diggers from using the irrigation valve box - all we can see now is one set of electrical wires. We are not sure how to remove the dirt without damaging wires or valves.

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Welcome to AZ. Are you sure the lizards are doing the digging? It sounds more like gopher, moles or ground squirrels. Most lizards around here don't dig. If it is rodents, get some traps for them.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2008 at 3:30PM
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Thank you, apart from a crash course in heat it has been great.

I don't believe the holes are from mammals. The holes go inward, and I don't see any ground squirrels nearby only flocks of the lizards. I scatter three of them at a time usually when I walk by the valve box. I have seen a rabbit, but the holes are too small, and I have never seen them in this area - the rabbit appears to graze and run. I have had rabbits in the past and the dirt areas are not nearly as destructive as a rabbit can make.

Moles in WA resulted in upward mounds, here the dirt is usually going sideways away from these little hills (the landscape has a lot of little hills). The holes I see go down not up - in addition to the valve box, only two areas have dirt coming out, the rest of the holes are clean.

If any one knows for sure what I am seeing, I would appreciate an identification. The lizards are thin, heads are not large compared to the body, with long tails. I have seen some up to six inches, but any bigger. Many seem to live together, as I have seen them skitter across the front in twos or threes.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2008 at 6:31PM
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rogunit(z9b AZ)

Lizards (around here) do not dig holes. They are beneficial and help keep pests in check. They're the good guys.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2008 at 8:36PM
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petzold6596(8b southern NM)

I agree with 'rogunit' , Lizard don't dig. If you could posit a picture of your hills and hole, that would be very helpful.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2008 at 10:05PM
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desertrubble(z9 AZ)

Here's one more 'our lizards don't dig' but I'm lmao about it! Very beneficial, we love our lizards, we get more and more each year, this year we have more than ever and it's bugging our dog like crazy but not us, in fact whenever necessary we perform lizard relocation ops lol

I know tons of folks with gopher problems and I have seen sonoran ground snakes/holes in my own yard. I also know someone with pack rats and they are a ground rodent, nasty little critters.

For an ID of your lizards you should also post a pic of them as well, likely they are common fence lizards though.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2008 at 2:27PM
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In all my 55 years, I have never heard of lizards digging holes. Can you post a picture of the holes? Maybe we can tell by looking at the size.

I have big problems with squirrels so I bought some cheap chicken wire at Lowes - it comes rolled up - and spread it out using bricks to hold the wire down. The wire can be shaped to cover the area. Otherwise, you will need to dig around the area - mix the dirt with instant cement - and fill it back in and watering it down.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2008 at 4:04PM
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(Sigh this is a repeat I lost my other post).
Thank you for your responses. Everyone is probably right about the holes not being lizards, may be they are gophers because I don't see any squirrels. I still believe lizards can dig though. The area they are in doesn't have any rocks which are not firmly imbedded into the ground - no crevices.

I have posted pictures of the holes and dirt in the link below, because they don't move. The same can not be said for the lizards. Even with the new batch of 3 smaller lizards they are are too fast for me to get a picture - which is good normally for humans and reptiles. Unfortunately we also discovered 5 areas of fire ants in the backyard (sub colonies). Lizards don't go into those areas.

I tried for twenty minutes trying to get one of the four lizards (front yard) who were hanging around this afternoon to stay still, but I can't get them to stay long enough for me to get a close enough picture. I will keep trying. They are slower in the morning.

I see them morning, daytime, and evening running from place to place. They don't climb trees, but will occasionally travel up a block fence to get away. They prefer traveling along the ground. When they travel very quickly, they lift their tail slightly.

They are dirt colored - browns, tans, and blacks. They have no other colors I can see. I have not been able to identify them from online pictures, but they are proportioned like whiptails. These have some darkish dots on the side with black stripes down their backs. Their bodies (nose to start of tail) are from 1.5" to 4.5" in length; the tails are thin and long.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pictures of Dirt & Holes

    Bookmark   August 10, 2008 at 6:16PM
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rogunit(z9b AZ)

Those look more like insect holes. Crickets? Beetles?

Here is one of our lizards on the side of my house...

Here is a link that might be useful: Heeere leezard leezard leezard

    Bookmark   August 10, 2008 at 10:54PM
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The dirt in your irrigation valve box is probably caused by the tunneling of pocket gophers. They are nocturnal and notorious for doing this. I'd recommend you remove the dirt from around your valve(s) right away. Sometimes dirt will cause the solenoid on top of the valve or the diaphram in the valve to malfunction. If this is a drip line you will want access to the wye filter at some point.

