Western Fence Lizard

Sceloporous occidentalis

Western Fence Lizard
Photo: Chris Brown, USGS

The Western Fence Lizard is one of the spiny lizards. It is also known as a “blue bellied” lizard because of the blue patch on each side of its belly. Male lizards establish territories and attempt to drive away other males. Flattening the sides of its body, lowering skin of the throat, and doing “push-ups” that flash its blue markings make a threatening or warning signal. If the intruder does not turn away, a fight may ensue. The threatened lizard will grab the intruder in its jaws—but any part of it will do—and with a jerk of the head, attempt to throw the other lizard aside. Since fence lizards are diurnal (active during the day) they are often seen. Their body temperature is near that of humans.

6” – 10 long Dark brown, gray, or blackish above. Pattern of paired blotches or wavy cross-bars down the back give it a mottled look. Males have blue patches on throat and sides of belly; whitish to yellowish below; inside of hind legs distinctively yellow or orange on rear of legs.
Woodlands, open coniferous forests, grasslands, rock outcrops, fallen trees, lumber piles; avoids dense, shaded areas; very common
Far western U.S., central ID, south through NV to Pacific Coast; sea level to 9,000’.
Insects—beetles, ants, wasps, aphids, caterpillars; spiders
Active Feb to Nov; peak May to July; spend winter below ground or in rotting logs
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