“What kinds of lizards can you find in Canada?”
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 5 different kinds of lizards in Canada.
#. Western Skink
- Ples1tiodon skiltonianus
- Adults are up to 8.5 inches long.
- This species has a broad brown stripe with black edges on the back, bordered in white on each side.
- The tail is normally pale blue or gray, but the throat and underside of the tail turn red-orange during the breeding season.
- Young Western Skink’s tails are brilliant blue.
The Western Skink prefers to live in grassland or pine-oak forests near rocky streams and hillsides. This species primarily eats insects and spiders.
You might have trouble finding Western Skinks in Canada!
Even though they are common within their range, they are very secretive! They spend most of their time under rocks or in burrows.
Like some other lizard species, the Western Skink is capable of autotomy, which is the severing of its own tail when it’s under threat. Once the tail detaches, it continues to move and wriggle, distracting the predator so the skink can escape. Now THAT is a unique way of dealing with stress!
WARNING: If you’re squeamish, this video might not be for you. Please remember, the skink does this as a defensive measure and isn’t harmed.
There are three subspecies of the Western Skink.
- Skilton’s Skink, P.s. skiltonianus, is the most widespread subspecies.
- Great Basin Skink, P.s. utahensis, tends to live in more rocky areas.
- Coronado Skink, P.s. interparietalis is only found in the southern half of San Diego County in the US.
#2. Common Five-Lined Skink
- Plestiodon fasciatus
- Adults are up to 8.75 inches long.
- 5 stripes are most apparent in hatchlings and fade as the skinks grow.
- Males have orange-red coloring on the jaw during the breeding season.
- Hatchlings are black with light stripes. The black coloring often fades to gray, and the lighter stripes darken.
Look for Common Five-Lined Skinks in southeastern Canada in wooded areas near rotting stumps, outcrops of rock, and sometimes piles of boards or sawdust. Its diet consists of spiders, beetles, crickets, and other insects.
Females attend to their eggs throughout the incubation period.
They spend almost all of their time defending and caring for the eggs until they hatch!
If you happen to come across a nest, you may notice the mother curled up on top of or around the eggs. She also rolls the eggs to maintain their humidity, moves them back to the nest if they become disturbed, and even eats eggs that aren’t viable!
#3. 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 southern Canada. 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.
#4. 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 southern Canada 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 Canada that gives birth to live young!
And you may not believe this, but they can produce up to 48 babies in one birth!
#5. Northern Alligator Lizard
- Elgaria coerulea
- 2.75-5.5 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
- Coloring is variable: gray, olive, brown, rust-red, greenish, or blue are common.
- Dark crossbands are common, and sometimes a middle stripe is present.
If you find a Northern Alligator Lizard in Canada, chances are good it’s the Northwestern subspecies.
The four subspecies all have slightly different characteristics and different ranges. If you find a Northern Alligator Lizard in the wild, the easiest way to tell its subspecies is by location.
All the subspecies prefer woodland and forested areas in a damp, cool climate. They eat insects, ticks, centipedes, slugs, and spiders. Yum!
The four subspecies of the Northern Alligator Lizard are:
- San Francisco Alligator Lizard (E.c. coerulea) Large, dark blotches appear on the back and sometimes look like crossbands.
- Shasta Alligator Lizard (E.c. shastensis) The most variable in color and most colors besides brown and gray are Shasta Alligator Lizards.
- Northwestern Alligator Lizard (E.c. principis) Smaller than other subspecies with a broad, tan stripe on the back.
- Sierra Alligator Lizard (E.c. palmeri) The only visual difference is the number of scale rows on the back – location is your best tool for identification.
Do you need additional help identifying lizards?
Try this field guide!
Which of these lizards have you seen in Canada?
Leave a comment below!
Also, if you enjoy this article, make sure to check out these other guides!