What is a Collared Lizard?

Jacob Queen

The collared lizard is a species in the iguana family. They are relatively large, growing to be about a foot long (30 centimeters), and they're known for their ability to run on their back legs. The animals are native to North America and are found in the desert habitats of the western part of the country. Collared lizards are generally green in color, with mottles of different hues on their bodies, and they are named for the black marks that encircle their necks. These animals are often kept in captivity as pets.

Collared lizards are so named for the distinctive stripes that wrap around their necks.
Collared lizards are so named for the distinctive stripes that wrap around their necks.

In the wild, the collared lizard lives in desert environments with a lot of rocks and other areas in which to hide. The animals will use shade and sunlight to generally regulate their temperature, so they would come out and sit in the sun if they felt cold, and then go under the rock for shade if their temperature was getting too hot. They’ve been made the official state lizard in Oklahoma, and they’re also relatively common in places like Arizona and Nevada.

Collared lizards in captivity are often fed crickets.
Collared lizards in captivity are often fed crickets.

These animals are generally predatory, and they mostly feed on different kinds of insects. When they get a chance, they will feed on larger prey. For example, they occasionally kill rodents, and they’ve been known to eat various smaller lizard species when the opportunity arises. They generally hunt using ambush tactics. Collared lizards have the capacity to remain very still for long stretches, and when a suitable prey animal approaches unwittingly, they can quickly spring into action.

When people keep a collared lizard as a pet, they will usually need to design a particularly large environment for it. The lizards are larger than many other lizard species kept as pets, and they need a bit more room than most. A common concern when keeping lizards in captivity is making sure there is enough temperature variation in the environment, and this is generally important for the collared lizard as well. There are many tactics used to establish this kind of temperature variation inside an artificial enclosure, including the use of heat lamps and stones that let the lizard get shade. In captivity, people often feed the lizards things like mice and crickets.

The female collared lizard changes color slightly during breeding season and takes on a reddish tinge. She generally produces about 12 eggs during each breeding cycle. The lizards don’t care for the eggs or the young that hatch in any way other than hiding them in a hole or some other safe location.

Collared lizards live in arid desert environments.
Collared lizards live in arid desert environments.

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