Western Fence Lizard
Forests, grasslands, shrublands, mountains, and urban areas
North America west of the Rocky Mountains
Least Concern (IUCN Red List)
This species is
to the Truckee Meadows.
Western fence lizards are moderately-sized lizards, growing up to 8.5 inches long, most recognizable by their spiny appearance. They are grey, tan, or brown in color and have a dark wavy pattern on their backs. Females and young males are lighter in color than adult males. Adult male western fence lizards also have blue patches on their belly, which is why these lizards are also known as blue belly lizards.
Western fence lizards can often be found perching on larger rocks along rivers or in plants along trails. To defend their territory and attract mates, males will do push up-like movements.
A protein in their blood kills the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. If a tick carrying Lyme disease bites a western fence lizard, the tick will no longer carry the disease.
Western Fence Lizards tend to avoid harsh deserts, preferring coniferous forests, grasslands, and sagebrush.
If their tail is caught by a predator, western fence lizards can detach it and escape. They will eventually grow back their tails, but the new tail will have a different pattern.
Friends of Edgewood, Western Fence Lizard, 2014, https://friendsofedgewood.org/western-fence-lizard
Burke Museum, Western Fence Lizard, 2021, https://www.burkemuseum.org/collections-and-research/biology/herpetology/amphibians-reptiles-washington/western-fence-lizard
IUCN Red List, Sceloporus occidentalis, 2021, https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/64131/12747877
Image: Greg Schechter, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Western_Fence_Lizard_(Sceloporus_occidentalis)_-_Flickr_-_GregTheBusker_(1).jpg, license https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en, cropped from original.
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