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6 Native Lizards in Montana

In Montana there are 6 lizard species that live in the state. Amazing mountains, woodlands, grasslands, and badlands are the habitats you may find in Montana. The state is not only known for its beauty, but also for the large array of wildlife that inhabit it. This article will cover the 6 lizards that live in the state, but also important things you should know about them.

Lizards are graceful reptiles that are easy to miss due to their camouflage, and speed. Using the information from this article you will know where, and when to find lizards, as well as useful tips for identifying the ones in Montana. Let’s take a look at the 6 lizards in Montana.

Lizards in Montana


1. Northern Alligator Lizard

Northern Alligator Lizard (Elgaria coerulea)
Northern Alligator Lizard (Elgaria coerulea)
  • Experience Level: Intermediate 
  • Family: Anguidae 
  • Scientific Name: Elgaria coerulea 
  • Other Names: n/a
  • Adult Size: 10.8 in. (27.5 cm.)
  • Lifespan: 7 years
  • Average Price Range: $50

The northern alligator lizard is found in North America, in the western region. These lizards mainly live in the western coastal region, and are found in the far northwestern part of Montana. Open forests, and grasslands are where this lizard lives in the wild.

Medium, and slender, this lizard has a brown, green, yellow, or white coloring. They can have blotches, or bands on them, with yellowish coloring on their throat. Northern alligator lizards have mildly keeled scales, with gray stomachs, and dark eyes. 

In summer and fall these lizards give birth, and rare for a lizard they actually give birth to live young. Their breeding begins with the male attaching their mouth to the females, and grabbing them until they are ready to mate.

Grasshoppers, crickets, spiders, and other small invertebrates is what this lizard eats. They can even eat small vertebrates like mice if given the opportunity. Active in the day, they may hide under rocks, and flee if spotted.


2. Greater Short-horned Lizard

Greater Short-horned Lizard (Phrynosoma hernandesi) by aspidoscelis
Greater Short-horned Lizard (Phrynosoma hernandesi) by aspidoscelis
  • Experience Level: Intermediate 
  • Family: Phrynosomatidae
  • Scientific Name: Phrynosoma hernandesi
  • Other Names: Mountain short-horned lizard
  • Adult Size: 6 in. (15 cm.)
  • Lifespan: n/a
  • Average Price Range: $40

In the western regions of North America, the greater short-horned lizard is a species native to the region. These lizards can be found in the majority of Montana, but are mostly absent from the western portion of the state. Sagebrush deserts, juniper forests, mountains, and other similar habitats are where this lizard lives.

This lizard closely resembles the pygmy short-horned lizard, but with the use of dna studies, they have been able to be made their own species. Greater short-horned lizards are larger than the pygmy short-horned lizard. Tan, yellow, or gray is their color, and spikes cover them like a small set of armor.

Greater short-horned lizards mainly feed on harvester ants, but may also eat other insects they find. Their spikes, and camouflage make them not likely to be harassed, but they are also capable of squirting blood from their eyes further to ward off predators.

3. Pygmy Short-horned Lizard

Pygmy Short-horned Lizard (Phrynosoma douglasii)
Pygmy Short-horned Lizard (Phrynosoma douglasii)
  • Experience Level: Intermediate 
  • Family: Phrynosomatidae
  • Scientific Name: Phrynosoma douglasii
  • Other Names: n/a
  • Adult Size: 1 to 3 in. (2.5 to 6.5 cm.)
  • Lifespan: 10 years
  • Average Price Range: n/a

Pygmy short-horned lizards are a lizard native to Montana. They are very similar to the greater short-horned lizard, and can be distinguished from them by their size, and range. In Montana they are found in the western portion of the state, and their overall population lies in the northwestern United States.

Small in size, this lizard has a round, flat body, covered in many spikes. They have a gray, yellow, or reddish coloring. Dark spots may appear on them. The scales of these lizards are roughly keeled, and their bellies are white. The color, and spikes on this lizard help them blend into dirt, and dry environments.

Ants makeup the majority of this lizard diet. They will often live near ant hills, and places that have an abundance of food. You may not easily find this lizard, but they are active in the day, and sometimes use burrows to sleep, or hibernate.

