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The Best Way to Catch a Blue-Belly Lizard (or Western Fence Lizard)


Paul has caught countless blue-bellied lizards in his time and shares his pro tips here.

The Best Way to Catch a Blue-Belly Lizard

The Western fence lizard, commonly known as the blue-belly, can be found across the Western United States. Typically, they are spotted sunning themselves on a rock or log during the day. Their scales make them a little rough to handle, but they are fairly docile and a lot of fun to catch.

There are multiple techniques I've used over the years to catch them—from just being quick with my hands to baited small snares—but by far, the best technique is to make a lasso out of grass and to slip it over the lizard's head. This technique works so well, because blue-belly lizards can only run forward, so there is only one way for them to go which will tighten the noose.

How to Make a Lizard-Catching Lasso

  1. Select a long piece of grass like a foxtail that is at least three feet long and is green enough that the flimsy thin end can be tied to make a lasso without breaking.
  2. Pull the grass out of the ground from near the roots as possible.
  3. Remove all the small branches so that you're left with a single long stem of grass.
  4. Next, take the tip and loop it back about one and a half inches and tie a half knot around the stem. The loop if pulled will tighten.

How to Catch a Lizard With a Lasso

  1. To be successful at catching blue-belly lizards, you have to stalk them very slowly.
  2. Approach them from behind.
  3. Make sure your shadow never covers the lizard. Most people that aren't successful at catching lizards tend to move quickly and forget to think about their shadow. As soon as the shadow hits the lizard, the lizard darts off for cover.
  4. Once your lasso can reach the lizard, slowly bounce it up and down. If the lizard's head starts bobbing, there is a good chance it will remain still for you to slip the loop over its head.
  5. A long piece of grass can be a bit tricky to hold still, but with a little practice, you will get the hang of it.
  6. When the loop is over the lizard's head, gently pull up on it. You need to be quick enough to pull it tight before the lizard can run through, but not so quick that you hurt the lizard.

How to Remove the Lasso from the Lizard

  1. Once the catch is in your hands, gently put the lizard on its back and rub its belly. This will mesmerize and calm the lizard down.
  2. Once it's calm, push the loop open and slide it off its head.
  3. If the lasso becomes too tight, just be patient when opening it up. Blue-belly lizards have little gill-like features on the side of their necks that can catch the grass. Just be really careful to open the loop gently.
  4. Sometimes, the lizard will thrash around when you're trying to remove the trap from its head.
  5. Once the loop is off, you don't want to handle the lizards too much. I usually flip them over and give them a tummy rub to see how long they will sleep, then I put them on my shoulder and let them stay there until they run a way.

What if the lizard loses its tail?

It's not uncommon for blue-belly lizards to lose their tails. This is a natural defense mechanism. Don't worry too much if this happens, the tails will grow back, but it can make the lizard appear as if it's badly hurt. Just remain calm if this happens and continue to work on removing the loop from its head.

Happy blue-belly hunting!

Lizard lord on August 31, 2020:

It jump into my mouth and I swallowed it

Emily on July 10, 2020:

How can I build a bule belly lizards trap

E man on July 01, 2020:

I do not recemend keeping these lizards as pets when catching them in such places as your back yard. I have before and the where a great show while eating, but essentially the wild ones are for just catch and release. you could also try finding a bug feed it to the lizards and develping trust.

Kaylyn on June 14, 2020:

These lizards will bite if they feel harmed and will try to jump. The ones with a lot of blue are the females

Bob on May 26, 2020:

I used to catch these guys all the time at my school on the California coast when I was in 2nd/3rd grade. Now they are everywhere around my house. I caught one just because he'd been sleeping under a towel on my brick walkway while it was raining. So when it stopped raining and I saw other lizards out, I decided to pull him out and warm him up in my hand until he decided to run off.

I like lizards on May 25, 2020:

Do the lizards play dead?

roblox gal on May 17, 2020:

i found one on my porch area, i was so scared to even touch it but after reading these articles, i now know that they are not bad

kyuho jung on October 10, 2019:

i have a bunch of lizards pet :3

Malrw on July 12, 2019:

i see blue belly lizards more than daily outside my backyard they do not bite, though alligator lizards i see alot and have caught many, alligator lizards are alot more relaxed. Example: when you go to close to a blue belly lizard, they run away fast. when you come close to a alligator lizard they calmly walk away. alligator lizards are easier to catch.

