Collared Lizards

Master of His Domain
Master of His Domain

Anyone that has spent time hiking during the spring or summer at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge has probably encountered our state reptile, The Collared Lizard or Mountain Boomer, on the trail.  The male looks more like a tropical species than something you would find jumping from boulder to boulder in southwestern Oklahoma.  Stopping for a few minutes to watch their antics can be very entertaining.  Males can be very demonstrative, especially during the mating season.

Where To Find Collared Lizards

I see the highest concentrations in granite boulder fields near a water source.  I’ve never seen one drinking, but I have seen them within a few feet of water.  A few years ago I counted 32 collard lizards along the east and south end of the Bison Trail!  Their dens are usually hidden under rocks and boulders, although I have seen a couple in the open,

As I wind down the winter from photographing elk, whitetail deer, and river otters, I start looking forward to spring and collared lizards coming out of their dens.   Early in the spring they look very lean from weight loss over the cold season.

Early Season Male Collared Lizard
Early Season Male Collared Lizard

The Best Time To Photograph Collared Lizards

Some of my best photographs of boomers were in May and June.  They have been able to put on a little weight and shed their old skin from the winter.  Both male and females have a beautiful bright color for the mating season.  The male especially can be very demonstrative as he tries to attract a possible mate.

Male on Display
Male on Display

I have often been entertained by male mating behavior for hours.  He finds a high spot where the females can see him,  puffs up and lowers his beard to look larger, and then prances around on the rock.

Struttin' His Stuff
Struttin’ His Stuff

Once I saw a male going up and down on his front legs as if he were doing push ups!  When photographing, I always try to find a position where I am lower than the lizard so I am less intimidating, and they don’t feel the need to run away or go underground.  I also like to have the sun at my back to get eye shine.  This is difficult because of the bone structure over their eye, so it helps to have the sun low on the horizon.

Drop & Give Me Twenty
Drop & Give Me Twenty

If you are successful at becoming part of the landscape and not influencing behavior too much, you may even get to experience a little interaction between you and your subject.  One method the lizards use to let you know you are too close is whipping their tail back and forth.

Tail Snapper
Tail Snapper

They will also open their jaws and hold them open for ten to twenty seconds or more.

Grumpy
Grumpy

 

Mating is very aggressive by both the male and female.  They will each get in a dominant position at some point in the sequence and wrestle.  At the end of the sequence the male is on top.

Love Is in the Air
Love Is in the Air
Love Tussle
Love Tussle

 

You may have noticed in 3 of the previous photos a male with a white tint around the back of his neck.  He was a favorite of mine for two years, but I haven’t seen him since then.   Being so colorful, in a location with a lot of potential predators, I suspect they have a short lifespan.  I enjoyed the time I spent photographing him.

Check Your 6
Check Your 6

 

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