Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Northern Fence Lizard

Most of my encounters with adult Northern Fence Lizards occur in the early spring. At this time of year the lizards are fresh out of hibernation.  The cold ground and air temperatures cause the lizards to seek out sunlit basking areas where they can warm their bodies.

A fallen log, exposed to full sunlight, is an ideal place to find one of these lizards. Northern Fence Lizards spend much of their time on tree trunks, and they don’t seem to discriminate between trunks in the vertical versus the horizontal position. This log, situated on a dry, sunny bluff beside the creek, is an ideal place to watch for lizards.

As the sun warms the lizard, its face assumes an expression of contented enjoyment.  More likely, the closed eyes probably serve some physiological function that benefits the survival of this organism.

The lizard’s mottled brown coloration allows it to blend well with rough tree bark. Their existence is often unnoticed until they happen to move.

On the ground, the colors merge with those of the fallen sticks and leaves. It’s the sound of dry leaves being pushed aside that calls your attention to the presence of a startled lizard running for cover. The sound generally moves towards a nearby tree where the lizard suddenly appears on the trunk.

If you move slowly, most of these lizards will allow a close approach, although they often keep a watchful eye on your presence. Black and blue coloration on the throat and sides indicates a male Northern Fence Lizard.

By sitting quietly, you soon become just another object in the woods. The lizard then turns its attention to stalking insects that will provide a suitable meal.  Northern Fence Lizards will be active through the summer and into the fall, but they will become harder to see as growing vegetation begins to hide them away.


  1. Interesting, just today I was looking through a field guide on reptiles--one that my dad had for us when we were kids (or maybe his own, that he shared with us). I was checking out the fence lizard.

    Over the years, I've read about them...but, I've never seen one in real life. I still have a hard time imagining that there is a native lizard this far north! I'd love to find that I've attracted them here to my habitat some day.

    Great photos. Great info.

    Thank you.

    1. Hi, David. Lizards are a lot of fun to have around. I see them regularly from spring through fall, but each sighting is still an exciting event for me. I hope you are lucky enough to lure a few onto your property.

    2. I just caught 7 northern hence lizards in the last 10 minutes first time I've ever seen them I've been collecting lizards around my area and putting 2-4. Of the same lizards In a 75 gal tank and taking care of them so I was in the web researching there habitats and so any advice would be really helpful

    3. Sorry, Sissy. I have never tried to keep any of this species in captivity, so I don't have any advice to give on that subject. I just enjoy watching them outside.