Sceloporus graciosus
(Sagebrush Lizard)

Key Characteristics

Numerous, smaller spiny scales dorsally

Granular scales on posterior of thighs

Light striped pattern dorsally

Males have blue ventral patches
(blue mottling on throat possible)

Orange to yellow on neck and sides,
absent from posterior of limbs

General Description:
Sagebrush lizards, along with Western Fence Lizards are in the genus Sceloporus, and are known as Spiny Lizards.  This common name refers to the highly keeled and "spiny" scales found dorsally on species in this genus.  Sagebrush lizards have this characteristic scalation, but the scales are smaller and finer than those found on Western Fence Lizards (the other Sceloporus species found in Idaho).  The keeled dorsal scales may have a variety of ground colors, but gray or tan is normal.  The ground color is broken by a lighter gray or tan stripe running down the center of the back (vertebral stripe) and two light stripes, one on each side (dorsolateral stripes), (Nussbaum et al. 1983).  The neck and sides of these lizards may have a yellow or orange tinge and this is exaggerated in females during breeding season.  Sagebrush Lizards lack any orange or yellow coloration on the posterior of the limbs, which is not true for the Western Fence Lizard (Stebbins 1985).  The ventral coloration of Sagebrush Lizards is generally white or a light cream color.  Male Sagebrush Lizards have two vivid blue patches on the stomachs, and may have blue mottling on their throat.  Females and juveniles for the most part, lack this blue coloration, but may have some faint blue-black mottling near the edges of the stomach and on the throat (Storm and Leonard 1995).

Sagebrush Lizards are the smaller of the two Sceloporus species found in Idaho, attaining sizes of 62 mm snout-vent length (2.4 in.) and 150 mm (5.9 in.) total length (Storm and Leonard 1995).  Male Sagebrush Lizards are slightly larger than females (Nussbaum et al. 1983).

Sagebrush Lizards mate in the spring, and lay 2-7 (usually 4) eggs in June.  The eggs hatch in August, and the neonatesClick word for definition resemble the adults (with the exception that juvenile males lack the blue ventral markings), (Nussbaum et al. 1983), (Storm and Leonard 1995).

As their name implies, Sagebrush Lizards are predominately found in sagebrush cover, but they can also be found in greasewood and other desert shrubs and sometimes on small rocky outcrops (Nussbaum et al. 1983).  Sagebrush Lizards are usually found at higher elevations than Western Fence Lizards and may even be found in juniper-pine woodlands with brushy understory,   (Storm and Leonard 1995).

Idaho Distribution:
In Idaho, Sagebrush Lizards can be found in appropriate habitat across most of the southern portion of the state. From southern Montana to northwestern New Mexico, and west to Washington, Oregon, California and northern Baja California. Isolated populations exist in North Dakota, southeastern New Mexico, and Texas.

Eats beetles, flies, ants, caterpillars, aphids, other insects, and spiders, ticks, and mites. Southeastern Idaho study found ants were primary food.

Ground dweller. Uses rodent burrows, shrubs, logs, etc. for cover. HibernatesClick word for definition/aestivatesClick word for definition. Inactive in cold, winter weather; duration of inactive period varies with local climate (in Idaho, adults are active from mid-April to September, while activity of juveniles peaks in August). Predators include striped whipsnakes, night snakes, and a variety of predatory birds. Most common lizard on Idaho sagebrush plains.

Female lays eggs from June-August. Clutch size varies from 2-8; eggs hatch in about 2 mo. Females in northwestern range may produce 2 clutches. Young become sexually mature in first (southern range) or second (northern range) year.



Unprotected nongame species

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Important State References:
Guyer C. and A.D. Linder. 1985. Thermal ecology and activity patterns of the short-horned lizard (Phrynosoma douglassi) and the sagebrush lizard (Sceloporus graciosus) in southeastern Idaho. Great Basin Natur. 45:607-614.

Species description, key characteristics and original work by John Cossel Jr. © 1997
Species ecological information from Groves et al. ©1997.
Original images provided by Charles R. Peterson, and William P. Leonard.© 1998
Design and Optimization by Ean Harker©1999, 2000.
DAI layout by Stephen Burton, and Mike Legler © 1999.