Northern Sagebrush Lizard (Sceloporus graciosus graciosus)

A closeup of a dark brown lizard, sunbathing on a rock

Northern Sagebrush Lizard (Sceloporus graciosus graciosus)

The northern sagebrush lizard is the only known lizard species in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) and was discovered in 1922 in Grand Teton National Park (GTNP). These reptiles grow to be 5 inches long, are grey or brown with dark stripes all the way from their heads to their tails, and have light colored bellies. Males have a longer tail than females and have some blue coloring on their underside and throat. They live in dry rocky environments up to 8,500 ft in elevation and like sagebrush ecosystems. These lizards also live in places with geothermal activity—hence living in Yellowstone National Park in addition to non-geothermal GTNP. Since they are cold-blooded, lizards are most active during the day so they can eat insects and bugs and bask in the sunlight. They take shelter mostly near the ground in old burrows, logs, plants, and rocks, but are sometimes found up in trees. The northern sagebrush lizard makes a tasty meal for snakes and birds of the GYE, so they have adapted to shed their tail to survive an attack.

Females lay about 4 leathery eggs in early summer that are 12 by 6 millimeters in size. Eggs are buried under loose soil by their shelter sites. Females usually lay eggs twice a year, but they can start reproduction at just 22 months. Baby lizards are only 2 centimeters long, and some hatchlings are even food for adult lizards. The northern sagebrush lizard lives for about 6 years and has a 50% chance of survival once they are hatched. You can see these lizards in GTNP at the Snake River Floodplain, Pilgrim Creek, Bar BC Ranch, and Colter Bay.

Written by Celia Karim
PC: Angie Shyrigh on Flickr https://flic.kr/p/5x2uRV