There are several types of lizards found in Oregon. The most well-known is the western skink with its distinctive blue tail, but there are other lizards calling the varied topography of Oregon home. Depending on where you decide to take your latest hike, you may run across some of these amazing reptiles. Read on to learn more about some of the fascinating lizards that call Oregon home so you know what to watch for on your next trek outdoors.

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The 4 Lizards Found in Oregon

1. Western Skink

Juvenile Western Skink Plestiodon skiltonianus
Juvenile Western Skink Plestiodon skiltonianus (Image Credit: Connor Long, via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)
Species:Eumeces skiltonianus
Longevity:10 years
Good to own as a pet?:Yes
Legal to own?:Yes
Adult size:4 – 8.25 inches

Western skinks are one of the most common lizards in Oregon. The skink has a brown stripe of color running down its back. Black coloring edges the brown with a beige to white stripe running from the nose down to the tail. A distinctive feature of the skink is its tail. When this lizard is a juvenile, its tail is bright blue, which then turns to gray when it reaches adulthood. The skink is a lizard that can perform autonomy, which means that it can deliberately cast (release) its tail. The cast tail then wriggles around, distracting the predator while the lizard escapes. The tail eventually grows back, but it is often misshapen and a darker color.

The western skink can be found in juniper-sage woodland, pine forests, grasslands, and broken chaparral. It prefers a moist nesting chamber. It eats a variety of invertebrates, including moths, beetles, flies, grasshoppers, spiders, and earthworms.

2. Pygmy Short-Horned Lizard

Pygmy Short-Horned Lizard
Image Credit: Zachary Tilford, Pexels
Species:Phrynosoma douglasii
Longevity:5 years
Good to own as a pet?:No
Legal to own?:Unknown
Adult size:1.25 – 2.5 inches

The pygmy short-horned lizard is a small, squat lizard with a flat body and a crown of short spines on its head. They have a snub nose and short legs. The trunk of the lizard has a row of pointed scales, but the belly scales of this lizard are smooth. Their coloring is gray, reddish-brown, or yellow, and there are rows of dark spots on its back, which help it blend into its habitats.

The pygmy short-horned lizard lives in juniper woodlands, coniferous forests, and sagebrush deserts, typically within areas that have sandy or rocky soil. This lizard eats ants, caterpillars, beetles, and spiders. The pygmy short-horned lizard is considered at risk and is on the Oregon list of protected wildlife.

3. Northern Alligator Lizard

Northern alligator lizard
Northern alligator lizard (Image Credit: Meggar at the English-language Wikipedia, via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0)
Species:Elagaria coerulea
Longevity:10 years
Good to own as a pet?:Yes
Legal to own?:Yes
Adult size:10 inches

The northern alligator lizard is named aptly when one looks at the distinctive coloring of this lizard. Their back is brown and has many dark bands while their stomachs are gray, which gives them the appearance of being little alligators. Their scales are also reinforced with bone like the alligator. The northern alligator lizard is not a large lizard with a body roughly four inches long and a tail that adds about six inches to its length.

Northern alligator lizards live in the brush, grasses, or rocky opening in coniferous forests. It prefers humid areas and is the only lizard found in the coastal woods of northern Oregon. The northern alligator lizard eats invertebrates, such as ticks, millipedes, snails, and termites. It will sometimes eat small mammals, lizards, and birds.

4. Southern Alligator Lizard

Southern Alligator Lizard
Southern Alligator Lizard (Image Credit: Connor Long, via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)
Species:Elgaria multicarinata
Longevity:15 years
Good to own as a pet?:Yes
Legal to own?:Yes
Adult size:12 inches

Southern alligator lizards are gray, green, brown, or yellowish and have red blotches on their back. It has dark crossbands with adjacent white spots. It has a thick body and small legs. Its tail can grow to be almost twice the length of its body. The southern alligator lizard is similar to the northern alligator lizard because it also has scales that are reinforced by bone. It has smaller scales on its side, separating the large scales on the stomach and back, which creates a fold to carry its eggs or food.

Southern alligators are often found near human populations, usually in yards and garages.  They also like to live in grassland areas, woodlands, and canyon bottoms. It feeds on small invertebrates, such as scorpions, slugs, grasshoppers, and spiders. It may also feed on other lizards, small mammals, and bird eggs. A wild southern alligator lizard does not like to be handled and may bite if you try to pick it up. They are legal to own as a pet in Oregon.



The pygmy short-horned lizard, the western skink, and the alligator lizards are some of the most common lizards in Oregon and you have likely walked by them without noticing.  Now that you know more about these fascinating lizards, you can look out for them on your next hike to observe them in their natural environments.  If you’re looking to bring one home as a pet, make sure to check out the conservation laws so you only adopt or purchase lizards that are legal to own in Oregon.

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Featured Image Credit: David A Litman, Shutterstock