CaliforniaHerps.com

A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California


Northern Sagebrush Lizard -
Sceloporus graciosus graciosus

Baird and Girard, 1852
Click on a picture for a larger view



Common Sagebrush Lizard California Range Map
Range in California: Red

Click the map for a guide to the other subspecies



observation link





Northern Sagebrush Lizard
Adult female, 6,500 ft., Mono County
Northern Sagebrush Lizard Northern Sagebrush Lizard Northern Sagebrush Lizard
Adult male, 9,300 ft. White Mountains, Inyo County Adult, 9,300 ft. White Mountains,
Inyo County
Northern Sagebrush Lizard Northern Sagebrush Lizard Northern Sagebrush Lizard
Adult, 6.500 ft., Mono County Adult, 4,100 ft. Modoc County Adult female, 6,500 ft., Mono County
Northern Sagebrush Lizard Northern Sagebrush Lizard Northern Sagebrush Lizard
  Adult male, 6,800 ft., Inyo County  
Northern Sagebrush Lizard Northern Sagebrush Lizard Northern Sagebrush Lizard
Adult female, Inyo County
Northern Sagebrush Lizard Northern Sagebrush Lizard Northern Sagebrush Lizard
Juvenile, 7,700 ft. Inyo County
  Northern Sagebrush Lizard  
  Adult female from 9,994 ft. elevation in Death Valley National Park, Inyo County
© Peter Treuherz
 
     
Habitat
Northern Sagebrush Lizard Habitat Northern Sagebrush Lizard Habitat Northern Sagebrush Lizard Habitat
Habitat, 9,300 ft. White Mountains,
Inyo County
Habitat, Inyo County  Habitat, Mono Lake, Mono County
Northern Sagebrush Lizard Habitat Northern Sagebrush Lizard Habitat Northern Sagebrush Lizard Habitat
Habitat, 4,700 ft., Lassen County Habitat, 4,100 ft., Modoc County Habitat, 7,700 ft., Inyo County

More pictures of this animal and its natural habitat can be seen on our Northwest and Southwest Herps pages.

Short Videos
Northern Sagebrush Lizard Northern Sagebrush Lizard  
Sagebrush lizards from the White Mountains in Inyo County. Several lizards from Mono and Inyo Counties, including a dual push-up display.  
   
Description
 
Size
1 7/8 - 3 1/2 inches long from snout to vent (4.7 - 8.9 cm). (Stebbins 2003)

Appearance
A small lizard with small keeled and pointed scales overlapping on the upper surfaces of the body and limbs.
These scales are not as large as they are on other lizards of the genus Sceloporus.
The gular fold is incomplete.
The scales on the back of the thigh are mostly granular, not keeled (as they are on the Western Fence Lizard.)
Color and Pattern
Color is gray or brown with dark blotches or irregular bands on the body and tail and distinct light and dark stripes along the sides and upper sides at the edge of the back.
There is usually a bar of black on the shoulder and rusty coloring on the armpits and sometimes on the sides of the body and the neck.
Unlike the Western Fence Lizard - Sceloporus occidentalis, there is normally no yellow coloring on the rear of the limbs.
Male / Female Differences
Males have a patch of blue color on each side of the belly and on the throat.
The blue belly patches do not meet across the belly and do not meet the blue on the throat.
Male postanal scales are enlarged, and the base of the tail is broader than on the female.
The throat is light blue mottled with white spots.
Sometimes the blue patch is reduced or even absent.
Some males may develop bright orange breeding coloring.

Females have little or no blue on the belly.
When breeding, females may develop orange coloring on the sides and neck and yellow underneath.
Young
Young lizards have little or no blue on the belly.

Differences Between Subspecies of Sagebrush Lizards in California

Differences Between the Sagebrush Lizard and the Similar Western Fence Lizard in California
 
Life History and Behavior

Activity
Diurnal.
Active spring through fall.
Hibernates during winter.
A good climber and jumper, able to quickly jump from rock to rock.
Lives mostly on the ground near bushes, logs, rocks, or brush piles.
Often observed basking on rocks and logs.
Territoriality
Males defend their territory and try to attract females with head-bobbing and a push-up display that exposes the throat and ventral colors.
Defense
Escapes danger by running into rocks, rodent burrows, or brush or climbs up trees or rock outcrops.
Diet and Feeding
Eats a variety of small invertebrates, including ants, termites, grasshoppers, flies, spiders, and beetles.
Breeding
Females lay 1 or 2 clutches of 2 - 10 eggs from June to August.

