Audubon Naturalist Steven Prager Guides Learn-Your-Lizard Walks
Arboretum nature walks bring a weekly opportunity to learn about plants, birds, butterflies, snakes, lizards, and critters from a variety of guides, each with a new perspective and different knowledge. Summer Saturdays on Aug. 13 and Sept. 10 you’re invited along for our 8 a.m. walk along the Main Trail guided by Steven Prager, a teacher/naturalist at Audubon Arizona’s Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center.
His Summer schedule is packed with surveys for Yellow-billed Cuckoos and other avian field work, but we caught up with Steven this week for a short interview about his fascination for snakes, lizards, and other “herps.”
Q: What’s your background with herps, and do you get to work with herps for AZ Audubon?
A: Although not professionally trained, I’ve been flipping rocks in search of herps since I was a young kid. Since then, I’ve gained experience with herps through my colleagues at AZ Game & Fish (where I worked with native fish) and have had the chance to share my knowledge with future naturalists of all ages through Audubon programs, projects, and field research. At Audubon Arizona, I serve as our Important Bird Area Associate. In this position, I use education, advocacy, and on the ground science to engage the public in bird conservation focused on Audubon Arizona’s Important Bird Areas. My efforts include developing high school curriculum, field trips, and internships, facilitating on-the-ground conservation projects for all ages, managing communications for the Western Rivers Action Network, and more!
Q: What herps do you expect to find August 13 here at BTA?
A: Lizards I expect are side blotched lizards, Clark’s and desert spiny lizards, greater-earless lizards, and tiger whiptails. There are some others like gila monsters, eastern collared lizards, and great-plains
skinks that are possibilities but not likely. On the snake side, I’d love to find a black-tailed rattlesnake, a diamondback rattlesnake, a California kingsnake, or a sonoran coachwhip. When we see a side-blotched lizard I like to explain how they have three male variations: blue, orange, and yellow-throated. Each type out-competes one of the others but loses out to the third (blue beats yellow but loses to orange, yellow beats orange but loses to blue, and orange beats blue but loses to yellow).
Did you know our Arizona coachwhips are the fastest snake in North America? That greater-earless lizards like to bask completely buried in sand, making for surprises when walking down a desert wash?
Q: You’re a field biologist, rock climber, camper and hiker, so you’ve probably seen just about all the herps in AZ… are there still any remaining on your “life list” for Pinal County?
A: Ha – if only! For me, a big find Saturday would be a western lyresnake, or a Sonoran collared lizard, a long-tailed brush lizard, Bezy’s and desert night lizards, rosy boa, sonoran coral snake or a variable sandsnake.
Connect with Steven, Cathy and other AZ Audubon naturalists at: