Southern Alligator Lizard

October 27, 2015
Heidi Rockney and Karen Wu
southern alligator lizard on branch

Southern Alligator Lizard.
Photo: Heidi Rockney

southern alligator lizard curled around with head above tail

Southern Alligator Lizard.
Photo: Heidi Rockney

close up of head of southern alligator lizard

Southern Alligator Lizard.
Photo: Heidi Rockney

Name: Southern Alligator Lizard (Elgaria multicarinata)
Order: Lizard (Squamata)
Family: Alligator Lizards (Anguidae)

What they look like

  • Southern alligator lizards are large rough-scaled lizards with short limbs and a long tail.
  • Their body can be up to 5.6 inches long and their tail is about twice its body length.
  • Their back is brown with black spots that form numerous bands across the body’s width. Their underside is light colored.

Where they live

  • View a map of where they live.
  • Southern alligator lizards can be found along the Pacific coast of Washington, Oregon, California, and Baja California.
  • Tend to live in grassy, brushy, or rocky openings within forested areas, especially Oregon oak-ponderosa pine.
  • They are oftentimes found along creeks, where they swim or bask on rocks.

What they eat

  • Southern alligator lizards feed on small arthropods, slugs, lizards, small mammals, and occasionally young birds and eggs.


  • In June or July, females lay up to 20 eggs, which hatch after around 55 days.

Cool Biology Facts

  • The southern alligator lizard was discovered from collections gathered during the mid-1850s U.S.-Mexican Boundary Survey.


  • Even though human development has caused population declines in certain areas, they are considered “least concern” due to their tolerance of moderate human development, large distribution, adaptability to a wide variety of habitats, and large stable populations.
  • View their status on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Distribution Map

Map of Southern Alligator Lizard distribution in Washington state. Learn more on the NatureMapping Foundation website.

Explore more of the Amphibians & Reptiles of Washington or check out All About Amphibians.

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