Leopard Lizard

Last updated: February 7, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
Image Credit TUFADUM/Shutterstock.com

Can jump a distance of two feet to capture prey

Leopard Lizard Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Reptilia
Order
Squamata
Family
Crotaphytidae
Genus
Gambelia

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Leopard Lizard Locations

Leopard Lizard Locations

Leopard Lizard Facts

Prey
Smaller lizards, insects, rodents, berries, leaves
Name Of Young
Juvenile lizard
Group Behavior
  • Solitary
Fun Fact
Can jump a distance of two feet to capture prey
Estimated Population Size
Unknown
Biggest Threat
Habitat loss
Most Distinctive Feature
Long tail
Other Name(s)
Long-nosed or blunt-nosed leopard lizard
Gestation Period
Two months
Litter Size
2-6 eggs
Habitat
Semiarid plains, scrublands
Predators
Snakes, coyotes, birds
Diet
Omnivore
Type
Reptile
Common Name
Leopard lizard
Number Of Species
3
Location
Southwestern United States and Mexico
Group
Solitary

Leopard Lizard Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Yellow
  • White
  • Dark Brown
  • Light-Brown
Skin Type
Scales
Lifespan
6 to 8 years
Weight
0.8 to 1.5 ounces
Length
up to 12 inches head to tip of tail
Age of Weaning
From birth

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“Leopard lizards can jump a distance of two feet”

Leopard lizards live in the southwest United States and in Mexico. There are different varieties including the blunt-nosed leopard lizard and the long-nosed leopard lizard. The diet of this reptile is omnivorous; it eats rodents, insects, leaves, and berries. The lifespan of a wild leopard lizard is six to eight years, but they can live longer in captivity.

5 Leopard Lizard Facts

  • Its habitat includes semiarid plains, the desert, and scrublands
  • It can get away from a predator by releasing its tail from its body
  • It rises up on its hindlegs to run from predators
  • Its spots serve as the perfect camouflage
  • It can be kept as a pet if given proper care

Leopard Lizard Scientific Name

Gambelia wislizenii is the scientific name of the long-nosed leopard lizard. It belongs to the Sauropsida class and the family Crotaphytidae. Gambelia refers to the lizard’s genus and wislizenii is a reference to a tree that grows in its habitat.

The other species of the leopard lizard are:

  • Gambelia sila (blunt-nosed leopard lizard)
  • Gambelia copeii (Cope’s Leopard Lizard or Cachorón Leopard de Baja California)

Leopard Lizard Appearance & Behavior

The long-nosed leopard lizard has a pattern of dark brown splotches atop a light brown background. Its underbelly is white, and it has small dark eyes. This variety of leopard lizards measures up to 12 inches from its nose to the tip of its tail. Its tail is longer than its body. A 12-inch-long leopard lizard is a little shorter than a bowling pin. One and a half ounces is the heaviest this lizard can be.

In terms of identification, the blunt-nosed leopard lizard is a little smaller in size with a body measuring up to 4.7 inches long. Its tail can be double that length. It weighs about the same as a long-nosed leopard lizard. Of course, its snout shape is rounded while a long-nosed leopard lizard has an extended snout.



The scale colors of a leopard lizard serve as effective camouflage as it rests in a tree or bush. Furthermore, both the long-nosed leopard lizard and the blunt-nosed leopard lizard are fast movers. They run for short distances on their hind legs using their tail for balance.

The third defense against predators involves its regenerative tail. If this reptile is grabbed by a predator, it can release its tail from its body giving it enough time to escape danger. Fortunately, the reptile can regrow its tail though it won’t be exactly the same as its original one.

Leopard lizards are solitary. Like most other types of lizards, they remain hidden most of the time unless they are out basking in the sunlight.

Longnosed leopard lizard (Gambelia wislizenii) eats a tiger whiptail (Aspidoscelis tigris) in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah, USA.
Long-nosed leopard lizard (Gambelia wislizenii) eats a tiger whiptail (Aspidoscelis tigris) in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah, USA.

Dominic Gentilcore PhD/Shutterstock.com

Leopard Lizard Habitat

This reptile lives in the western and southern parts of the United States and in Mexico. They are found in an arid or semi-arid climate. Lizards are cold-blooded animals so they must warm themselves by basking in the sunlight. They do this by climbing onto a rock or a large branch where they can soak up some rays!

One of the most interesting facts about leopard lizards is they are adept climbers. They rest on the branches of trees, shrubs, and bushes. Their toes help them to hang onto the surface of a small branch.

These lizards are active during the day. But, in very hot temperatures, they cool off in abandoned burrows created by various kinds of rodents. Remaining in the burrow protects them from extreme temperatures and can serve as shelter from predators.

These reptiles don’t migrate. When the temperatures drop very low in the winter, they go into brumation. During brumation, a reptile doesn’t eat or drink and stays in its burrow conserving energy for the mating season in the spring. This is similar to mammals going into hibernation. The main difference between brumation and hibernation is a mammal is asleep throughout hibernation. Alternatively, a brumating lizard may be minimally active.

Leopard Lizard Predators & Threats

While many lizards are notorious carnivores, leopard lizards are an exception to that rule. Though meat is the main part of their diet, they are considered omnivores.

What does a leopard lizard eat?

Insects such as beetles and crickets, smaller lizards, and rodents make up most of this reptile’s diet. But, when prey is in short supply, they eat flowers, berries, and leaves.

What eats leopard lizards?

Snakes, hawks, and coyotes are all predators of this lizard. Hawks and eagles use their excellent vision to spot a leopard lizard in its habitat. These birds can fly at high speeds, so it’s relatively easy for them to swoop down and pick up their reptile prey. Coyotes are persistent and fast making them tough predators in their environment.

