Western Fence Lizards @Puget Sound

Western Fence Lizards (Sceloporus occidentalis) are super abundant and common lizards throughout their range in the Western USA. They are found from sea level to high elevations in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and they are even adapted to live in urban environments. Here in Western Washington, the story is quite different. They seem to be really picky about where they will live , and you can mostly only find them at pristine coastline habitats around the Puget Sound and Hood Canal that are south-facing where they can get a lot of sun exposure. They probably had a much broader distribution in the past, but development of coastlines seems to have wiped out a lot of suitable habitat. The populations that we find today are highly fragmented and scattered around the tiny bits of beaches that are still available. There are very few historical records for these lizards in museum collections from this region, but a couple of important specimens are from places that are completely urbanized with no sign of lizards today (like downtown Seattle). This suggests that more habitats used to be available, even though they are gone today.

A Western Fence Lizard enjoying a sunny day on the beach in the Puget Sound, Ketron Island.