Western Whiptail

Scientific Name:

Aspidoscelis tigris

Type:

Reptile

Habitat:

Desert areas to watered gardens

Range:

Western United States including the entire Great Basin

Status:

Least Concern (IUCN Red List)

This species is

NATIVE

to the Truckee Meadows.

Identification:

Western whiptail lizards move quickly and have slender, long bodies along with long tails.
Per Jason L. Jones, herpetologist with the Nevada Department of Wildlife, “Western whiptails tend to change as they age, going from a well striped pattern with bright blue tails, to something more spotted or mottled with crossbands. Interestingly, two species of skinks (western skink [Plestiodon skiltonianus] and Gilbert’s skink [P. gilberti]) also can have blue tails, although its more common in juvenile western skinks, this species can still retain blue tails into adulthood.” The scales on the western whiptail lizard are like tiny grains which is different from the skins of other reptiles in the areas where the western whiptail lizard is found.

Fast Facts:

  • Fortunate Truckee Meadows residents see Western whiptails in our area’s diverse habitats from desert areas to our own watered gardens. Jason L. Jones, herpetologist from the Nevada Department of Wildlife, also describes the habitat and food of this popular lizard: “Western whiptails are commonly considered a “generalist” species when it comes to habitat and diets. The Western whiptail occupies a variety of habitats within their geographic distribution (from Baja and SoCal north into the Snake River Valley of Idaho south into 4 corners area of CO, AZ, UT, NM, and further south into Southwest NM) from barren sand dunes to woodlands. As a result they eat a variety of invertebrate species, ranging from butterflies to termites. If you have a flower garden and are located within their geographic range, living close to the urban wildland interface, you will likely see a whiptail tongue flicking and quickly moving through your garden in search of food.”

  • Bestides western whiptail, Aspidoscelis tigris is also known by another common name, tiger whiptail.

  • There are reported subspecies of Aspidoscelis tigris such as Aspidoscelis tigris tigris, known as the Great Basin whiptail.

  • Western whiptail lizards are found all over the Truckee Meadows but they are regularly seen on the eastern side of the Truckee Meadows. Parks where they can be found include Hidden Valley and the Lazy 5 Regional Park.

Sources:

Contributor(s):

Caron Tayloe (research & content)

Alex Shahbazi (edits & page design)

Last Updated:

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