4. Sagebrush Lizard

Sagebrush Lizard (Sceloporus graciosus)
Sagebrush Lizard (Sceloporus graciosus)
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Phrynosomatidae
  • Scientific Name: Sceloporus graciosus
  • Other Names: Sagebrush swift
  • Adult Size: 2 to 5.9 in. (5 to 14.98 cm.)
  • Lifespan: 5 years
  • Average Price Range: n/a

Common sagebrush lizards are found in the southern portion of Montana, but are absent from the northern, and western portions of the state. This lizard is native to the western United States. Woodlands, shrublands, and urban areas are some of the places this lizard lives. They spend most of their time foraging on the ground, but sometimes climb.

Small to medium in size, these lizards have a gray, olive, or tan coloring. They can have blue, or greenish hints on their scales, which are roughly keeled. Females of this species have white, or yellow stomachs, while males sometimes have blue on their underside.

Sagebrush lizards are spooked easily, and use large rocks, or vegetation to hide. In the early spring, and late summer is when this species tends to be active the most. In winter they brumate, until temperatures warm, and are also not active when it is too hot.

5. Western Fence Lizard

Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis)
Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis)
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Phrynosomatidae
  • Scientific Name: Sceloporus occidentalis
  • Other Names: Blue-belly lizard
  • Adult Size: 4 to 7.5 in. (10 to 19 cm.)
  • Lifespan: 5 to 7 years
  • Average Price Range: $20

In Montana the western fence lizard is not a very common lizard to find in the state. They have only been reported in a small region within far western Montana, and it is not known exactly where their range lies. Like their name suggests this lizard is native to the western United States. Sagebrush, grasslands, and urban areas are a few habitats where lizards may live.

Western fence lizards are covered in roughly keeled scales, which have a tan, or gray coloring. They are a medium sized lizard, with dark blotches, or wave patterns on their back. Males can have blue patches on their stomach, and throats. Their color and patterns allow them to blend into surfaces like rocks.

Snakes, coyotes, hawks, and rodents are some of the predators this lizard faces. They drop their tails, flee, and hide in order to escape predators. This lizard is common in most of their range, but not seen often in Montana since they are an invasive, and rare species in the region.


6. Western Skink

Western Skink (Plestiodon skiltonianus)
Western Skink (Plestiodon skiltonianus)
  • Experience Level: Beginner 
  • Family: Scincidae
  • Scientific Name: Plestiodon skiltonianus
  • Other Names: n/a
  • Adult Size: 4 to 8.25 in. (10.16 to 20.95 cm.)
  • Lifespan: 10 years
  • Average Price Range: n/a

Western skinks are native to the western regions of the United States. They are a native lizard to Montana, and are found in the western portion of the state. Desert, grasslands, and woodlands are some of the habitats this lizard lives in. They prefer areas next to water, and habitats with sparse vegetation.

These lizards have smooth scales, with pale, and dark stripes that appear on their body. They can have tan, olive, dark brown, black, or grayish coloring. Males in the breeding season have red markings on their chin and face, which helps them signal to mates. When born this lizard will have a bright blue tail, which they are able to drop if attacked.

Insects, spiders, and other smaller invertebrates are what the western skink feeds on, and they do their hunting in the day. Snakes, raptors, and larger lizards are their most common predators. Populations of this lizard across their range are abundant. Spring to fall is when you may spot the western skink out, as they hibernate in winter.


Are lizards common in Montana?

Montana has around 6 lizard species, and several of them have an abundant, stable population. Since lizards are secretive you may have to look for them, but they can often be seen near your home, or in other public areas. Winter is when lizards are not seen due to the cold, and they brumate until temperatures warm.

When is the best time to see lizards in Montana?

The months from spring to fall are when lizards are active in Montana, with most species being diurnal, or active in the day. Lizards may bask open in the sun, or be very secretive, and hide in vegetation, or around rocks. Spring and summer is when the breeding season reaches its peak, and lots of lizards can be seen.

Wrapping up

Montana is a peaceful state abundant in wildlife, with even more flora. The circle of life includes animals as small as lizards. Despite their size lizards can feed on lots of small invertebrates, and even vertebrates. Their ability to breed quickly makes them able to control pest populations, or be a reliable food source for other animals.

Reptiles, amphibians, and other animals all are important in their native environment, with many states like Montana filled with an almost endless amount of life. If you have any questions about the lizards in Montana, or want to share your experiences with these sneaky reptiles be sure to comment below.

More lizards in nearby states

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