Western Fence Lizard 2001

Emigrant Wilderness, Lertoria Lake 2001

The Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis) is a common lizard of California and surrounding areas. It is also known as the Blue-belly.

It is a member of the genus Sceloporus, and therefore is a spiny lizard.

Western fence lizards are about 8-10 cm long excluding their tail, and about 15 cm long with the tail included. They are brown to black in color (the brown may be sandy or greenish), but adult males have iridescent blue lateral patches on their flanks, and their entire bodies may be flecked with blue. Males may expose their blue stomachs in a territorial display. The blue is much less pronounced in females.

The western fence lizard eats insects and spiders. They are commonly seen sunning on paths and rocks, and this behavior makes them vulnerable to predation by snakes and birds.

Although California is the heart of the range of this lizard, it is also found in eastern and southwest Oregon, as well as in the Columbia River Gorge, southwest Idaho, Nevada, western Utah, and northwestern Baja California, and some of the islands off the coast of both California and Baja California. It is found in scrub and chaparral, up to elevations approaching 2000 meters, but it is not generally found in the desert.

Rarely, this species can be found living on Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia) that exist along the northern slope of the San Gabriel Mountains. These populations are dominated by a striped phenotype which is otherwise quite rare.


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