Collared Lizard

Eastern collared lizard male
Collared Lizard

Carla DeKalb

The collared lizard (crotaphytus collaris) is one of the most recognizable species found within Colorado National Monument. These colorful lizards are frequently seen sunning themselves on rocks during the spring, summer, and fall. Favorite prey includes spiders, scorpions, insects, and other lizards. Their bright colors add a splash of color to the desert landscape.

This is a lizard of many names. They are also known as the Eastern collared lizard, the yellow-headed collared lizard, the common collared lizard, and mountain boomer. Several subspecies have been recognized for crotaphytus collaris, including auriceps, baileyi, collaris, fuscus, and melanomaculatus.

 
A male (left) and female (right) collared lizard to show the color differences.
A male (left) and female (right) collared lizard

Female lizard (NPS ranger Abby Winters), male lizard (VIP Carla DeKalb)

Collared lizards are dimorphic and colors vary between males and females. Females range in color from a brownish green to a paler bright green. Males tend to be very brightly colored, with brilliant green for the body and bright yellow for the head. Both sexes have the namesake collar around their neck. While they can't change color at will like a chameleon, their colors can vary depending on the season.

A noticable color change occurs in females who are carrying eggs. She develops red spots on her body and neck, which disappear after she's done laying. Collared lizards lay 1 to 13 eggs per clutch, and females can lay more than one clutch per year.

 
A pale green collared lizard with red spots on her side
Female collared lizard, with eggs.

Carla DeKalb

From the moment they hatch in late summer or early fall, the babies must fend for themselves. These lizards love rocky areas, which provide shelter from predators and shady places to help regulate their body temperature. In a pinch, they can run up to 16 mph on their hind legs to escape predators. Some lizards are known for losing their tails to distract a predator, but collared lizards don't rely on this method of escape. If they lose their tail, it will not grow back.

Baby lizards will start off eating insects and move on to larger prey as they grow. Other lizards, such as whiptails, are frequently on the menu for adults. Collared lizards will even eat members of their own species.
 
A bright green collared lizard suns himself on a rock in Monument Canyon

Carla DeKalb

Collared lizards can be found throughout the monument. Look for them in the canyons, the Devils Kitchen area, and around Saddlehorn Campground. They spend their winters in hibernation, which means the chances of spotting one in the winter are low. During the spring through fall months, watch for them in rocky areas.

They are bold lizards, which gives people great opportunities to observe them, but they will run if they feel threatened and bite if they're cornered. You can help protect them by giving them space and watching them from a distance. Please don't pick up or catch lizards in the monument. It's not allowed, and most importantly, leaving them alone is the best way to keep them safe.

Last updated: August 16, 2022

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

1750 Rim Rock Drive
Fruita , CO 81521

Phone:

970 858-2800

Contact Us

Stay Connected