Western Fence Lizard

As soon as there is a warm, sunny day the western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis) comes out of its winter hibernation. Common in California and parts of nearby states, the western fence lizard is also called a blue belly or a swift. There are six subspecies of this spiny lizard.

The male western fence lizard is brown to black in color with a blue patch on the throat and a blue abdomen. The ventral side of the legs are yellow. The blue coloration is absent or very faint in females and juveniles.

As the name suggests, this lizard is commonly seen sunning itself on rocks, fence posts and other raised places. This habit of sunning exposes the lizard and makes it easy prey for snakes, birds and some mammals. Fast reflexes protect the western fence lizard. When walking among rocks one often hears scurrying sounds as the western fence lizard heads for cover. The diet of the western fence lizard consists of insects and spiders.

Research has shown that the incidence of Lyme disease is lower in areas where the western fence lizard occurs. The blood of the fence lizard has a protein that kills the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. When a tick feeds on the blood of a fence lizard, the Lyme disease bacteria are killed and the tick no longer carries this disease. Fascinating!!

I took these pictures along Hat Creek in Shasta County CA.

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