Turtles and Lizards

One hundred sixty three species of turtles and lizards occur in North America. Turtles and lizards occupy a wide diversity of habitats, aquatic, terrestrial, and oceanic. Turtles and lizards both have scaly skin, and are cold-blooded. All turtles and tortises lay eggs, many species of lizards bear live young.

The following turtles and lizards are found in Central Oregon:

Collared LizardNorthern Alligator Lizard Sagebrush Lizard Short-horned LizardSide-blotched LizardSouthern Alligator LizardWestern Fence LizardWestern Pond TurtleWestern Skink Western Whiptail Lizard

Collared Lizard (Crotaphytus bicinctores)

  • RANGE: Occurs in arid regions of, Oregon, California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Texas and Mexico
  • HABITAT: Found in drier, forested areas, especially rugged spots with a lot of rocks for basking and hiding. Also found in sagebrush deserts, and canyons.
  • REPRODUCTION: Mates in early spring, in midsummer female's lay 1-2 eggs in tunnels that have been excavated in sand, or under rocks.
  • FOOD: A variety of insects especially ants are consumed, as well as an occasional lizard.
  • IN CENTRAL OREGON: Found in arid sagebrush scrub areas of central Oregon.
  • REFERENCES: Csuti et al

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Northern Alligator Lizard (Elgaria coerulea)

  • RANGE: Vancouver Island and southern British Columbia south to northern Coast Range and Sierra Nevada of California. Occurs throughout most of Washington and Oregon
  • STATUS: Common.
  • HABITAT: Moist, cool habitats, including forests and forest clearings.
  • SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Openings for foraging and basking.
  • REPRODUCTION: Eggs are retained within the females body and fully-developed young are born after a 3 month gestation period. Clutch size is usually 3 to 8.
  • FOOD: Insects and other small invertebrates.
  • IN CENTRAL OREGON: Occurs up to at least 6000' in the Cascades.
  • REFERENCES: Storm and Leonard, 1995.

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Sagebrush Lizard (Sceloporus graciosus)

  • RANGE: Western US, from eastern Washington, southern Idaho and Montana and extreme western North Dakota south to northwestern Mexico and northern Baja California.
  • STATUS: R6 Sensitive Species.
  • HABITAT: Occur primarily in sagebrush plains, but also in stands of greased or other desert shrubs. Sometimes found in open juniper or pine woodlands.
  • SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Small rock outcrops and shrubs.
  • REPRODUCTION: Females lay 2 - 7 eggs per year, and bury them in loose soil at the base of a shrub.
  • FOOD: Wide variety of insects and other small invertebrates.
  • IN CENTRAL OREGON: In the vicinity of the Columbia River east of the Cascades, and from between southern Jefferson and Baker counties south to the border.
  • REFERENCES: Storm and Leonard, 1995.

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Short-horned Lizard (Phrynasoma douglassii)

  • RANGE: Extreme southern Canada south into north central Mexico, through Washington, Oregon, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Colorado, and New Mexico.
  • STATUS: Not a protected species
  • HABITAT: Sagebrush plains and open juniper and pine woodlands.
  • SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Spots of loose soil for burrowing.
  • REPRODUCTION: Females give birth to 3 - 15 live young per year.
  • FOOD: Insects, especially ants.
  • IN CENTRAL OREGON: In the Cascades, typically occur in open areas of volcanic soil and in pine woodlands.
  • REFERENCES: Storm and Leonard, 1995

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Side-blotched Lizard (Uta stansburiana)

  • RANGE: South central Washington south to Baja California, New Mexico, and western Texas.
  • STATUS: Locally abundant.
  • HABITAT: Desert flats with sandy and gravelly soil and some shrubs, rocky rims, or canyon walls.
  • SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Tends to avoid areas with trees.
  • REPRODUCTION: Produce up to 2 clutches of 2 to 5 eggs per year; eggs are buried in loose soil.
  • FOOD: Insects and other small arthropods.
  • REFERENCES: Storm and Leonard, 1995.