Paul Edmondson (author) from Burlingame, CA on June 18, 2017:

I hold them all the time. While they may act like they are going to bite, I've never been hurt. Hold them gently, roll it over on its back and lightly rub its belly. It will sleep:)

Mia on June 17, 2017:

I just caught a blue bellied lizard it's in a plastic container with holes on the top I want to hold him/her but I am worried if it will bite or jump I was wondering if someone can tell me if it is safe to hold him/her

Fawntia Fowler from Portland on March 25, 2016:

I don't think I've ever seen a lizard like this before, but the blue color on the belly is so unusual! I've heard that blue is not very common in nature.

lizard lover on February 27, 2015:

what worked most successfully for me was first, to take a long thin stick ,second then get dental floss and cut off about a foot of floss then make a lasso at one end of then string then attach the other side of the string to the end of the stick. i have caught countless lizards using this method and have never hurt or damaged any of my lizards.

Jennifer Arnett from California on December 01, 2014:

What a fun idea! I used to catch them by hand by sneaking up on them. I'd put them in the same cage as my anoles and they got along great. Blue bellies are really easy to tame and will sit on your shirt for hours. Now I don't have to use the pouncing method.

David Sproull from Toronto on May 15, 2013:

@Paul: as long as you know I was trying to be helpful and not critical for it's own sake. Stick with it, you'll get this hubbing thing figured out in no time! ;-)

Paul Edmondson (author) from Burlingame, CA on May 14, 2013:

@DDS thanks for the grammar tip. Some day we will have a feature that let's other Hubbers fix things up like that. Thanks again!

Peg Cole from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on May 14, 2013:

Fascinating. We did this years ago in Key West with the center stalk of a palm frond leaf. There were loads of lizards on the island. Although I never saw the western Blue Belly ones, of course. Lizards always reminded me of tiny dinosaurs. Never thought to rub their bellies but we did keep them on sewing thread with a safety pin attached to our shirts. Ah, you've reminded me of the old tomboy days.

David Sproull from Toronto on May 14, 2013:

Hi Paul, you might want to do a quick re-check on the spelling as you have 'tales' in for 'tails'

An honest mistake, but figured you'd want to fix it.

Nice article otherwise!


Hole in the Fence

And what a lover he is. I mean really. How precious is this? It is not just because I am his gam′e, well maybe it is and every grandma feels the same way but all I know is I am in love. My grand babies call me gammy. One day when Logan was just learning to read and write words he wrote me a little note and addressed it To GAME. He sounded it out and that’s what gammy sounded-out looks like. Of course it is. I’m GAME. I didn’t ever want to lose this spelling so I said, “Let’s just add a little apostrophe after the M and that makes it GAM’E forever. Now Kaia girl, Logan’s sister, always asks me what my favorite color is so she can write notes in blue crayon To GAM’E with an apostrophe after the M. They all go on my refrigerator, of course. Kaia’s 4. Logan’s 6 3/4 and I am in love. And that is not what this blog is about but I just had to share this little piece of heaven with you all. Back to the picture of Logan holding a baby lizard.

Logan was out in the garden doing his usual recon work and came across this baby fence lizard. Dad took a picture and sent it to me. Well, I had all kinds of questions. How old was it? Do lizards have live births or hatch from eggs? How long is gestation? How many ‘litters” do they have each year? And of course one thing ALWAYS leads to another so that is how we ended up on Lyme disease. You will understand how we got there. But first, lets start at the beginning. This is what we found out about the lizard and in particular the blue belly western fence lizard and to be exact Sceloporus occidentalis.

Food: Insects, spiders, centipedes, and snails.

