3 Types of Spiny Lizards Found in Colorado! (ID Guide)

What kinds of spiny lizards are there in Colorado?”

common spiny lizards in Colorado

When you hear the name “spiny lizard”, you might picture an animal with long, sharp spikes like a porcupine. I know I did when I first started learning about spiny lizards!

However, the name refers to the lizards’ pointed scales, which look like deadly spikes but are surprisingly soft to the touch.

Today, you’ll learn about the 3 different kinds of spiny lizards in Colorado.


#1. Common Sagebrush Lizard

  • Sceloporus graciosus

types of spiny lizards in Colorado

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 1.9 to 3.5 inches long from snout to vent. (Length does not include the tail)
  • Coloring is gray or brown with a light stripe on each side, a black bar at the shoulder, and blue patches on the belly.
  • Unusually long, almost spidery back claws.

This species is the most widespread spiny lizard in Colorado.

Common Sagebrush Lizards are typically found in sagebrush fields, as their name suggests, but you can also find them in grasslands and among dunes. They are most active during daylight hours.

Common Sagebrush Lizard Range Map:

These spiny lizards eat a wide variety of insects and even scorpions! They hibernate during winter when temperatures drop, and food becomes scarce.

The easiest way to tell if you’ve found a Common Sagebrush Lizard is to look at its belly. The brilliant blue spots on its throat and abdomen are a dead giveaway!


#2. Desert Spiny Lizard

  • Sceloporus magister

species of spiny lizards in Colorado

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 3.25 to 5.5 inches long from snout to vent. (Length does not include the tail)
  • Coloring is straw, yellowish, or light brown on the back, and the sides are usually rust-colored.
  • In males, the throat has a blueish-green patch. In females, the head and neck are sometimes orange.

This species is the most aggressive spiny lizard in Colorado!

They often bite when handled, so beware if you come across one in the wild.

Desert Spiny Lizards eat insects and larvae and even other lizards! Though they live in the desert as their name suggests, they are comfortable in many habitats, from riverbeds to yucca grassland and mesquite woodland.

Desert Spiny Lizard Range Map:Credit: U.S. Geological Survey, Department of the Interior/USGS

Desert Spiny Lizards find shelter from the intense heat under logs and rocks, and in rodent burrows. You may be lucky enough to spot one coming out of a burrow to bask during the early morning, or hunting during the early evening!

YouTube video

#3. Prairie Lizard

  • Sceloporus consobrinus

species of spiny lizards in Colorado

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 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 Colorado 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 eastern Colorado, 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 are hard to catch. If you see one, you’ll probably have more luck observing from a distance than trying to get up close!

YouTube video

Do you need additional help identifying spiny lizards?

Try this field guide!


Which of these spiny lizards have you seen in Colorado?

Leave a comment below!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *