Monday, May 30, 2011

Bushcraft - Central Texas Style - Natural Defenses

Nature really doesn’t care if you survive or not. Nature will also do its best to make sure you don’t if you aren’t paying close attention. That’s why it is important to study the creatures in Nature to see what surprises Nature has waiting for you. Even the smallest of creatures can give you valuable insight into the mysterious things that can happen everyday in our natural environment. One such creature that can teach us a valuable lesson for survival is the green anole.

The green anole (Anolis carolinensis) is the only anole that is native to the United States. Most people in South Texas call these fence lizards but they are quite frequently seen in shrubs and on buildings. They are completely harmless and can easily change colors. Although they are not closely related to true chameleons, green anoles are often referred to as "chameleons" due to their ability to change color. The picture above shows a female green anole who was in close proximity to a male. The cranial crest is also quite apparent.

This diurnal lizard usually has a small territory that it claims as its own and will defend it very aggressively. If it senses the approach of an intruder, the male anole will compress its body, extend the dewlap (or throat fan) and bob its head up and down. This can be quite an intimidating display. It will also frequently chase other males out of its territory. Its color changes are actually brought on by changes in the temperature and the amount of available light. The picture above shows a male with his dewlap extended and a very prominent cranial crest. He did a little head bob for me while his picture was being taken. If you do happen to see two males in the same area, you’ll know very quickly as they will usually get into a little skirmish over their territory. 

Green anoles have the ability to change color among shades of green, brown and sometimes a grayish dark brown color. Unlike many of Nature’s creatures that rely on camouflage as a means of defense and protection, these color changes are not used specifically for defensive purposes. They rely mainly on their ability to run, jump and climb on a variety of surfaces with ease in order to escape predators. A change in color usually reflects a stressful situation or an attempt to communicate with others of its kind. Green anoles are normally a green color when everything is OK but they turn a light brown color if they are stressed by cooler temperatures or other conditions which may make them feel uncomfortable in their surroundings. The picture shown above is the same green anole after he decided to move on after his little display and his color (sort of a darkish brown) indicated that he was still a little stressed by my presence.

They are a very beneficial creature to have around since they consume a large number of insects and spiders. These lizards will also shed their skins several times a year and have the ability to regenerate their tail if lost when avoiding capture. This lizard is found in North America from North Carolina to Texas and as far South as Florida.

While they are a master of camouflage through their ability to change colors, these little lizards rely mainly on other skills to avoid predators in order to survive. They can run very fast, are extremely good jumpers and can easily climb a variety of surfaces. Even if you manage to grab hold of them, they will still probably manage to get away. This is Nature’s way of warning us that we shouldn’t rely on camouflage as our only means of protection and to remember that a few other skills may be needed in order to survive.

Studying Nature’s creatures can sometimes give you a different perspective when it comes to being able to survive and it will help you to realize that sometimes you need more than a little camouflage.

Staying above the water line!



Blazing Toaster said...

Do you know what kinds of scorpions are in central Texas? I was camping with my dad at enchanted rock. During one of our hikes, I went down to retie my shoe and got a stinger stuck in my middle finger. I didn't see any scorpion though. So I didn't think it was one at first and maybe my shoelace just picked up a weird cactus or other plant thorn. I'm still not sure whether I got stung or if the stinger was just stuck on my shoelace but I'm fairly certain it was a scorpion stinger and bulb. The stinger and bulb together was maybe a 1/4-3/8 in long with a black stinger and green bulb. My finger is fine now, but I haven't been able to find what kind of scorpion it was.

Anonymous said...

I feel kind of bad now, when I was a kid and saw these lizards hunting bugs on the screens, I would shoot them off from the inside, using just the air from my pumped up Daisy 880 air rifle. Its report would send them flying into space, I'm sure I received some lizard cussing back talk.

Was no harm intended, it was just stupid kid stuff I did.

riverwalker said...

To: Blazing Toaster

It was probably a honey bee if you had a stinger with a poison sac.
Honey bees are the only bees with a barbed stinger and can sting only once. Bee stings are pretty intense and if possible, remove the stinger and the attached poison sac by scraping it from the skin with a dull edge (credit card works good) or a fingernail as quickly as possible.

Wasps and yellow jackets can sting you multiple times and do not have a barbed stinger.

If it left a stinger, it wouldn't have been a scorpion since they inject their venom through a stinger in the end of their tail.

It's best to take time to check clothing, towels, shoes and boots before use to avoid being bitten or stung. Try not to go barefoot either, especially at night when scorpions are active.

There are approximately 18 species of scorpions in Texas. The most common one is the striped bark scorpion and is found throughout the state. The majority of scorpion species in Texas are found in the Big Bend Area (14 different kinds) and the other 4 species are spread across different areas of the state.



riverwalker said...

To: anonymous 7:45

I'm sure we all did some really dumb things when we were younger, myself included.

I've since learned to have a healthy respect for the creatures in the wild and realize they have a purpose also.

But when they invade your personal space, it creates a different set of circumstances.

Thanks anon.


Blazing Toaster said...

Well, I won't say that it definitely wasn't a honey bee, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't. I didn't use a credit card though, I just pulled it out with my fingers haha. There was still a small hair or fiber in my finger after I pulled out the stinger so I pulled that out too. I don't think this came from a honey bee just considering the size of the singer. Plus the barb was green.

I'm usually pretty careful. I shake my boots out before I put them on and whatnot. But when I kneeled down to re-tie my shoes, I didn't see anything on my boots.

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