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Distribution, habitat, and population size of Island Night Lizards on San Nicolas Island, California

October 20, 2018

The Island Night Lizard (Xantusia riversiana) was removed from the federal list of threatened species in May 2014. This strongly differentiated species is endemic to 3 of the southern California Channel Islands—San Clemente, San Nicolas, and Santa Barbara. Suitable habitat for Island Night Lizards is extensive on San Clemente Island, and the species is abundant there. Habitat is limited and fragmented, however, on San Nicolas Island and small Santa Barbara Island. Bringing together extensive field surveys and mark-recapture sampling, we synthesize available data for Island Night Lizards on San Nicolas Island and calculate population and density estimates for the species in major habitats on the island. Island Night Lizards are widely distributed across most of the eastern half of San Nicolas Island. In contrast, they are nearly absent over the western third of the island except for isolated populations in boulder beach habitats. We combined mark-recapture population estimates with comprehensive measurements of the extent of cactus, boxthorn, and other habitat types on the island to arrive at a more accurate assessment of the status of Island Night Lizards on San Nicolas Island. High densities of Island Night Lizards on the island are found in small areas of cholla cactus (Cylindropuntia prolifera; mean of 4100 lizards/ha), boulder beach habitat (mean of 3400 lizards/ha), and prickly pear cactus (Opuntia spp.; mean of 1700 lizards/ha); low numbers are found in more extensive mixed-shrub habitat (mean of 250 lizards/ha). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requires a post-delisting program for “monitoring the overall health of the Island Night Lizard” to assure the continued long-term viability of the species in its restricted distribution. The information on population size and habitat presented here will inform and guide conservation and management efforts by the U.S. Navy on San Nicolas Island over the coming years.

Publication Year 2018
Title Distribution, habitat, and population size of Island Night Lizards on San Nicolas Island, California
DOI 10.3398/064.078.0310
Authors Charles A. Drost, Gary M. Fellers, Thomas R. Murphey, Patrick M. Kleeman, Brian J. Halstead, Ryan P. O'Donnell
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Western North American Naturalist
Index ID 70200483
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Southwest Biological Science Center