“What kinds of spiny lizards are there in Washington?”
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 2 different kinds of spiny lizards in Washington.
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#1. Common Sagebrush Lizard
- Sceloporus graciosus
- 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 Washington.
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. Western Fence Lizard
- Sceloporus occidentalis
- 2.25 to 3.5 inches long from snout to vent. (Length does not include the tail)
- Black, gray, or dark brown coloring with uneven lighter blotches.
- The sides of the belly are blue, and the backs of the limbs are orange or yellow.
If you see a dark lizard on the ground or a fence, chances are you’ve found a Western Fence Lizard.
They’re the most commonly seen lizards within their range, and you can spot them on fenceposts, lumber piles, and even the sides of buildings! They aren’t picky about their habitat and live in most ecosystems except for the desert.
Western Fence Lizard Range Map:
One of the most fascinating talents of Western Fence Lizards is that they can help lower YOUR risk of Lyme disease.
These spiny lizards have blood that actually kills the Lyme Bacteria that many ticks carry! So once an infected tick feeds on the lizard’s blood, they’re cured!
Do you need additional help identifying spiny lizards?
Try this field guide!
Which of these spiny lizards have you seen in Washington?
Leave a comment below!