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Southern Alligator Lizard (Elgaria multicarinata)

  • RANGE: South-central Washington south to northern Baja California.
  • STATUS: Not a protected species
  • HABITAT: Brushy stabilized talus areas and oak woodlands where they occur.
  • REPRODUCTION: Lay eggs in rodent burrows or talus crevices; clutch size may be as many as 14 eggs.
  • FOOD: Insects and other arthropods, occasionally bird eggs and small mammals.
  • IN CENTRAL OREGON: Found along the Deschutes River to northern Deschutes County and the John Day River to western Grant County.
  • REFERENCES: Cokran et. al 1996

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Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis)

  • RANGE: Central Washington south through Oregon, Idaho and Utah to northern Baja California.
  • STATUS: Common.
  • HABITAT: Dry habitats; they avoid valley floors and humid forests.
  • SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Elevated perches, such as stumps, logs, rocks, old buildings, and wooden fences.
  • REPRODUCTION: Lay a clutch of 8 - 9 eggs; bury eggs in loose soil or place in a cavity in a log or under a rock.
  • FOOD: Mainly insects, but also other invertebrates.
  • REFERENCES: Storm and Leonard, 1995.

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Western Pond Turtle (Clemmys marmorata)

  • RANGE: Western Washington State south to southern Oregon. Rarely found east of the Cascade Range.
  • STATUS: Rare to locally common across its range; likely declining in numbers, especially in the northernmost part of its range.
  • HABITAT: Permanent and intermittent waters, including marshes, streams, rivers, ponds and lakes.
  • SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Favored habitats include emergent logs or boulders, where turtles bask in the sun.
  • REPRODUCTION: Nests are often in an open area of sand or hardpan, generally within 100 yards of water. The nest is usually flask-shaped with an opening at one end, and is typically well camouflaged with soil and vegetation. Clutch size ranges from 5 to 13 eggs.
  • FOOD: Aquatic invertebrates, fish, tadpoles, frogs, carrion, and various types of aquatic vegetation are typical food types.
  • IN CENTRAL OREGON: May occur up to 3000'. Observations of this species are rare east of the Cascades.
  • REFERENCES: Storm and Leonard, 1995

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Western Skink (Eumeces skiltonianus)

  • RANGE: Found in Southern British Columbia, Western Montana, Northern Idaho, Eastern Washington, all but the extreme northwest boundary of Oregon, northern California, and coastal California to San Diego.
  • STATUS: Abundant.
  • HABITAT: Forest, open woodland, and grassy areas, especially where rocks are numerous. Usually found beneath leaf litter, rocks, and logs.
  • SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Rocks for hiding cover
  • REPRODUCTION: Breeds May-June, 2-6 eggs are laid in a burrow or under rocks, eggs hatch July to August.
  • FOOD: Beetles, crickets, sow bugs, insect larvae, spiders, and earthworms.
  • IN CENTRAL OREGON: Occurs throughout Central Oregon
  • REFERENCES: Behler et.al., 1995

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Western Whiptail (Cnemidophorus tigris)

  • RANGE: Occurs in central Oregon and Idaho, south to southern Baja California and northern Mexico, and from California east to Colorado and Texas.
  • STATUS: 
  • HABITAT: Occurs in arid desert climates. In central Oregon is associated with areas with sagebrush or scrubby brush habitats where it likes to take cover. Western whiptail will dig about in leaf litter hunting for insects. Sandy, loose soils for burrowing rather than rocks, seem to be an important habitat component
  • REPRODUCTION: Hibernates during the winter months, and is active April through September. About 60% reproduce asexually, the female has the ability to fertilize her own eggs. One clutch per year is produced, usually in an abandoned rodent burrow.
  • FOOD: Generally feeds in the early morning to avoid the intense midday heat. The Western whiptail hunts among leaf litter for termites, insect larvae, spiders, scorpions, and other lizards.
  • IN CENTRAL OREGON: Found in sagebrush scrub habitat in central Oregon.
  • REFERENCES: Csuti et al; Anderson et al

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