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Environment & Science

Island night lizard makes SoCal comeback, may shed 'threatened' status

Xantusia riversiana, the island night lizard, inhabits three of the Channel Islands.
Xantusia riversiana, the island night lizard, inhabits three of the Channel Islands.
U.S. Navy

Wildlife officials say a unique, slow-growing, long-living lizard found only on the Channel Islands may get a change in status under the Endangered Species Act.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said last week it has proposed plans to remove the island night lizard from its current listing as "threatened."

The island night lizard is considered medium-sized, with adults ranging from 2 ¾ to 4 inches in body length, according to the National Park Service.

The Ventura County Star reports that proposal is based on successful recovery efforts that included removing nonnative species like goats and feral cats from the islands.


Official island night lizard population estimates:

  • 21 million - San Clemente Island
  • 15,300 - San Nicolas Island
  • 17,600 - Santa Barbara Island


The island night lizard is a very unique, medium-sized endemic reptile found only on the Channel Islands off the coast of southern California, where it occurs on Santa Barbara, San Nicolas and San Clemente Islands.

  • Gives birth to live young (as opposed to laying eggs), which is not common among reptiles
  • Slow growing and long-lived, with some individuals reaching at least 25 years of age
  • Unusually low metabolic rate
  • Can live on about half the food that required by similar-sized lizards
  • Morphologically distinct, indicating they have been isolated from the mainland for a long time


  • April 5 deadline for public comments on the Fish and Wildlife Service proposal. Submit comments online at or by mail.
  • Requests for a hearing on the proposed rule will be accepted until March 21.