Discover Maryland's Herps

Field Guide to Maryland's Lizards (Order Squamata)

Sub-order Lacertilia, Family Phrynosomatidae

Eastern Fence Lizard
Sceloporous undulatus

Eastern Fence Lizard Adult, Photo by John White|
Photo of Adult Eastern Fence Lizard courtesy of John White

Eastern Fence Lizard, Ventral Male Photo by Paul KazyakSize

4 - 7 inches.

Appearance

  • Our only “spiny lizard” or “swift”, it has keeled and pointed scales on its gray (females) to brown (males) back giving it a very rough appearance.

  • Males have a prominent blue patch bordered by black on each side of the belly and at the base of the throat, and a plain back.

  • Females have a more conspicuously patterned back, with wavy dark crosslines, and may have some pale blue along the sides and base of throat.

  • IllustrationHabitats

    A strictly arboreal species, it is relatively common in open dry, sandy woodlands, particularly pine woods. It is often found on rotting logs and stumps and or in backyards on rail fences.

    How to Find

    Active March to November, however more readily observed mid April through August. Most active mornings and evenings when they may be observed foraging for insect prey on the forest floor. Often detected by the sounds of their scurrying through dry leaves. Can readily be caught by hand against a tree trunk, as they typically only climb a short distance, staying motionless on the opposite side of the trunk.

     

    Eastern Fence Lizard Habitat, Photo by Rebecca Chalmers
    Photo of Eastern Fence Lizard Habitat courtesy of Rebecca Chalmers

    Distribution in Maryland

    Found throughout the forested areas of Maryland except Garrett County.

     

    Map of Eastern Fence Lizard Distibution in Maryland

    Top right: Photo of Ventral Male Eastern Fence Lizard courtesy of Paul Kazyak

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    Maryland Amphibian
    and Reptile Atlas Project

    "A Joint Project of the Natural History Society of Maryland, Inc. and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources"

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    The Maryland Herpetology Field Guide is a cooperative effort of the MD Natural Heritage Program and the MD Biological Stream Survey within the Department of Natural Resources and their partners. We wish to thank all who contributed field records, text, and photographs, as well as support throughout its development.