Chuckwallas Moved Out Of South Mountain Freeway Path

Published: Tuesday, October 10, 2017 - 6:58am
Updated: Tuesday, October 10, 2017 - 7:32am

(Photo courtesy of ADOT)
AZGFD and ADOT are working to safeguard species in the path of the Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway.
(Photo courtesy of ADOT)
Biologists have dug out and moved 160 Chuckwallas to adjacent South Mountain Park/Preserve.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department is working with the Department of Transportation to safeguard species in the path of the Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway — including a large lizard found throughout the desert southwest.

"We estimated that there would be hundreds to thousands that would be impacted by the right of way," said Daniel Leavitt, Game and Fish herpetologist.

Chuckwallas can reach 16 inches long, and will wedge into rocky crevices when threatened.

Since the fall of last year, Game and Fish biologists have dug out and moved 160 of the iguana-like lizards to adjacent South Mountain Park/Preserve, where a Game and Fish Commission order shields them from hunters. The order stops hunters from wrecking habitat to get at the orange-tailed males, which are popular among pet owners.

Leavitt said the preserve was happy to take them.

"They said, 'Yeah, we'd love to get wildlife from anywhere,' especially downslope," he said. "So, it was a great opportunity to keep them within their population and to keep them out of the right of way."

Leavitt said relocations will continue until freeway construction begins in the area next year.

"This action is really hopefully a sign of what's to come in the future for small, non-game wildlife that mean a lot to biodiversity but may not mean a lot to the average person," he said.

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