Reptiles

Chuckwalla

RANGE
Utah, Nevada, Arizona, southeastern California south to northern Mexico.

HABITAT
Open flats and rocky areas, especially where large boulders are present.

SIZE
10 – 16 ½ inches long; second largest lizard in North America.

LIFE EXPECTANCY
Chuckwallas may live for 25 years or more.

DIET
Wild: Strictly herbivorous, it browses on leaves, buds, flowers, and fruits. Favorite food is blossoms from prickly pear and creosote bushes — prefers yellow blossoms.
Zoo: Shredded lettuce, sweet potato, carrots, grapes and meal worms.

REPRODUCTION

  • Mate May to June. Females lay 5 – 10 soft-shelled, white eggs in June to August.
  • Females lay eggs only every two years.
  • Females mate with several males to ensure fertilization.

BEHAVIOR

  • Diurnal
  • Basks until preferred body temperature of 100 degrees is reached, then begins searching for food.
  • Each Chuckwalla has a home range. Males will not cross over boundaries, although females will cross over to breed. As temperatures rise, they go below ground and aestivate; in cooler weather, they hibernate.
  • A frightened chuckwalla retreats into a rocky crevice and wedges itself in sideways by inflating its body. By expanding the lungs, the chuckwalla can increase its volume by half again its normal size. When pulled backwards, scales catch on rocks making pulling difficult.

POINT OF INTEREST

  • Large lizard with loose folds of skin around the neck and shoulders. Tail is thick at bas and blunt at the tip. Limbs are stubby, scales small and granular.
  • Natural enemies are the coyote, large-eared kit fox and birds.

STATUS
Common type is stable, has issues with habitat destruction.