Rare legless lizard gets incidental take notice from DNR

    Courtesy of the Department of Natural Resources page on parks and recreation.
    Courtesy of the Department of Natural Resources page on parks and recreation.

    The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is seeking public input into a telecommunications project which may result in the incidental taking of a rare lizard species. The company, Cloud 1, has proposed a Neshkoro Telecommunications Tower for a site in Waushara County.

    Within the area of the proposed project, however, lives the state-endangered slender glass lizard (Ophisaurus attenuatus ). It’s part of a unique group of reptiles known as legless lizards. These species have adapted to either have no limbs at all, or have small vestigial remnants.

    Legless lizards are used by researchers to better understand the evolution of snakes, which evolved from more primitive lizard species. Slender glass lizards, like other legless lizards, look a lot like snakes. You can tell the difference because while snakes do not blink, legless lizards do, as do most other lizard species around the world. Legless lizards also have ear openings on their heads, which snakes do not have. Snakes, lacking external ears, are essentially deaf.

    A slender glass lizard (Photo credit A.B. Sheldon, courtesy of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources)
    A slender glass lizard (Photo credit A.B. Sheldon, courtesy of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources)

    Although an incidental take refers to animal losses that do not put the species’ overall population at risk, the possibility means public input is still necessary. Cloud 1’s tower would be used by a future wireless carrier to expand wireless networks into rural areas, and provide 011 availability for cellular phones and other services.

    “DNR staff determined that the proposed project may result in the incidental taking of some lizards,” a DNR press release states. “The DNR has concluded that the proposed project is not likely to substantially reduce the likelihood of the survival or recovery of the species within the state, the plant-animal community or the habitat of that critical to its existence.”

    The DNR will be accepting public comments on this matter through Dec. 12, 2020, which can be emailed to the DNR, relayed over the phone or sent via postal mail but not collected in person due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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    Isiah Holmes
    Isiah Holmes is a journalist and videographer, and a lifelong resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Holmes' video work dates back to his high school days at Wauwatosa East High, when he made a documentary about the local police department. Since then, his writing has been featured in Urban Milwaukee, Isthmus, Milwaukee Stories, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Services, Pontiac Tribune, and other outlets.