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Oregon's Northern Alligator Lizard

Adrian González
Adrian González
Posted on August 24
A northern alligator lizard sunbathes atop a rock.

The scientific name for a northern alligator lizard is “Elgaria coerulea.” (Jeff Huth / Getty)

Oregon and the Pacific coast are home to a very special reptile.

Wait, is it an Alligator??

No. They’re named that way because their square scales and short legs resemble an alligator’s. Along with the southern alligator lizard, they’re the only ones in Oregon with that scale pattern. They belong to the Anguidae family of reptiles and are rather shy, typically choosing to live in rock retaining walls, rock piles, woody debris, and along building foundations.

No Eggs, No Problem

Maybe you’re like me and were under the impression that all reptiles lay eggs, but that’s not true for the northern alligator lizard. Females give birth to as many as 15 live babies three months after breeding.

Things That Make You Go Meow

The species is vulnerable to predators like hawks, owls, snakes, and even house cats. To defend itself from a stalking cat, a lizard will typically shed its tail as a form of distraction so that it can escape. It’s a bold strategy, given that losing a tail might diminish the lizard’s odds of reproduction and survival.

And no, you can’t keep one as a pet. Unless you get a scientific collection permit for research or educational purposes.

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