The main threat facing both the long-nosed leopard lizard and the blunt-nosed leopard lizard is habitat loss.

The long-nosed leopard lizard has a stable population and conservation status of Least Concern. Alternatively, the blunt-nosed leopard lizard is considered Endangered, and its population is decreasing. Pesticide use is also a factor in the decreasing population of this lizard.

Leopard Lizard Reproduction, Babies, and Lifespan

The mating season of this reptile is from April to May. Males compete with other males to show off their strength to females in the area. These lizards have multiple partners.

The scales on a male’s neck turn a dark red during mating season. When a female becomes pregnant, she displays bright red or orange spots on her sides and beneath her tail. This makes the identification of a pregnant female very easy. These colors serve as a sign to male lizards that the female is already pregnant. A female lays from two and six eggs though the size of the clutch can be larger. The gestation period is two months.

A baby leopard lizard is called a hatchling and weighs less than half an ounce. The female lizard leaves her young right after they’ve hatched. In some instances, she leaves even before they hatch. But, hatchlings are able to see and move around so they can begin to search for food and otherwise survive independently.

The lifespan of this reptile is six to eight years in the wild. But a pet leopard lizard that receives proper care can live longer.

Leopard Lizard Population

The population of the long-nosed leopard lizard is unknown. It has a conservation status of Least Concern with a stable population. The blunt-nosed leopard lizard is listed as Endangered with a decreasing population.

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Leopard Lizard FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are leopard lizards carnivores, herbivores or omnivores?

One of the most surprising facts about this lizard is it eats meat and plants. This makes it an omnivore.

Why is the blunt-nosed lizard Endangered?

The blunt-nosed leopard lizard is Endangered for a few reasons. For one, construction and land expansion have resulted in the loss of habitat. The abandoned burrows it lives in are crushed by construction work and the process of clearing the land for building.

Also, the population of this lizard has gone down due to the pesticides used in its habitat. Though the pesticides are meant to kill leafhoppers and other insects, it poisons the blunt-nosed leopard lizard as well.

Why is the blunt-nosed leopard lizard special?

It’s special because 95 percent of its population has been destroyed since the late 19th century. In other words, they were at great risk of becoming extinct! The creation of large-sized farms in California began to take away the habitat of this lizard.

What can I feed my leopard lizard?

This animal is sometimes kept as a pet. If someone keeps a leopard lizard as a pet, it’s important to learn all about the care it deserves.

A pet leopard lizard eats insects like mealworms, black soldier fly larvae, crickets, and roaches. They also eat small mice. This type of food along with its price can vary among pet stores.

These lizards require vitamin supplements and calcium to keep them healthy. The price of food and nutritional supplements should be factored into the budget for this pet.

Keep in mind this pet needs to live in a warm habitat. This means having a cage or other habitat with a UVB light that’s adjustable to suit the needs of the reptile.

What does a leopard lizard look like?

A leopard lizard’s skin is a combination of light and dark colors. It has light brown scales covered with a pattern of dark splotches. Its underbelly is white. This reptile has two dark eyes and four legs with five toes on each.

The total size of a leopard lizard’s body can measure up to 12 inches in length. Its tail is longer than the main section of its body. The heaviest this reptile weighs is one and a half ounces.

The identification between a long-nosed leopard lizard and a blunt-nosed leopard lizard is fairly easy. As their name indicates, the nose shape is an easy way to differentiate them.

This reptile can change its colors. During mating season, a pregnant female develops bright red or orange splotches on the sides of her body as well as under her tail. This change of colors is an indication she is pregnant. In addition, a male develops a red or rusty color on his neck and chest.

Is the leopard lizard poisonous?

No. These lizards are not poisonous.

What defenses do leopard lizards have against predators?

Though these reptiles are not poisonous they do have defenses against predators. For one, their scale colors allow them to camouflage in their habitat. So, a predator may walk by and not see a leopard lizard on a branch or in a bush.

A second defense is this lizard’s speed. It can run on its hind legs in an effort to escape a predator. If the safety of its burrow is nearby, there’s a chance it may be able to get away from the danger.

This lizard has the ability to detach or ‘drop’ its tail from its body. So, if a predator grabs it by the tail, it can drop it and escape to safety. It’s a large price to pay, but the lizard’s tail eventually grows back.

How big do leopard lizards get?

A leopard lizard’s body is shorter than its tail. The main part of its body can be three to four inches in length. Its tail can be twice the length of its body. So, from its nose to the tip of its thin tail, a leopard lizard can measure How big do leopard lizards get?
12 inches.

Where are leopard lizards found?

These lizards are found in the southern and western United States and in Mexico. It lives in a scrubland, desert, or plains habitat. Specifically, these lizards seek shelter in burrows abandoned by kangaroo rats and other small rodents.

Sources
  1. National Parks Service, Available here: https://www.nps.gov/whsa/learn/nature/long-nosed-leopard-lizard.htm
  2. California Herps, Available here: http://www.californiaherps.com/lizards/pages/g.sila.html
  3. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Available here: https://www.fws.gov/sacramento/es_species/Accounts/Amphibians-Reptiles/blunt_nosed_leopad_lizard/
  4. Tucson Herpetological Society, Available here: https://tucsonherpsociety.org/amphibians-reptiles/lizards/long-nosed-leopard-lizard/
  5. Bio Expedition, Available here: https://www.bioexpedition.com/leopard-lizard/
  6. Backwater Reptiles Blog, Available here: https://backwaterreptilesblog.com/leopard-lizard-care-gambelia-wislizenii/
  7. IUCN, Available here: https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/40690/10336468

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