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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/175

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163
THE PINE-TREE LIZARD.

find the "swifts" on the trestle anything hut swift. It was by hiding, and not through speed, that they sought to escape, and it proved comparatively easy to capture them with the unaided hand. Often they played bo-peep merely around the timbers, and were readily surprised, so that they ran into one hand as they avoided the other. This proved to be the case, also, when I searched for the lizards in the pine-woods, which were as readily captured when up on trees as were those on the trestle.

The village boys adopted ordinarily the simple plan of using a thread-noose placed at the end of a short stick. Dropping the noose gently about the neck of the lizard, they lifted the creature slightly, when its struggles at once tightened the thread and made it a prisoner. It was a favorite pet with the children, and, when I asked some of them if it ever bit or snapped at their fingers, they were greatly amused. I lay stress upon this point, because of the rather widely spread opinion that these lizards are venomous. It is one with the equally absurd impression, due to ignorance and belittling prejudice, that all our snakes are harmful; but a curious feature in this case is the fact that the impression of the lizard being venomous obtains in inverse ratio to the abundance of the animal. Where exceedingly rare, the lizard is dreaded; while, where abundant, as at May's Landing, it is a favorite pet with the children.

Probably a closer study of animal life would materially reduce the list of species supposed to be harmful by those who see but little and know absolutely nothing about them, and put an effectual check upon those who, taking advantage of the ignorance of their audiences, assert deliberate falsehoods, because more entertaining than the simple truth.

As is well known, the pine-tree lizard is quite sensitive to low temperatures. It does not make its appearance in southern New Jersey earlier than May, nor remain abroad later than September. Of course, this is a general statement, and only approximately true, as all such statements must be. Perhaps there can be found nothing more absurd in scientific literature than the frequent ex-cathedra statements—for instance, concerning the movements and range of our birds, as though the latter recognized any other law than that of their own convenience and fancy.

At May's Landing I found the lizards sensitive even to the ordinary variations of temperature of average summer days, observing that, whenever it was cloudy, they were far less abundant, and actually sluggish. On the other hand, the extreme degree of heat to which they are willing to expose themselves is not a very high one, judging from the actions of a large number kept in confinement.

Fifteen adult lizards were placed in an inclosure in which