Habitat
Lives in sagebrush and other types of shrublands, mainly in the mountains (at higher elevations than the Western Fence Lizard). Prefers open areas with scattered low bushes and lots of sun.

Geographical Range
In California, this subspecies occurs in the Great Basin desert east of the Sierra Nevada and in the northeast corner of the state. It ranges north into eastern Washington and east into southern Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico.

The species Sceloporus graciosus occurs in California, Eastern oregon, central Washington, southern Idaho parts of Montana and North Dakota, in much of Wyoming, Utah, western Colorado, northwest New Mexico, northern Arizona, and in the Sierra San Pedro Martir of northern Baja California.

Full Species Range Map
Elevational Range
The species Sceloporus graciosus is found at elevations of 500 ft. to about 10,500 ft. (150 - 3,200 m) (Stebbins 2003).

Notes on Taxonomy
Three subspecies of Sceloporus graciosus are recognized in California:
Sceloporus graciosus gracilis - Western Sagebrush Lizard,
Sceloporus graciosus graciosus
- Northern Sagebrush Lizard, and
Sceloporus graciosus vandenburgianus
- Southern Sagebrush Lizard
.
Sceloporus graciosus vandenburgianus
has been described as a unique species, Sceloporus vandenburgianus.


Alternate and Previous Names (Synonyms)

Sceloporus graciosus graciosus - Northern Sagebrush Lizard (Stebbins 1966, 1985)
Sceloporus graciosus graciosus
- Sagebrush Lizard (Smith 1946)

Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
This subspecies is listed as sensitive by the Bureau of Land Management.

Taxonomy
Family Phrynosomatidae Zebra-tailed, Earless, Fringe-toed, Spiny, Tree, Side-blotched, and Horned Lizards Fitzinger, 1843
Genus Sceloporus Spiny Lizards Wiegmann, 1828
Species graciosus Common Sagebrush Lizard Baird and Girard, 1852
Subspecies


graciosus Northern Sagebrush Lizard Baird and Girard, 1852
Original Description
Sceloporus graciosus - Baird and Girard, 1852 - Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia, Vol. 6, p. 69

from Original Description Citations for the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America © Ellin Beltz

Meaning of the Scientific Name

Sceloporus - Greek -skelos leg and porus - pore or opening - refers to the femoral pores on hind legs
graciosus
- Latin - graciosus graceful - "This small and graceful species..."

from Scientific and Common Names of the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America - Explained © Ellin Beltz

Related or Similar California Lizards
Sceloporus graciosus gracilis - Western Sagebrush Lizard
Sceloporus graciosus vandenburgianus - Southern Sagebrush Lizard
Uta stansburiana - Common Side-blotched Lizard
Sceloporus occidentalis - Western Fence Lizard


More Information and References
California Department of Fish and Wildlife

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.

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.

Brown et. al. Reptiles of Washington and Oregon. Seattle Audubon Society,1995.

Nussbaum, R. A., E. D. Brodie Jr., and R. M. Storm. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Pacific Northwest. Moscow, Idaho: University Press of Idaho, 1983.

St. John, Alan D. Reptiles of the Northwest: Alaska to California; Rockies to the Coast. Lone Pine Publishing, 2002.

Conservation Status

The following status listings are copied from the 2017 Special Animals List and the 2017 Endangered and Threatened Animals List which are published by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

If no status is listed here, the animal is not included on either CDFW 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.

Check here to see the most current complete lists.



Organization
Status Listing
NatureServe Global Ranking G5T5 Secure—Common; widespread and abundant - applies to both the species and this subspecies.
NatureServe State Ranking S3

Vulnerable in the state due to a restricted range, relatively few populations (often 80 or fewer), recent and widespread declines, or other factors making it vulnerable to extirpation from the state.

U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) None
California Endangered Species Act (CESA) None
California Department of Fish and Wildlife None
Bureau of Land Management S Sensitive
USDA Forest Service None
IUCN Not listed

 

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