Keeping Reptiles Newsletter
 Issue 15   
November, 2006
Collared Lizards Care Sheet
In this Issue


collared lizard
Collared Lizard, Zion National Park, Utah
Click to enlarge

Collared lizards of the genus Crotaphytus are among the most colorful lizards in North America. They get their name from the pair of black collars that circle the back of the neck. All of the genus Crotaphytus have these collars, though they vary in size and shape between the different species. Collared lizards are characterized by a large head, skinny neck, and a large body with a long skinny tail.

Adult Collared lizards typically range from 10 to 13 inches [25-33 cm] long. However, some individuals can reach 15 inches [38 cm]. The Eastern Collared lizard (C. collaris) is the one most common in captivity.

Collared lizards are found in rocky arid to semi-arid terrains, and are usually seen perched on a boulder, sunning themselves. They range from the deserts of Southern California north through Nevada and Utah and into Idaho, east through Kansas and southern Missouri and into Arkansas, and south well into Mexico


Collared lizards make excellent captives as long as their basic requirements are met. These lizards are very active and you can not give them enough room.


Adult lizards should be kept in at least a forty gallon aquarium.

These lizards are very territorial, no more than one male and two females should be kept together. Sand makes an excellent substrate. Collared lizards are saxicolous so rocks piles make natural basking sites.

If more than one lizard is to be caged together, make several basking sites. Be careful that the rocks can not come down on the lizards when they dig around them. Like most lizards, collared lizards require ultraviolet light.


Use a full-spectrum fluorescent bulb along with a incandescent bulb above the basking site. For healthy and colorful lizards, natural sunlight is a must.


Collared lizards like it hot. Their basking site should be between 100 and 105 degrees. The rest of their cage should be in the high 80's to 90's during the day.

A hide box at the cool end, which should remain at room temperature (70-75°F, or 21-24°C), should also be provided.


Collared lizards eat a lot and can be fed daily. Crickets are the most convenient food source available. It is best to feed them a variety of insects such as grasshoppers, Jumbo mealworms (Zoophoba), and moths.. It is always fun to watch them catch flying insects in midair. Some individuals will also eat lizards and pinkies.

Vitamins and calcium supplement should be added to food items on a regular basis.

Some individuals will drink from a water bowl, but most will only drink from water droplets or lap water from a syringe or eye-dropper. Mist the rocks and glass in their enclosure to stimulate drinking every few days. Water should be offered at least twice a week. Collared lizards usually won't recognize water offered in a dish.


Regular handling of your lizard will ensure they are used to being handled and will likely to remain calm and less stressed by handling.


Captive bred lizards do excellent as captives. Wild caught lizards don't always do as well. Many die from the stress of being taken from their natural environment. They are usually loaded ticks, chiggers, nematodes, and other parasites. Wild caught lizards will often rub their nose raw trying to escape. If the lizard doesn't adapt, it will go off feed until it is too weak to move. It will lose weight and wither away over a period of several weeks. Once this has started, it is almost impossible to turn them around.


Collared lizards are fairly easy to breed in captivity. They must hibernate at least a month and can be left in this state for several months. Two weeks before hibernation, stop feeding them so their stomachs will be empty. Turn off the heat sources and slowly cool the lizards down to between 40 to 55 degrees. If your room doesn't stay cool enough to induce hibernation, you can hibernate them in the refrigerator. Use a thermometer to regulate the temperature. Because the refrigerator will dehydrate the lizards, put them in plastic shoe boxes with damp sand as a substrate. Keep a small bowl of water in with them. Check them every few days and mist the sand down as it dries.

After hibernation, slowly warm the lizards up by keeping them at room temperature for a day or so, then you can turn up the heat. Start feeding the lizards insects dusted with calcium. The females will especially need it for strong egg development. Within a few weeks the female lizards will develop their breeding coloration.

After the lizards have mated, the female will start to show bulges near its abdomen. At this time, keep a moist spot in the cage and the female will usually lay the eggs in this spot. When she is ready to lay the eggs, she will begin digging. Check her daily, because she will appear skinny after she has deposited the eggs. The eggs must be removed from the cage. Keep them right side up and place them in an incubator. An incubator can be made from a plastic shoe box with a hole, the size of a quarter, cut in the top for air circulation. Fill the shoe box with about three inches of vermiculite and keep the vermiculite moist but not wet. Put the shoe box in a place were the temperature wont drop below the high 70's and won't rise above the low 90's. Temperature fluctuations will insure that the hatchlings will be of both sexes.

As long as the eggs continue to grow they should be fine, even if they turn an off white to brown. In about 40 to 60 days the eggs should be ready to hatch. It take several hours to more than a day for the hatchling to break free from their eggs. Their umbilical cords will remain attached for several days. Hatchling lizards need natural sunlight in order to develop properly. Without it, they will likely perish. They can be fed week old crickets, but they will eat anything they can get their mouths around. Collared lizards grow very fast and within a matter of weeks they can be fed adult crickets.


