COMMON NAME: Western Fence Lizard

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Sceleporus occidentalis


Range: Central Idaho south through Nevada and west to the Pacific coast

When you first acquire your fence lizard it will need a time to settle in to its new home. During this time your lizard will be very shy and will run and hide when you walk near the enclosure. You want to leave you lizard alone during acclimation. This acclimation period lasts about 3 days to a week depending on the individual. Once they come out acclimation they will start to become more active and start basking, etc. without running and hiding when you get near there enclosure. You can start to gently handle your lizard once it becomes acclimated and show it that you're not going to harm it.

Fence lizards are an awesome reptile to keep for a naturalistic, display enclosure. They are diurnal and are fun to watch hunt crickets, run around, etc. I keep a 1.1 group in a 3 ft. x 2ft. x 1 1/2 ft enclosure with plenty of rocks and bricks to bask, climb on, and hide underneath. However, they do not need that big of an enclosure, infact a10 gallon tank will work well for a pair or a single fence lizard as long as the proper care requirements are provided. When your setting up your enclosure have fun with it. These lizards are a great display animal so show them off!

Be careful what substrate you use. Cedar is bad for any reptile because of the fumes (they are high in phenols). sand and wal-nut shells, if ingested, can cause impaction and potentially kill your lizard if not treated. You can even use paper towls to be on the safe side.

TEMPERATURE: I give my lizards a basking spot (such as a rock or branch) of 90-92 degrees fharenheit and a cool area of 75-80 degrees. This thermol gradient is important for the lizard to thermoregulate it's body temperature. For example, after the lizard is done eating it needs to bask and digest it's meal. When it gets too warm it needs to be able to go over to the cool area and "cool-off". These temperatures can be achieved be a small basking light placed on one end of the enclosure, make sure you NEVER use a hot rock for your lizard. Hot rocks can seriously burn your lizard. At night the temperature can safely drop to about 65 degrees, but be careful that it never goes below 60 degrees.

LIGHTING: I use full spectrum lighing for my lizards because when fence lizards bask in the sun they're not only soaking up heat but also vitamins that they need from the sun so it is important that this be provided in captivity. Full spectrum lighting is most effective when placed within 18-24" of where the lizards are. I also use a small basking light for my lizards that is placed over a rock to create a basking site. I use a 12-14 hour light cycle for my lizards and both of the lights go out at night and the lizards go to sleep.

My fence lizard's diets consist of mainly gutloaded, and dusted crickets. I dust the crickets with miner-all but you can also use a 1:1 ratio of herptivite and rep-cal to dust crickets. You can also give your lizard various insects from outside such as beetles, spiders, etc. but make sure that they haven't been exposed to any harmful pesticides and/or pollutants. Feed your lizards as many insects (no larger then the size of the lizards head) it can eat within five minutes, in the morning so it has time to bask and digest the food throughout the day. I remove all the crickets that are left at night after lights out and put them back in the cricket enclosure because some come out, after the lights have been turned off, from hiding all day.

In the wild, fence lizards get most of their water from the insects they eat, and from droplets so in captivity you need to mist the cage decorations a few times a day to create droplets for them to drink. Some people suggest putting a shallow dish of water in the enclosure but I have never witnessed my lizards drinking from standing water, and in some places where fence lizards are found there is no standing water.

Fence lizards are a hardy and rewarding lizard to keep in captivity when given the proper care. Their care requirements aren't as complicated as a lot of other lizards in the pet trade which make them a great lizard to keep. They are great fun and so interesting to watch and keep.

Written by Marshall Visser, 2006. All rights reserved.