Eastern Collared Lizard

Image of an eastern collared lizard
Species of Conservation Concern
Scientific Name
Crotaphytus collaris
Crotaphytidae (collared lizards) in the order Squamata (lizards and snakes)

A colorful, long-tailed lizard with a large head. Males are most colorful, especially during breeding season. Ground color is tan, yellow, green, or bluish green. There are usually some small light spots on the upper body and limbs and dark bands across the top. Males and females both have two dark brown or black irregular lines across the neck (the “collar”). Females are yellowish tan or light brown with faint light spots. Females heavy with eggs have red spots or bars on their sides and neck.

Total length: 8–14 inches.
Where To Find
Eastern-Collared Lizard Distribution Map
Throughout most of the Ozarks and in glades of the St. Francois Mountains. Also in Boone and Callaway counties.
In Missouri these lizards live among rocks on dry, open, south-or southwest-facing limestone, sandstone, and granite glades. They overwinter in burrows 8–12 inches under large rocks. When habitats are marginal (shadier or cooler than optimal), reproduction decreases, and this species has declined due to loss of glade habitat, where trees are permitted to overgrow those desert-like areas. Wildlife managers and foresters are working to improve glade habitats in the Missouri Ozarks.
Collared lizards eat a variety of insects such as grasshoppers, beetles, and moths. They also eat spiders, small snakes, and other lizards.
Populations have shown an overall decline due to loss of their Ozark glade habitat; a Species of Conservation Concern.
Life Cycle
Like all lizards in our state, this species is active by day, especially when the weather is sunny and warm (73–93°F). They are active mainly from April to September. Courtship and mating occur in May–June, and the territorial males are often brightly colored at this time. Eggs are creamy white and leathery, and 2–21 are laid in a burrow under a large rock. They hatch 2–3 months later. Young lizards are sometimes still active into October.
These nifty lizards always generate interest because they are so colorful. Because they are an indicator species, when their numbers decline, we know that something is wrong with their habitat. In this case, it is human suppression of fires that allowed trees to overgrow their sunshiny glades.
This species preys upon a variety of insects, spiders, and other small creatures, keeping their populations in check. These lizards are in turn preyed upon by snakes, hawks, and in southwestern Missouri, roadrunners.
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About Reptiles and Amphibians in Missouri
Missouri’s herptiles comprise 43 amphibians and 75 reptiles. Amphibians, including salamanders, toads, and frogs, are vertebrate animals that spend at least part of their life cycle in water. They usually have moist skin, lack scales or claws, and are ectothermal (cold-blooded), so they do not produce their own body heat the way birds and mammals do. Reptiles, including turtles, lizards, and snakes, are also vertebrates, and most are ectothermal, but unlike amphibians, reptiles have dry skin with scales, the ones with legs have claws, and they do not have to live part of their lives in water.