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Florida Scrub Lizard Reintroduction

male and female scrub lizards

Male and female scrub lizards.

In 2012, the USFWS was petitioned to list the Florida scrub lizard (Sceloporus woodi) as threatened, and FWC received funds to conduct a status survey in 2017-18. In the past 30 years, the range of the species along the Atlantic Coast has contracted 48 miles northward. The northernmost populations now occur in two scrub preserves in northern Palm Beach County, despite the presence of suitable habitat in other county-owned scrub preserves farther south. Hypoluxo Scrub Natural Area, which is located 23 miles south of the nearest population, contains 60 acres of good-looking habitat, but the last lizard was seen ca. 2005, possibly because of feral cat predation. The objective of this study is to experimentally reintroduce scrub lizards into Hypoluxo Scrub Natural Area.

FWRI biologists obtained permits to collect 50 scrub lizards each from Jonathan Dickinson and Sea Branch Preserve state parks, which have robust populations in southern Martin County. In February-March 2019, 50 female and 50 male lizards were collected from these two state parks and released at Hypoluxo Scrub Natural Area after taking measurements and genetic samples (toes). The introduced population will be monitored every other month via pedestrian surveys. After 2 years, when the entire population should have turned over, genetic samples will be collected from 20 lizards to determine relatedness of individuals and relative contribution of genetic material from the two founder populations. If genetic diversity is low, additional animals may be introduced.

Watch the video documenting the reintroduction.