Western Fence Lizard

October 22, 2015
Heidi Rockney and Karen Wu
Western Fence Lizard

Western Fence Lizard.
Photo: Heidi Rockney

Name: Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis)
Order: Lizard (Squamata)
Family: Spiny Lizards (Phrynosomatidae)

What they look like

  • Western fence lizards are medium-sized lizards that can be up to 8.4 inches long.
  • Their back and limbs are covered in spiny gray, tan, or brown scales with darker waves or blotches.
  • Their underside is white or yellow, although adult males have large bright blue patches surrounded by black on their belly and throat.

Where they live

  • View a map of where they live.
  • Most western fence lizards live in California but they can also be found in Oregon, Nevada, the Columbia River Gorge (between Washington and Oregon), southwestern Idaho, western Utah, and northwestern Baja California.
  • Habitats include grassland, sagebrush, broken chaparral, woodland, coniferous forest, and even farmland.
  • Tend to avoid dense moist forests and harsh deserts.

What they eat

  • Western fence lizards feed on beetles, ants, flies, caterpillars, and spiders.


  • Between April and July, females lay a single clutch of 3 to 17 eggs, which hatch 2 months afterwards.

Cool Biology Facts

  • A protein in the western fence lizard’s blood can kill the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, the most common tick-carried disease in the northern hemisphere.
  • When disease-carrying ticks feed on the lizard’s blood, the disease-causing bacteria are killed and the ticks no longer carry the disease!


  • Western fence lizards are common in Washington and are considered “least concern” due to their tolerance of a wide range of habitats and large stable populations.
  • View their status on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Map of Western Fence Lizard distribution in Washington state.

Map of Western Fence 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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