Wildlife of the Week: The Eastern Fence Lizard

Today’s Wildlife of the Week, the Eastern Fence Lizard (Sceloporus undulatus), might be living in your
backyard but you’d probably never notice, because this reptile is
a bit of a shrinking violet. Its
variegated brown and black scales make it almost impossible to spot in its
favorite arboreal habitat. At four to
seven inches long, the lizard likes to lie low in forests, fields, pastures,
and on cliffs, munching insects and basking in the sun. Can you find the fence lizard in this picture (from Davidson College’s www.herpsofnc.org)?

When approached by humans, sceloporus undulatus will dash
for the nearest tree and run around to the far side of the trunk. Catching a fence lizard in the wild is a
two-person job: one person has to scare the lizard around to the back of a tree
while the other waits to snag it. Despite all this modesty, the lizard does have a secret wild side. During mating season, the male fence lizard
develops bright blue patches on its neck and belly and struts his stuff for the
females, striking revealing poses that show off his markings. Rejection can be harsh: if the female isn’t
impressed, she arches her back and hops away to another suitor. Too many experiences like that, and anyone
would start hiding behind trees.

Luckily, this shy little reptile is about to get its fifteen
minutes of fame and then some. Front and center on the
cover of John H. Rappole’s forthcoming book, Wildlife of the Mid-Atlantic, is a
very flattering life-sized portrait of our friend sceloporus undulatus. Maybe a taste of the spotlight will be enough
to lure the lizard out of its wallflower ways.