To assure species success the female will have two to three clutches per breeding season. She will expend more energy in the present season in case of her death before the next. Her first clutch will have the largest egg size and the final the smallest. To compensate for the difference in egg size the female will expend more energy on the care of the last clutch than the first, to maximize offspring survival (Angilletta,2001). Once the eggs are laid they can range in size from six to fourteen millimeters, she buries them under shallow moderately moist soil (Angilletta,2001). If consistent with similar species of reptiles the female will bury and care for the eggs without assistance from the male. The eggs usually hatch after two months in late April to June or July. Clutch sizes can range from three to seventeen and appear to increase with higher latitudes larger females typically have more offspring (Schwenkmeyer,2001). After a couple of months the infants emerge at around twenty six millimeters in snout-vent length. Most of their growth will occur during their first year of life. Life expectancy is 4 years if they die of natural causes. High mortality rate due to predators and most only live to one year. If they lose their tail in a get away it can take from 3 months and up to 2 years for the tail to grow back. A new tail does not have the same markings as the original. The pattern is muted but still does the job of releasing in an emergency.

Source: http://bss.sfsu.edu/holzman/courses/Fall01%20projects/lizzard.htm

Plateau lizards (commonly called fence lizards) are quick little lizards that are usually found sunning themselves on logs or rocks. They will run up a tree to escape predators, and the color of their scales helps camouflage them. Fence lizards, as all reptiles, are cold-blooded, which means that they have no internal heat regulator as mammals do. Therefore, they will find warm places to sit in the sun, such as fence posts, trees, logs, and rocks. This helps keep their body temperature warm.

underside of Male

You will often see fence lizards in these places. When you catch a fence lizard, turn it over and look at its belly. If it has two metallic blue stripes, it is probably a male.

http://www.werc.usgs.gov/fieldguide/scoc.htm

If it has blue spots, it may be a female. Eeks, Where did that spider come from?

Fence lizards do bite if they feel irritated. However, their bite is usually no more than a pinch. If you do catch a fence lizard, be nice to it. Do not make it bite your ear or do other stupid things with it. It is always a good idea to let it go where you found it when you’re done holding it. They are territorial. Both the male and female establish their own territory with the male taking a little larger area than the female.
Source: www.benjaminbruce.com/herpetarium/fieldguide.pdf

It is thought that the presence of western fence lizards diminishes the danger of transmission of Lyme disease by ticks. The incidence of Lyme disease is lower in areas where the lizards occur, and it has been found that when ticks carrying Lyme disease feed on these lizards (which they commonly do, especially around their ears), the bacteria that cause the disease are killed.Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_fence_lizard

A must read on Lyme disease for every parent http://www.lymedisease.org/. This site was started by a woman who was misdiagnosed for over 10 years. It has been an unbelievably difficult time and her health was unnecessarily comprised because she was not properly diagnosed with Lyme disease. “The ticks that carry Lyme disease have been found in all but two counties in California. Infected ticks have been found in 42 of 58 counties. Studies have not been conducted in all areas.” There is a map of California showing the affected areas. This site is a labor of love by a group that is devoted and dedicated to the prevention of Lyme disease,preventing misdiagnoses, and proper treatment. There is information here that every school and doctor’s office should have on hand. It is astounding how misinformed and simply uninformed our medical community is on this subject. It is a must read. You will want to make copies and get the word out.

Nymph the size of a poppy seed

This picture is from the Lyme disease site.

It is a amazing isn’t it where a simple little question can lead you? I don’t know who said, “There really are no stupid questions only stupid answers.” Kids always ask the best questions. Logan asked me the other day, Gam’e what did you look like before you were old? I can’t remember what I said but I am sure it was something stupid.


Western Fence Lizards

Often called "blue bellied lizards" the Western Fence Lizard can be found scurrying about in less populated areas (e.g. South Campus). These guys are native to all of California except deserts. They like to sit on elevated objects (like fences) and sun themselves. They can vary their coloring from light brown to black according to their surroundings and have iridescent blue on their bellies and (on males) necks.

According to the California Academy of Sciences, Western Fence Lizards' blood contains a protein that kills the Lyme disease-causing bacterium. Apparently the bacteria (Borrelia) is carried in the guts of ticks and can be spread by biting all kinds of animals. But if an infected tick bites a Western Fence Lizard, the Borrelia is killed off completely, leaving the tick's future bites harmless. Pretty cool!

