Pinal County desert ecology educator Phil Rakoci has been known to produce a Chuckwalla from the recesses of his baggy cargo pants pockets – prompting the lizard to gulp air, puff-up like a blowfish – and instantly rally the audience’s attention for a lesson about Sonoran Desert lizards.
Known to friends and fans as ‘Wild Man Phil,’ he’s also famous for talking nonchalantly while an ornate tree lizard’s securely clamped to one of his earlobes, and for sharing his affection for horned lizards, scorpions and rattlesnakes.
On June 29, Rakoci guides his popular summertime walking tour to see native lizards along the trails at Boyce Thompson Arboretum near the historic copper-mining town of Superior at 8 a.m.; he returns July 13, Aug. 10 and Sept. 14. His walks at BTA are included with daily admission of $9 for adults (admission fee goes to $10 starting July 1) or $4.50 for kids age 5-12.
The Arboretum also has a gourd art class next weekend, a ‘camera basics’ workshop June 29, a guided bird walk June 30; even a dragonfly walk July 6. Read complete details on all events at ag.arizona.edu/bta, or connect with 4,100 fans at facebook.com/boycethompsonarboretum. Fans can also catch Wild Man Phil shows at public libraries and civic centers all across AZ; last week he gave shows that mix humor with desert critter lessons from Casa Grande to Coolidge, Avondale, Ahwatukee and Flagstaff.
“What do I bring to a typical show? The fun stuff, creepy crawlies — scorpions, maybe a centipede and spider, lizards, turtles, snakes —mostly native critters, but some exotics to compare, too,” Rakoci says. “Highlights are usually my emperor scorpion, tarantula, kingsnake, coachwhip, or the 14-foot python. Other options include a chameleon, chuckwalla, horned lizard, gecko, collared lizard and, of course, our 45-pound celebrity: ‘Stumpy, the Tortoise with a Wheel,’ who is probably the only Desert Tortoise in Arizona who has his own Facebook page.”
Read more at wildmanphil.com, check his schedule and connect on facebook (keyword “Wildman-Phil”) or call Rakoci at 520-510-9500.