General Description: The Sagebrush Lizard is a small lizard ranging 4–7 inches (12.7–15.2 cm) in total length, with their tail being over half of the total length. The background color is light brown or light gray and individuals have a light gray dorsal stripe. A pale cream or whitish dorsolateral stripe runs from the neck to the base of the tail and is typically bordered by a rust colored stripe with faint black or white markings. Scales on the Sagebrush Lizard are small, keeled, and overlapping, giving it a rough, spiny appearance and texture. The Sagebrush Lizard is similar in appearance to the Prairie Lizard but can be differentiated by the presence of small, non-keeled, non-overlapping scales on the thigh, posterior to the femoral pores (Prairie Lizards have keeled, overlapping scales). Males are easily differentiated from females by having two bright blue patches on their underside and throat that females lack. Both males and females will have a row of femoral pores on the underside of each thigh that are enlarged in adult males. Juveniles are similar in appearance to adults, but juvenile males lack these blue patches which they get as they reach sexual maturity.
Behavior: The Sagebrush Lizard is diurnal and generally active during the day basking in the sun on rocks, wood piles, and fence posts. Males are territorial and will display bright blue patches on their undersides, head bob, and do push-ups to ward off other males. Sagebrush Lizards are insectivores, feeding on most invertebrates and arthropods. These lizards are extremely fast and when startled will often seek refuge in nearby vegetation or crevices. Like skinks, the Sagebrush Lizard can drop its tail in order to escape predators that can be regenerated later.
Reproduction: Mating typically takes place in May as temperatures begin to warm. Males will court females by bobbing their heads and extending up on their limbs to show off bright blue patches on their undersides. Females can lay 2–10 eggs potentially up to twice each season. Females demonstrate no parental care unlike that observed in Many-lined Skinks and Prairie Skinks.
Habitat: This species can be found in dry, rocky areas with sparse vegetation and woody debris and branches. Generally, this species is considered terrestrial, though they are proficient climbers and are frequently found on rock outcrops or on other vertical surfaces.
Species Range: This species occurs throughout much of the western United States and Rocky Mountains, from Washington to southern California, east through Idaho and Nevada to parts of New Mexico, Colorado, and Nebraska.
South Dakota Range: This distribution of the Sagebrush Lizard is poorly known in South Dakota. The only voucher specimens of this species are from the southern Black Hills in western South Dakota.
South Dakota Status: This species is listed on the South Dakota Natural Heritage Program. Any sightings of this species should be reported to South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (report observation).
Account written by Drew R. Davis and Ryan D. Comer