Like most lizards, they eat small insects. You have to be pretty damn quick if you want to catch one, but it is possible. If trying to obtain a free pet, beware. The tails DO come off. Also, its not recommended to keep wild animals as pets, as it is stressful for them to adjust their lifestyle and likely that they won't survive the transition. Most people advise to let them go where they were found rather than risking killing it by improper care. Capturing lizards and other wildlife without a permit is illegal, so don't do it in a way that causes problems or you will probably get caught. http://www.dfg.ca.gov/licensing/specialpermits/specialpermitsdescrip.html has more information on permits offered by the Department of Fish and Game, some of which apply to reptiles.

If you so desire to capture a Western Fence lizard, there are two methods. One involves using a fishing pole, with a loop of fishing line at the end and the other involves using your hands. With the fishing line method, you can construct the fishing line two ways, either to have a length of line extending from the tip, ending in a slipknot, or to have the end of the pole be a loop. The first method is highly recommended, as beginners tend to decapitate the poor lizards by pulling the line in the latter too hard. Now that you have a lizard catching pole, the goal is to first spot a lizard. They are most easily found sunning themselves on top of rocks in the morning, but in some places, like near Cache Creek, can be found easily throughout the day in sunny weather. You want to approach the lizard carefully, preferably slowly, and from behind. Then slowly loop the loop behind it's head, and simply lift, with the slipknot, or pull the loop close. Then put the lizard in a critter cage, or other ventilated container. Using your hands to catch a lizard requires a special set of circumstances. If you see a lizard on a tree, facing you, get close enough to wrap your arm around the tree, and stare intensely at the lizard. It'll pay attention to your head. Then quickly, and gently slap your arm around the tree and grab the lizard, gently, then place it into the critter cage. This is the method used in the biology of parasitism class to capture fence lizards for measuring of malaria in their blood.

Captain Tuttle is a Western Fence Lizard one of the few who happened to cope with the transition quite well, he even has his own DWiki page!

This little fellow was hanging on my screen door today. He is young, about half full-grown and quite docile. He has already lost a piece of his tail, probably to a neighborhood cat.—GrumpyoldGeek


Western Fence Lizard Care

Enclosure

An screen-covered aquarium can be a nice home for blue belly lizards. Opt for a 10-gallon aquarium, but if your pet is too large then go for 20-gallon one. Small lizards (2-2 ½”) can be placed in a 5-gallon tank. As all reptiles love to bask in sunlight, make sure to divide the enclosure into a warm area and cool area. You can place the tank under partial sunlight, as strong heat can dry out their home. The basking spot should be around 90 degrees F, the tank should be at moderate humidity, not extremely cold, nor extremely hot. You can always mist some water once or twice a day to maintain humidity. UVA and UVB rays are a must for these lizards, a 75-watt spotlight can provide these however, place the spotlight 3 to 4 inches away from the tank.

These lizards are fossorial by nature, meaning they love to dig and bury themselves while sleeping. For this purpose, you can fill the tank with substrate such as sand, unfertilized soil, dirt, or cypress mulch. It is mandatory to put twigs or branches inside the tank, as these species love to climb. Alternatively, you can put live plants to maintain the humidity in the enclosure.

These lizards are fossorial by nature, meaning they love to dig and bury themselves while sleeping. For this purpose, you can fill the tank with substrate such as sand, unfertilized soil, dirt, or cypress mulch. It is mandatory to put twigs or branches inside the tank, as these species love to climb. Alternatively, you can put live plants to maintain the humidity in the enclosure.

Maintenance

Clean the tank every two to three weeks to reduce smell and dirt. The cypress mulch should be replaced every week, also dead plants and leaves, if any, should be removed. Transfer your pet in another aquarium or any place safe while you clean their enclosure. Replace the water everyday as your blue belly may defecate in it, which can cause disease and infections. Also, make it a habit to mist the cage regularly, preferably twice a day.