As when handling any reptile, wash your hands afterwards.

Cold Blooded News, Vol.25, No.10, October 1998
The Genus Crotaphytus By William Wells

Turn Turtle – before it’s too late

By Mark Chapple

The film, Blade Runner, depicts a hot, dark, grimy, contaminated world, devoid of animal life. Cities are massive and crowded. What animals there are, are artificial, robotic replicas. It’s a terrifying nightmare of a future world.

It begins with a dialogue between Leon and Mr. Holden, a manager for a large company where Leon works. Mr. Holden is testing Leon to determine if he is a replicant, an artificial life form.

“Let me ask you a few questions, Leon. You’re in a desert, walking along the sand when all…”
“Is this the test now?”
“You’re in a desert, walking along the sand when all of a sudden you…”
“What one?”
“What desert?”
“Doesn’t make any difference what desert, it’s completely hypothetical, but…”
“But how come I be there?”
“Maybe you’re fed up, your maybe you want to be by yourself, who knows....? You look down and you see a tortoise, Leon, it’s crawling towards you…”
“Tortoise? What’s that?”
“You know what a turtle is?”
“Same thing”
“Never seen a turtle, but I understand what you mean.”
“You reach down and you flip the tortoise on its back, Leon”
“Do you make up these questions, Mr. Holden, or they write ‘em down for you?”
“The tortoise lay on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun, beating its legs, trying to turn itself over but it can’t, not without your help. But you’re not helping.”
“Wha’dya mean I’m not helping?”
“I mean you’re not helping. Why is that Leon?”

Why is that?

Driving along recently I saw a snake-necked tortoise, upside down, in the middle of the road. Cars continued driving by. I too, drove over the top, being careful to avoid it, then turned my car around and went back to rescue it.

As I pulled up, another driver pulled over on the other side. I decided to let him get it, as my car was on the furthest side of the road, facing the other direction and I had to cross another lane of traffic, which was a little busier. Even so, he had to wait quite a while before a break in the traffic allowed him to get out and collect the fear stricken turtle.

He inspected the turtle and told me it was OK. We had to shout over the noise of the traffic.

Where I work there is a large dam, surrounded by native bush, with water year round; an ideal place for a turtle to live, so I offered to take the turtle. My inspection also showed no obvious signs of injury. It popped its legs out and tried to push my hand away and felt quite strong. It clearly wanted to get away from this nightmare. I put it in the car and went back to work to put it in the dam.

Driving back, it occurred to me that I had rescued a turtle on another occasion, from another road, as well as a number of blue tongue skinks, the odd echidna and occasional koala – the later two are more a matter of stopping yourself and making sure traffic is aware and letting them complete their crossing in safety.

I often wonder how many other people do such things. Why do so many people appear detached and indifferent to the natural world around them? People continuously passed this helpless turtle, clearly in trouble, totally unable to change its circumstances and in obvious imminent danger. They just kept driving, going to the next important place in such a hurry with no concern about the events around them.

How do we change attitudes, increase awareness and connectedness and engagement with the natural world? We seem to live our lives at such a hectic pace, all the while neglecting to notice and appreciate those things that make life so precious. It seems that society has almost insulated itself from nature. Consumerism and individualism driving detached hedonistic lifestyles.

As the debate about climate change and global warming due to increased CO2 in the atmosphere from vehicle emissions and fossil fuel power stations rages, I remember back to when this I was first made aware of this issue. The science behind global warming has now been known for a over 30 years and as the evidence continues to mount, becoming more compelling as each year passes and more and more data is gathered, our political leaders behave like Nero, fiddling as Rome burns.

Our natural environment is in peril. Animals are struggling to survive as increasingly hostile conditions invade or reduce their habitats and we do little to change this. Frogs, the environmental barometers, are some of the first to be affected and the rate of their extinction is frightening. Animals such as Boyd’s Forest Dragon are losing their range at a staggering rate and are particularly sensitive to climate change as their body temperature stays within a few degrees of the ambient temperature. Polar bear populations have dropped 17% in the last ten years; Artic Foxes are starting to compete with Red Foxes as the warmer temperatures lure these competitors into their habitat. Our fish stocks are declining as over-fishing continues almost unabated. The list goes on.

We are at a critical junction in our history with a decreasing window of opportunity to do whatever we can to change our behavior, even in the smallest way. Each of us has a responsibility to change what we do and how we do it on a daily basis. It’s the little things that count. Like turning off light you don’t need, walking to the shop, putting on a pullover instead of the heating, or saving the odd turtle.

In the News...
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