Western collared lizards (Crotaphytus collaris) are common and colorful lizards native to much of the western half of the United States. They're often seen basking on exposed rocks, swishing their tails before pouncing on prey, or running at full speed on their hind legs. Western collared lizards are known for their engaging and interesting behavior and are popular as captive-bred pets.
Western collared lizards are named for the distinctive dark bands that circle the necks of both sexes. Apart from this collar, males and females generally look very different. Males often are bright green, yellow, orange or tan peppered with white spots, and females have a much more muted version of this color scheme. However, during breeding season females develop bright orange spots or bars along their sides. Western collared lizards tend to have large heads, slender bodies and long tails. Including the tail, these lizards measure approximately 8 to 14 inches as adults.
Geography and Habitat
Western collared lizards are native to much of the western United States from Missouri to the Pacific and as far north as Colorado. They also live in parts of northern Mexico. These lizards can be found in open, rocky areas throughout their range, preferring hillsides with sparse vegetation, rock outcroppings and exposed boulders. Western collared lizards are associated with warm climates, typically basking at temperatures up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
Diet and Behavior
Western collared lizards are opportunistic predators of insects and other small animals, varying their diet depending on what is abundant in their habitat at a given time. They might eat foods such as grasshoppers, or even smaller lizards of other species. Western collared lizards spend the warmest parts of the day stalking prey or basking in the sun. When attempting to escape predators, western collared lizards sometimes run upright on their hind legs.
Captive-bred collared lizards are popular pets because of their colorful appearance and active nature. They generally do well in captivity, adapting to humans and becoming easily handled over time. However, wild-caught collared lizards tend not to thrive in or adapt to captivity and should not be kept as pets. If you do bring a collared lizard into your home as a pet, choose a reputable source and make sure you'll be able to provide the proper care.