Room Sharing

If you have more than one blue bellies, avoid housing two males together, as they are known to fiercely guard their territory, which may lead to fights and injuries. So, place male lizards separately, in another enclosure. Depending on the size of the tank, you can place 2 female lizards, with one male. A 20-gallon tank can easily support them, there are obvious chances that they will breed in captivity, so make sure there is ample space in the enclosure for the female to lay eggs.

A western fence in camouflage

A sun-bathing lizard

Climate

Initially, you can try to experiment with the temperature inside the enclosure to check or decide a comfortable environment for them. The basking spot should be 90 degrees F, other than that, the rest of the enclosure can be at 75 to 85 degrees F. They are cold-blooded reptiles, and a lack of heat makes them slow and inactive. Suitable temperature for nighttime is 62 degrees, to ensure the climate stays warm, it is necessary to switch off the lights for 9 to 11 hours. This ensures that the temperature in the enclosure will stay warm and cozy for them.

Feeding

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In the wild, these lizards prefer small invertebrates like beetles, spiders, and flies. They even love to eat small lizards. However, in captivity, they can be fed crickets, ants, spiders, like black widow, wolf spiders, etc. You can even feed them meal worms, wax worms, earthworms, occasionally. Baby lizards are to be fed very tiny crickets and ants. A piece of advice, don’t feed them anything that is longer than the space between their eyes, it may lead to a choking hazard. Don’t feed your lizard everyday, 3 or 4 times a week is sufficient. When you feed them, step away from the enclosure, as initially, they won’t be comfortable eating in your presence. They need access to fresh water daily, ensure the water container does not have sharp edges. Wild blue bellies are not familiar to water dishes, and they prefer drinking water droplets. So a great option is to spray water in the enclosure everyday, to keep them adequately hydrated.

Supplementation

Calcium supplement is important for lizards, especially for pets. You can get calcium powder from a pet store. Just sprinkle a little amount of calcium powder on crickets, ants, or whatever insect you are feeding them. But read the manufacturer’s instruction regarding supplements carefully to ensure you administer the correct dosage.

Behavior

Blue bellies can be very possessive about their territory, two males, if held in one enclosure, will fight for their territory. They tend to do quick pushups or an up and down movement to flaunt their blue bellies to other males, and of course, to attract females. Generally, they are not aggressive in nature, except when it comes to marking their territory. They are pretty docile and hardy in nature, but they need their hiding place, or you can say alone time. They are mostly active during the day.

Breeding

As mentioned above, to attract females, males do pushups and show their blue bellies, females generally stay hidden, but when they are ready to mate, they appear. Once the eggs are laid, females bury them under moist soil, and guard them. Often, they do not require help from their male counterparts. Clutch size varies from three to seventeen, often a female lays 8 eggs. Spring time is mating season, and the eggs hatch sometime in August. They stick to breeding only during spring, and do not breed until the next spring. The size of juveniles is around 26 millimeters at birth.

Difference Between Males and Females

Male lizards have prominent blue-green colored bellies, which sometimes extends up to their tails. The females have either very light or faint blue color, or some do not have color at all. So, the next time you spot a lizard with a bright blue tummy, rest assured, it’s a male western fence lizard.

Lifespan

In the wild, their lifespan is short, since they are preyed upon by many animals, and they have the habit of basking at elevated places which makes them more vulnerable. However, if you provide ample food and water, lighting and heating, proper habitat, these hardy reptiles may live up to 5 years or more.

Western fence lizards are low maintenance, and they make fairly active pets. A wild lizard may require some time and patience to get used to your touch and presence. Most importantly, if you have the enthusiasm and time to care for it, then go ahead and get one as a pet.


How to Catch a Lizard

Last Updated: November 30, 2020 References Approved

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Lizards are seen all over the world, but often only as a glimpse before it disappears back into a hiding spot! Fortunately, you can use these methods to outsmart and capture a lizard before you approach close enough to startle it. Just like any wild animal, lizards should not be kept as permanent pets without extensive preparation and researching laws and permits in your region. After capturing the lizard, show it to your friends, photograph or sketch it, then release it back into the wild.


Watch the video: Juvenile Blue-tailed Western Skink. Reptiles of BC (October 2021).

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