Eastern Fence Lizard
Sceloporus undulatus

Common Name:

Eastern Fence Lizard

Scientific Name:

Sceloporus undulatus



Sceloporus is derived from the Greek word scelos meaning "leg" and the Latin word porus meaning "hole", referring to the pronounced femoral pores found in this group of lizards.


undulatus is from the Latin words undulatus meaning "wave" the tus suffix means "pertaining to", in reference to the dark wavy lines on the dorsum.


Average Length:

4 - 7.2 in. (10 - 18.4 cm)

Virginia Record Length:

7.5 in. (19 cm)

Record length:

7.5 in. (19 cm)

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: This is a rough-scaled lizard that has been known to reach a maximum snout-vent length (SVL) and total length of 86 mm (3.4 in.) and 184 mm (7.2 in.), respectively. The known maximum SVL and total length in Virginia are 84mm (3.3in.) and 190 mm (7.5 in.), respectively. Heavily keeled, pointed, dull body scales overlap each other. Around the midbody, scale rows number 26-48. Supralabials are 5/5 or sometimes in other combinations of 4-6, and infralabials are 6/6 or sometimes in other combinations of 5-7. There are 21-36 femoral pores. Colors on the dorsum of the head, body, and tail are brown to gray; this region has undulating crossbands. Sides are light gray, brown, or black and include partial crossbands or black flecks. Alternate light- and dark-brown rings or bands are present along the tail. The forelegs and lower hind legs have narrow crossbands, and the rear of each thigh has 1 or 2 distinct horizontal lines. This lizard has a parietal eye. Radiating behind each eye is a thin black streak. The region surrounding the femoral pores may be yellowish in color. The chin, throat, and venter are white or cream *10760*.

SEXUAL DIMORPHISM: Males are smaller than females. However, tail length in in females is smaller than in males when it is proportionately compared to body length. Dorsally, the males are brown to black with indistinct crossbars. Elongated patches of hyacinth or bluish green appear on the venter of the males. These patches are bordered by black, and large bluish to black patches appear on the throat. The dorsum of the female is gray with distinct crossbars. There are no bluish patches on the female's venter; at best there may be a tinge of blue on the female's throat *10760*. Juveniles: They have the same color patterns as adults, except crossbars are thin and may be indistinct. Some young have a pair of dorsolateral light lines. The venter and chin of juveniles are white to bluish *10760*.

REPRODUCTION: Females lay 6-10 cream-colored eggs in late spring, in rotten logs, sawdust piles, etc. They hatch by mid-summer with possible second clutch *2863*. Mating starts in mid-April. Eggs where found in early June and hatching occurs from early August to early September *10760,11624*.

BEHAVIOR: They hibernate until March *2863*. Juveniles enter hibernation later than adults and emerge earlier than adults. Between March and November, these diurnal lizards can be commonly found. A seemingly valuable requirement is a basking site with ample sunlight. From March to September, basking fence lizards had body temperatures of 29-38.2 degrees Celsius. In April, lizards found under cover boards had body temperatures of 14.9-22 degrees Celsius. When basking, adult males of a York County site were usually at higher perch heights than the adult females. Habitats for this species in Virginia include pine woods, mixed hardwood and pine forests, mixed deciduous forests, tree stands in old fields, and urban or suburban woodlots. Other habitats include hedgerows, areas on or around barns and houses, and rock piles. The head bob and push ups were characteristic display behaviors. The displays were usually done when the male was reaching for a new perch or encountered another male or female, these displays where usually done for 4-5 seconds with a gorged throat, extended dewlap, lateral compression of the body, and a stiff four legged stance being associated with the displays. This behavior is called jiggling. Behaviors are innate since hatchlings have these display patterns *10760*. This species preys upon a large amount and wide variety of insects and other small invertebrates. Some prey items that have been found include: several types of beetles, short- and long-horned grasshoppers, stink bugs, ants, blow flies, moths, roaches, spiders, millipedes, and snails. Known to prey on northern fence lizards are black racers, eastern ratsnakes, mole kingsnakes, copperheads, small dogs, and domestic cats *10760*.

References for Life History

  • 2863 - Martof, B.S., 1956, Amphibans and reptiles of Georgia: a guide, Univ. Georgia Press, Athens
  • 10760 - Mitchell, J. C., 1994, The Reptiles of Virginia, 352 pgs., Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC
  • 11624 - Mitchell, J. C., 2001, Personal Communication, Expert review for GAP Analysis Project, Mitchell Ecological Research LLC


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Virginia is home to 28 species of frogs and toads.


We have a large diversity of salamanders consisting of 56 different species and subspecies.


Virginia is home to 9 native lizard species and two introduced species, the Mediterranean Gecko and the Italian Wall Lizard.


The Commonwealth is home to 34 species and subspecies of snake. Only 3 species are venomous.


Virginia has 25 species and subspecies of turtle. Five of these species are sea turtle.