I've included a link to the Phoenix Herpetological web site page on lizards. It sounds like the ones you are dealing with are fence lizards, which are very common and love to live in the voids of concrete block walls. They typically don't dig holes, but may be using holes made by other critters to hide in.

Some of the holes in your photos could have been caused by palo verde beetles exiting the ground or even cicadas. Holes around plants are sometimes caused by birds like curved bill thrashers as they look for small insects in the soil.

As others have mentioned above, lizards are great for natural pest control. Some species are nocturnal like geckos. They like to live in valve boxes or other out of the way places during the day.

I hope this helps.

Here is a link that might be useful: Arizona Lizards

    Bookmark   August 11, 2008 at 12:41PM
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azcopperpenny(Az zone 9)

It sounds like you may have whiptail lizards if you are seeing them on the ground. They do scratch in the dirt to find prey items, but they do not dig holes. You can find out more information about landscaping and pests through the Maricopa County Cooperative Extension website at
Good luck and welcome to Arizona!

Here is a link that might be useful: Maricopa County Cooperative Extension

    Bookmark   August 11, 2008 at 8:10PM
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We decided that the front yard had a combination of several critters. Rabbits grazing through [big random digs], an underground rodent (gopher or rat) [hole creator], and our large group of "tiger whiptail" lizards plus some noisy cicada.

The lizards are not digging holes, but they are using them to eat and hide (we don't have any rocks with crevices for them to hide). We have to work on the underground rodent because it causing a lot of damage in the area (the number of holes seems to grow each day), but the lizards are welcome to stay and we will probably work on a habitat for them. The lizards surface dig not hole dig for food, but they are using the other holes opportunistically.

We finally identified the lizards from the picture on the 2nd page of an Arizona Native Plant Society brochure - the picture looks exactly like them and they live in the area from information from another site someone suggested.

Thank you everyone.

Here is a link that might be useful: Arizona Native Plant Society

    Bookmark   August 14, 2008 at 12:14AM
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desertrubble(z9 AZ)

So sorry for whatever is making those holes :( Once established they can be difficult to erradicate.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2008 at 8:03AM
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Lizards will use any available shade to regulate their body temperatures including holes. Most will not ravage your plants. Chuckwallas are an exception. YouÂll know them when you see them thereÂre huge. You have a gopher problem. If you haven't already dealt with it, I would do it soon. They can wreak havoc with irrigation lines and it looks as though they're/it is calling yours home. I won't go into trapping, as you can get that from animal control. If you want it solved permanently, as in terminally, buy a large juicy carrot. Cut the stem end off and save it. Using a drill and a 3/8 inch bit or anything else you can think of to hollow out the core as far as you can reach. Fill the cavity with gopher pellets from HD or LOWES and cut a plug from the end you saved to plug the hole. Tie a 2foot piece of string or cord around the top end of the carrot. It looks as though they /it, are using your valve box for the dirt that they excavate. Use a spoon, shovel out the dirt in the tunnel and insert the carrot as far down as you can. Stake the end of the string out side the valve box, cover the whole back up with dirt and leave it alone. Check the carrot in 24 hours. If itÂs chewed (And it will most likely will be) your problem is solved. If not move it to another hole and repeat the procedure. A dead gopher in the tunnels will keep the others away for a long time. This has never failed to produce the expected results. IÂm a live and let live kind of guy, but when you add up the cost of the damage and time you spend repairing it, you sometimes have to draw a line and swat whatever crosses it. Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2008 at 7:24PM
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Up to a point I agree with the others but, lizards can and do dig small holes to lay their eggs in.
As I say, these holes are very small and are certainly not what is filling your irrigation valve box.

Enjoy the lizards while you look for larger hairy four footed dirt movers.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2008 at 10:10PM
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Why does everyone presume to know about lizards??

Here's a video of a digging lizard!!

deshouse - I'm with you. They are l-i-z-a-r-d-s. Lizards.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2013 at 9:53PM
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Just eat them. It's very great for the kids too. We really enjoy eating them, especially the lean ones with the blue belly.

- LizardEater

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 11:53PM
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GeeS 9b

Gopher lizards? LOL Out here on the edge of civilization, we have pocket mice everywhere. They dig for certain, but it's more unsightly than destructive. We also have plenty of of other more destructive vermin and rodents. Lucky for us, rattlers come through the yard just about every night through summer to help control the runaway rodent population.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 1:21AM
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