“What kinds of lizards can you find in South Dakota?”
I was amazed by the number of lizards in the United States – well over 150 species! Some species live only in a small area, and some are widespread over hundreds of miles.
Today, you’ll learn about 6 different kinds of lizards in South Dakota.
#1. Six-Lined Racerunner
- Aspidoscelis sexlineata
- 2.25 to 3.75 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
- “Dark fields,” or broad stripes in between lighter stripes on whiptails, are brown to black.
- 6-8 light stripes vary in color from white or yellow to gray-blue.
- In males, coloring is much brighter, with greens on the back and light turquoise on the belly.
The Six-Lined Racerunner is one of the fasted lizards in South Dakota!
They thrive in varied habitats, including grassland, rocky terrain, wooded areas, and even floodplains. So, you have a good chance of seeing one as long as you’re within their range!
Six-Lined Racerunners are insectivores, and their primary food source is termites. However, they also eat beetles, ants, and spiders, so these small whiptails can be handy to have around if you have a pest problem.
The Six-Lined Racerunner lives up to its name, clocking speeds at up to 18 miles per hour! They have no problem outmaneuvering predators and curious humans!
#2. Prairie Lizard
- Sceloporus consobrinus
- 3.5 to 7.5 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
- Coloring is light reddish-brown with a light brown stripe down the spine.
- Orange or red coloring on the lips and chin is sometimes present.
Look for Prairie Lizards in far southern South Dakota in habitats with lots of places to perch, including open forests, tall grass fields, or even dunes. Their diet is made up of insects and spiders they can easily subdue.
Prairie Lizard Range Map:
These spiny lizards are one of the best climbers in their family! In South Dakota, Prairie Lizards spend most of their time off the ground perched in trees, on fences, and even on sunflowers.
In addition to climbing, Prairie Lizards can run so fast that they’re hard to catch. If you see one, you’ll probably have more luck observing from a distance than trying to get up close!
#3. Many-Lined Skink
- Plestiodon multivirgatus
- Adults are up to 7.5 inches long.
- The tail is much longer than the body compared to other skinks: roughly 1 to 1.5 times as long.
- Light and dark stripes run the length of the body.
- During the breeding season, many males develop orange or red lips.
Many-Lined Skinks in southwestern South Dakota prefer areas with water or moist soil.
They live in various habitats, from mountain areas to vacant lots and even city dumps! Their primary food source is ant larvae and other insects.
Young Many-Lined Skinks have bright blue tails. A uniquely colored tail is a defensive strategy that helps attract predators away from the skink’s body! If a predator tries to bite or grab the skink, it can drop its tail and escape!
There are two subspecies of this skink.
- Northern Many-Lined Skink (P.m. multivirgatus) generally has more well-defined stripes and is almost always gray and black.
- Variable Skink (P.m. epipleurotus) comes in a variety of colors and patterns. The subspecies’ ranges don’t overlap, and some scientists consider them two separate species!
#4. Northern Prairie Skink
- Plestiodon septentrionalis
- Adults are up to 9 inches long.
- Their coloring is olive-brown with multiple light stripes bordered with dark brown.
- Some individuals have a single stripe in the middle of the back, while others have a pair of stripes.
- The belly is generally a lighter brown than the back and uniform in color.
You’re likely to find Northern Prairie Skinks in open plains and along streambeds in eastern South Dakota. They are one of the hardiest species of skinks and can survive extremely cold temperatures.
Northern Prairie Skinks have a fascinating way of staying alive during winter. They burrow below the frost line to stay warm enough not to freeze!
Some scientists consider the Northern Prairie Skink and the Southern Prairie Skink subspecies. However, they don’t live in the same area, and their appearance is so different that most references give both full species status.
#5. Greater Short-Horned Lizard
- Phrynosoma hernandesi
- 1.75 to 4.75 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
- Coloring is beige, tan, or reddish, speckled with white. There are large brown blotches on the neck and sides.
- Horns are short and stubby, located on the back of the head and each side.
Greater Short-Horned Lizards prefer to live in western South Dakota in shortgrass prairies and the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Their habitat is generally semi-arid, with long dry spells and infrequent but heavy rain.
Greater Short-Horned Lizard Range Map:
Ants are a primary food source for Greater Short-Horned Lizards, but they have a varied diet. They also eat grasshoppers, beetles, wasps, caterpillars, spiders, and even snails!
This species is one of only two types of horned lizards in South Dakota that gives birth to live young!
And you may not believe this, but they can produce up to 48 babies in one birth!
#6. Common Lesser Earless Lizard
- Holbrookia maculata
- Up to 2.75 inches long from snout to vent, and 4 to 5.25 inches total.
- Tan to brown with pale stripes along the back.
- Males have pairs of black bars behind the arms, which females typically lack.
- Gravid (pregnant) females develop pink, yellow, or orange coloring on their backs.
Common Lesser Earless Lizards are found in far southern South Dakota in tallgrass prairie with sandy soil.
They are highly camouflaged and almost impossible to see on the ground unless they’re moving.
If you do spot a Common Lesser Earless Lizard, you might notice that it doesn’t have ear openings like other lizards! This is an adaptation that allows it to spend most of its life burrowed under the loose soil of its habitat.
There are up to NINE distinct subspecies of the Lesser Earless Lizard! However, there’s some disagreement in the scientific community about whether all subspecies deserve a separate name. They’re all very similar in looks, and more research is needed.
Do you need additional help identifying lizards?
Try this field guide!
Which of these lizards have you seen in South Dakota?
Leave a comment below!
Also, if you enjoy this article, make sure to check out these other guides!