The collared lizard is a medium-sized lizard living in western and mid-western United states and northern Mexico. These lizards get their name from the black and white bands that circle their necks. They prefer dry areas such as deserts or grasslands, and especially like areas with a large number of rocks for sunning and for lookouts. Like most cold-blooded animals, the collared lizard is diurnal, active in the daytime when the sun is out to warm them. They are also called “mountain boomers” because they were mistakenly thought to make a loud sound that echoed throughout the surrounding mountains. Only the males are brightly colored. The females are a grey or brown color but still have the collar around their neck. In 1969, the collared lizard became the state reptile of Oklahoma.
Collared lizard can grow up to 14 inches (35 cm) long including the tail. The males are typically larger than females. This size, however, is one of the longest recorded; normally the lizards are shorter than this. Even though the females are smaller, they often have a wider body.
These lizards have several predators including roadrunners. Snakes, cats, coyotes, and other carnivorous mammals may choose collared lizard for their next meal. If it happens to be on the menu, that is.
Catch me if you can!
If a collared lizard feels threatened, its choice will always be to run away if possible. Not only are these lizards good jumpers, but they can also run very fast at up to sixteen miles (26 km) per hour! They often run only on their hind legs much like the more famous basilisk lizard. If they are cornered and cannot run away, collared lizards will fight, and will take on enemies much larger than themselves. One protection that collared lizards lack that most other lizards have is the ability to release and regenerate a tail. Despite this, collared lizards can give a hard bite that can draw blood.
I’m bigger than you!
Male colored lizards are also very territorial. If another male comes in contact with another male, the defending individual will first arch his back and puff out his sides. These are attempts to make himself look bigger. The male will then bob his head rapidly up and down. Next he will preform a series of push-ups. The reason for this weird display is to scare away the intruder. If this does not work, he will attempt to chase away the rival male.
Collared lizards are omnivores, eating both plants and animals. Most of the time they eat animals including spiders, insects, small snakes, and smaller lizards. Some collared lizard have even been known to eat other smaller individuals in their species! They can easily kill smaller animals with one bite of their powerful jaws. If they can find no other food, they will also eat flowers, leaves, and berries.
Around August and September, collared lizard will start hibernating. They normally spend the winter in a rock crevice or in a hole that they dig. They must find a safe place to sleep so they don’t wake up in an animal’s stomach. Hibernation occurs till March or April.
Mating in this species normally begins soon after hibernation ends, and individuals as young as one year old will participate. Females who are ready to mate at this time will take on a rosy color while females that are not ready will have red speckles. A few weeks after mating, the female will lay up to three clutches of eggs with up to thirteen, but normally closer to seven, cream-colored eggs each. These eggs will be buried in the sand to protect them from predators. Up to sixty-five days later, the eggs will hatch and the babies, if lucky, will live for up to fifteen years.
The collared lizard babies will hopefully hatch right at the time when insects are in abundance. This gives the young plenty of food to eat. Even though the adults start hibernating as early as August, young colored lizard may stay awake until as late as October.
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- Smithsonian Handbooks Reptiles and Amphibians. Mark O’Shea and Tim Halliday, Smithsonian Institution, ISBN: 978-0-7566-6009-3
- Animals of the world. Tom Jackson, ISBN: 978-1780191089
- Collared lizard: Dakota L.
- Mystery animal: Charles Barilleaux