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North Dakota's

Federally Listed Endangered, Threatened, and Candidate Species – 1995

Northern Sagebrush Lizard (Sceloporus graciosus graciosus )

GIF -- species photo gif--species map

Status: Former Candidate (Note: As of February 28, 1996, this species is no longer listed as a Candidate species. However, it remains a species of management concern.)

Historical Status:
The northern sagebrush lizard appears to have a historic range similar to its present range, although slightly smaller. Habitat loss and habitat fragmentation have lowered the numbers of the northern sagebrush lizards within their range.

Present Status:
The northern sagebrush lizard is present from southwestern North Dakota to southeastern Oregon and southward to northwestern New Mexico. In North Dakota there have been reports of northern sagebrush lizards in the counties of McKenzie and Slope.

The northern sagebrush lizard inhabits areas of desert floors, mountain slopes, forested slopes, and open flat lands. Sagebrush areas are favorite haunts, although they seldom climb into the bushes. The species occurs mainly on fine gravel soils, sandy soils, and rocky soils which are adjacent to water. Essentially terrestrial, seldom climbs, and usually remains close to rocks, crevices, and holes which it uses as shelter.

Life History:
The nortbern sagebrush lizard is active from late April to mid-September. The species is easily disturbed and immediately seeks refuge in crevices, in rodent burrows, and under surface plants when alarmed. The reproductive season lasts from May to mid-July. The females lay a single clutch of 2 to 7 eggs about 1 inch deep in loose soil usually at the base of a shrub. Hatchlings appear in mid-August. Diet consists mainly of ants, spiders, mites, ticks, and other insect types. Snakes are the main predator of the northern sagebrush lizard.

Aid to identification:
Adult northern sagebrush lizards have a body length of 4 1/2 to 5 7/8 inches. The species has a camouflage style coloration consisting of pale brown to grayish-green. Four longitudinal rows of darker brown spots are intermixed along the body. Two pale stripes extend down its back from the eye to the tail. An irregular dark spot is located on the shoulder. Males have a large elongated blue patch at each side of the belly; the throat may be mottled with blue. Females have a ventral surface which is uniformly white with mottled blue on the throat. Young are about 2 1/2 inches at hatching.

Reasons for decline:
Loss of habitat due to cropping, intensive grazing, and oil developments has affected the species in the shortgrass prairie badlands of North Dakota and other western states. Aerial spraying of insecticides may have also affected insect populations, the main diet of northern sagebrush lizards.

The northern sagebrush lizard is easily frightened and seeks refuge immediately; this makes observations rare. Notify a natural resource agency if you observe a northern sagebrush lizard.

The northern sagebrush lizard is locally called "bluebelly" because of bright blue patches located on the sides of the belly.

The Amphibians and Reptiles of North Dakota, by G.C. Wheeler and J. Wheeler, 1966. Published by the University of North Dakota Press, Grand Forks, ND.
Handbook of Lizards, Lizards of the United States and Canada, by H. M. Smith, 1946. Published by Comstock Publishing Associates, Ithaca, New York.

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