2 Types of Alligator Lizards in Oregon! (ID Guide)

In this article, readers will learn about the two types of Alligator Lizards that can be found in Oregon. Known for their resemblance to shrunken-down alligators, these small yet agile lizards are not easy to spot in the wild. The first type, the Southern Alligator Lizard, can be found in open grasslands and pine forests and has a dangerous favorite food: the Black Widow Spider. On the other hand, the Northern Alligator Lizard is more varied in appearance and can be distinguished by the location it is found in. Both types of Alligator Lizards thrive in woodland and forested areas and play important roles in their ecosystems. So, which of these fascinating lizards have you encountered in Oregon?

1. Southern Alligator Lizard

The Southern Alligator Lizard, scientifically known as Elgaria multicarinata, is a fascinating reptile found in Oregon. It has several identifying characteristics that make it stand out. These lizards are relatively small, ranging from 2.75 to 7 inches in length, excluding their tails. They have a brown, gray, or reddish coloring with dark bands and sometimes white spots. Their eyes are a pale yellow color. One striking feature of the Southern Alligator Lizard is its long tail, which is often twice the length of its body.

When it comes to habitat, the Southern Alligator Lizard primarily inhabits open grasslands and pine forests. Although they may occasionally venture into the water to escape predators, they are primarily terrestrial creatures. Interestingly, these lizards can also be found around human settlements, such as houses, especially if they live within the lizard’s range. Southern Alligator Lizards have been known to frequent woodpiles and trash heaps.

One interesting fact about Southern Alligator Lizards in Oregon is their favorite food – the Black Widow Spider. These spiders are highly venomous and have few natural predators. However, Southern Alligator Lizards feed on them frequently. This behavior helps control the population of Black Widow Spiders in the area.

The Southern Alligator Lizard has three subspecies that can be found in Oregon:

  1. California Alligator Lizard (E.m. multicarinata): This subspecies has red blotches on its back, adding to its distinct appearance.

  2. San Diego Alligator Lizard (E.m. webbii): Larger in size compared to the others, this subspecies has scales with a more prominent ridge.

  3. Oregon Alligator Lizard (E.m. scincicauda): This subspecies stands out with its smooth scales and lacks mottling on the head.

2. Northern Alligator Lizard

The Northern Alligator Lizard, scientifically known as Elgaria coerulea, is another intriguing species found in Oregon. These lizards have a size range of 2.75 to 5.5 inches in length, excluding their tails. The Northern Alligator Lizard exhibits a wide variety of colors, including gray, olive, brown, rust-red, and even blue. Dark crossbands are also commonly observed, and some individuals may have a middle stripe.

Among the two types of Alligator Lizards in Oregon, the Northern Alligator Lizard is the most visually diverse. It consists of four distinct subspecies, each with unique characteristics and habitats. Identifying the subspecies can be done based on their location in Oregon.

The four subspecies of Northern Alligator Lizards in Oregon are:

  1. San Francisco Alligator Lizard (E.c. coerulea): This subspecies has large, dark blotches on its back that can resemble crossbands.

  2. Shasta Alligator Lizard (E.c. shastensis): Known for its variability in color, the Shasta Alligator Lizard can exhibit a wide range of colors other than brown and gray.

  3. Northwestern Alligator Lizard (E.c. principis): Smaller in size compared to other subspecies, the Northwestern Alligator Lizard has a broad, tan stripe on its back.

  4. Sierra Alligator Lizard (E.c. palmeri): The only visual difference between this subspecies and the others is the number of scale rows on the back. Location is the key factor for identifying Sierra Alligator Lizards.

2 Types of Alligator Lizards in Oregon! (ID Guide)

Field Guide for Identifying Alligator Lizards

For those who are interested in learning more about Alligator Lizards in Oregon or want to identify them in the field, there is a helpful resource available. The Peterson Field Guides to Reptiles and Amphibians offer comprehensive information and illustrations that can assist in identifying these fascinating reptiles. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced enthusiast, this field guide is a valuable tool to enhance your knowledge and understanding of Alligator Lizards.


Alligator Lizards in Oregon, both Southern and Northern, are captivating creatures with unique characteristics and habits. Their appearance may resemble that of alligators but on a much smaller scale. While the Southern Alligator Lizard prefers open grasslands and pine forests, the Northern Alligator Lizard thrives in woodland and forested areas. Both species have different subspecies that can be identified based on various physical traits and geographic locations within Oregon.

Whether you encounter a Southern or Northern Alligator Lizard during your explorations in Oregon, take a moment to appreciate the beauty of these remarkable reptiles. Remember to respect their natural habitat and observe them from a safe distance. With the help of field guides and resources, you can deepen your knowledge and appreciation for Alligator Lizards and the diverse wildlife they represent.

2 Types of Alligator Lizards in Oregon! (ID Guide)

Additional Resources

If you would like to learn more about Alligator Lizards or explore other wildlife in Oregon, here are some additional resources to consider:

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2 Types of Alligator Lizards in Oregon! (ID Guide)

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