A large adult lizard rests at the mouth of its burrow then runs off into its sparsely-vegetated habitat.
3 - 5 inches long (7.5 - 12.5 cm.) from snout to vent.
A large lizard with a broad triangular-shaped head, a truncated snout (compared to the Long-Nosed Leopard Lizard) a rounded body, well-developed limbs, granular scales, and a long rounded tail that is longer than the body.
Females develop reddish orange spots and bars on the sides and underneath the tail when gravid.
Males develop pink or rusty wash on the throat, chest, and sometimes the body, during the breeding season.
Color and Pattern
Color is grayish to brown, with cream-colored crossbands and large dark spots.
The ground color lightens considerably as the lizard's body temperature increases.
The underside is pale, with gray markings on the throat.
Juveniles have more highly contrasted markings than adults, often with rusty coloring on the back or bright red spots, and yellow on the thighs and under the tail.
Life History and Behavior
Diurnal, emerging to bask in the morning.
Diet and Feeding
Eats insects and other arthropods, and lizards.
Breeds frtom May to June.
Eggs are laid in June and July, and hatch in July and August.
Semiarid grasslands, alkali flats, and washes.
Prefers flat areas with open space for running, avoiding densely vegetated areas.
Uses large shrubs with dense canopy cover for refuge and thermoregulation.
Uses mammal dens and burrows for cover and shelter.
The number of available burrows will determine the size of this lizard's population in an area.
Endemic to California.
Inhabits the San Joaquin Valley and nearby valleys and foothills, from extreme northwest Santa Barbara County and western Kern County north to southern Merced County.
There is also a sight record from the eastern end of Corral Hollow in San Joaquin County from the late 1950s.
(Eric R. Pianka and Laurie J. Vitt. Lizards - Windows to the Evolution of Diversity. University of California Press, 2003. (Laurie Vitt, Page 6.)
From 100 - 2,400 ft. (30 - 730 m).
Notes on Taxonomy
There is evidence that at one time G. sila hybridized with G. wislizenii in the upper Cuyama drainage in Ventura Co, but there is no evidence that there is any current contact between the two species, or if they can hybridize now. Much of the hybrid zone habitat has been degraded, and it appears that these hybrids have been eliminated. (Stebbins 2003.)
Endangered. No longer present throughout most of its former range as the habitat has been significantly altered by farming, urban development, overgrazing, oil wells, mining, reservoirs, and off-road vehicle use. This habitat alteration continues.
“Clearly this lizard’s ‘double-endangered’ status has been a direct result of essentially uncontrolled and unregulated land conversion.”
(Stebbins & McGinnis, 2012)
At the Pixley National Wildlife Refuge, managed cattle grazing has been used to reduce dense growths of non-native grasses, which improves the habitat for the Blunt-nosed Leopard Lizard and other threatened species.
In 2013 & 2014, Researchers from York University in Toronto used scat sniffing dogs to study the behavior of Blunt-nosed Leopard Lizards. The dogs located the scat which indicated where the lizards were hiding leading to the discovery that the lizards were using shrubs with dense canopy cover to hide under and to thermoregulate in the shade of the shrubs. The lizards also utilized rodent burrows which are most often found under the shrubs.
The researchers also discovered that invasive grasses hinder the lizards’ ability to move around easily, limit the variety of rodent species which also limits the number of burrows that can be used as refuges by the lizards, and cause diminished shrub growth due to competition with the grasses.
These findings show the importance of managing invasive plant species and maintaining the presence of shrubs in order to protect desert and semi-arid species such as the Blunt-nosed Leopard Lizard, and they point out the dangers of removing shrubs to develop land for uses such as the installation of solar panels.
Stebbins, Robert C., and McGinnis, Samuel M. Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of California: Revised Edition (California Natural History Guides) University of California Press, 2012.
Stebbins, Robert C. California Amphibians and Reptiles. The University of California Press, 1972.
Flaxington, William C. Amphibians and Reptiles of California: Field Observations, Distribution, and Natural History. Fieldnotes Press, Anaheim, California, 2021.
Samuel M. McGinnis and Robert C. Stebbins. Peterson Field Guide to Western Reptiles & Amphibians. 4th Edition. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2018.
Stebbins, Robert C. A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. 3rd Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003.
Behler, John L., and F. Wayne King. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.
Powell, Robert., Joseph T. Collins, and Errol D. Hooper Jr. A Key to Amphibians and Reptiles of the Continental United States and Canada. The University Press of Kansas, 1998.
Bartlett, R. D. & Patricia P. Bartlett. Guide and Reference to the Turtles and Lizards of Western North America (North of Mexico) and Hawaii. University Press of Florida, 2009.
Jones, Lawrence, Rob Lovich, editors. Lizards of the American Southwest: A Photographic Field Guide. Rio Nuevo Publishers, 2009.
Smith, Hobart M. Handbook of Lizards, Lizards of the United States and of Canada. Cornell University Press, 1946.
Joseph Grinnell and Charles Lewis Camp. A Distributional List of the Amphibians and Reptiles of California. University of California Publications in Zoology Vol. 17, No. 10, pp. 127-208. July 11, 1917.
The following conservation status listings for this animal are taken from the October 2021 California "Special Animals List" and the October 2021 "State and Federally Listed Endangered and Threatened Animals of California" list, both of which are produced by multiple agencies and available here: https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Data/CNDDB/Plants-and-Animals. You can check the link to see if there are more recent lists.
If no status is listed here, the animal is not included on either list. This most likely indicates that there are no serious conservation concerns for the animal. To find out more about an animal's status you can go to the NatureServe and IUCN websites to check their rankings.
Synonymous with Gambelia silus . Originally listed under the ESA as Crotaphytus wislizenii silus.
NatureServe Global Ranking
Critically Imperiled—At very high risk of extinction due to extreme rarity (often 5 or fewer populations), very steep declines, or other factors. Imperiled—At high risk of extinction due to very restricted range, very few populations (often 20 or fewer), steep declines, or other factors.
NatureServe State Ranking
Critically imperiled in the state because of extreme rarity (often 5 or fewer populations) orbecause of factor(s) such as very steep declines making it especially vulnerable to extirpation from the state.