Elgaria coerulea - (Wiegmann, 1828)
Northern Alligator Lizard
Other English Common Names: northern alligator lizard
Synonym(s): Gerrhonotus coeruleus
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Elgaria coerulea (Wiegmann, 1828) (TSN 209008)
French Common Names: lézard alligator du Nord
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.105055
Element Code: ARACB01010
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Reptiles - Lizards
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Reptilia Squamata Anguidae Elgaria
Genus Size: C - Small genus (6-20 species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Collins, J. T. 1990. Standard common and current scientific names for North American amphibians and reptiles. 3rd ed. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles. Herpetological Circular No. 19. 41 pp.
Concept Reference Code: B90COL01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Elgaria coerulea
Taxonomic Comments: Elgaria coerulea formerly was included in genus Gerrhonotus (see Good 1988). Four intergrading subspecies (coerulea, palmeri, principis, and shastensis) are recognized. See Good (1988) for taxonomic treatments of gerrhonotine lizards.

Molecular data support recognition of the family Anniellidae and anguid subfamilies Gerrhonotinae and Anguinae as monophyletic groups (Macey et al. 1999).
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 02Feb2016
Global Status Last Changed: 23Oct1996
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Nation: United States
National Status: N5 (05Oct1996)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N4 (02Feb2016)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States California (SNR), Idaho (S4), Montana (S3), Nevada (S2S3), Oregon (S5), Utah (SNR), Washington (S5)
Canada British Columbia (S4)

Other Statuses

Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC): Not at Risk (01May2002)
Comments on COSEWIC: Reason for Designation: This species is widespread and often occurs at high density in British Columbia. Some areas of distribution are under heavy development and the species has probably declined in these areas. Current information suggests that the alligator lizard is reasonably resilient, as long as there is available habitat with plenty of cover and little disturbance by humans. Limited information suggests that sufficient habitat presently exists in British Columbia, both in parks and on private land.

Status History: Designated Not at Risk in May 2002. More recently (2017) considered a low priority candidate for re-assessment.

IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: 200,000-2,500,000 square km (about 80,000-1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: This lizard ranges from southern British Columbia (including Vancouver Island) southward through western Washington and western Oregon to west-central coastal California and the central Sierra Nevada (including the east side of Lake Tahoe basin) and Washoe County, Nevada (Vindum and Arnold 1997). It also ranges southward in the Rocky Mountains to northern Idaho and western Montana. Disjunct populations occurs in several areas in south-central Oregon, northeastern Calofornia, and northwestern Nevada (Stebbins 2003). The western edge of the distribution includes some small coastal islands (Stebbins 2003). The elevational range extends from sea level to around 3,200 m (Stebbins 2003).

Number of Occurrences: 81 - 300
Number of Occurrences Comments: Nussbaum et al. (1983) mapped more than 200 locations where this species has been found.

Population Size: 10,000 - 1,000,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Total adult population size is unknown but surely exceeds 10,000. The species is often fairly common in suitable habitat (St. John 2002).

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Many to very many (41 to >125)

Overall Threat Impact: Medium
Overall Threat Impact Comments: The primary threat may be outright destruction of habitat. The species tolerates some habitat disturbances such as logging. Nussbaum et al. (1983) stated that the introduction of the cinnabar moth for weed (tansy ragweed) control may have adverse effects on northern alligator lizards. The moths are reported to be highly poisonous to the lizards.

Short-term Trend: Relatively Stable (<=10% change)
Short-term Trend Comments: The overall population is likely relatively stable in extent of occurrence, area of occupancy, and abundance.

Long-term Trend: Decline of <30% to increase of 25%
Long-term Trend Comments: Likely relatively stable in extent of occurrence, area of occupancy, and abundance; there has surely been a decline in area of occupnacy and abundance, but the magnitude of the decline has been relatively small.

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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Global Range: (200,000-2,500,000 square km (about 80,000-1,000,000 square miles)) This lizard ranges from southern British Columbia (including Vancouver Island) southward through western Washington and western Oregon to west-central coastal California and the central Sierra Nevada (including the east side of Lake Tahoe basin) and Washoe County, Nevada (Vindum and Arnold 1997). It also ranges southward in the Rocky Mountains to northern Idaho and western Montana. Disjunct populations occurs in several areas in south-central Oregon, northeastern Calofornia, and northwestern Nevada (Stebbins 2003). The western edge of the distribution includes some small coastal islands (Stebbins 2003). The elevational range extends from sea level to around 3,200 m (Stebbins 2003).

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States CA, ID, MT, NV, OR, UT, WA
Canada BC

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted.

Range Map Compilers: NatureServe, 2005


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
MT Flathead (30029), Granite (30039), Lake (30047), Lincoln (30053), Mineral (30061), Missoula (30063), Ravalli (30081), Sanders (30089)
NV Carson City (32510), Douglas (32005), Humboldt (32013)*, Lyon (32019), Washoe (32031)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
16 Smoke Creek Desert (16040203)+, Lake Tahoe (16050101)+, Truckee (16050102)+, Upper Carson (16050201)+, West Walker (16050302)+
17 Upper Kootenai (17010101)+, Fisher (17010102)+, Yaak (17010103)+, Flint-Rock (17010202)+, Middle Clark Fork (17010204)+, Bitterroot (17010205)+, Flathead Lake (17010208)+, Stillwater (17010210)+, Lower Flathead (17010212)+, Lower Clark Fork (17010213)+, Guano (17120008)+*
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Reproduction Comments: Apparently mates in April and May. Litter size averages 4-6, depending on locality. One litter per year. Females sexually mature in 32-44 months in northern California.
Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Mobility and Migration Comments: Mark-recapture studies in British Columbia indicated that individuals did not make long-distance moves between summer habitat and hibernation sites (Rutherford and Gregory 2003).
Palustrine Habitat(s): Riparian
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Bare rock/talus/scree, Grassland/herbaceous, Shrubland/chaparral, Woodland - Conifer, Woodland - Hardwood, Woodland - Mixed
Special Habitat Factors: Burrowing in or using soil, Fallen log/debris
Habitat Comments: Habitat includes open areas in coniferous forest, grassy grown-over areas at margins of woodlands, clearcuts, and areas along streams; along coast this lizard sometimes occurs far from trees or major cover; it is associated with rock outcrops and talus in some areas (Lais 1976).
Adult Food Habits: Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Invertivore
Food Comments: Feeds on insects, ticks, spiders, millipedes, and snails.
Adult Phenology: Diurnal, Hibernates/aestivates
Immature Phenology: Diurnal, Hibernates/aestivates
Phenology Comments: Hibernates in winter; duration of inactive period varies with local climate.
Length: 33 centimeters
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Group Name: Anguid Lizards

Use Class: Not applicable
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Occurrences are based on evidence of historical presence, or current and likely recurring presence, at a given location. Such evidence minimally includes collection or reliable observation and documentation of one or more individuals (including eggs) in or near appropriate habitat where the species is presumed to be established and breeding.
Separation Barriers: Busy highway or highway with obstructions such that lizards rarely if ever cross successfully; major river, lake, pond, or deep marsh; urbanized area dominated by buildings and pavement.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 1 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Information on movements of anguid lizards is scarce. In Kansas, Fitch (1989) found that Ophisaurus attenuatus tends to stay in its familiar area, but home range is not well defined. Adult males range more widely than do females and immatures; average home range is about 0.44 ha in adult males, 0.14 ha in juveniles (Fitch 1989). An elongate home range of 0.44 ha would be about 200 m long. Likely other anguids have similarly restricted movements. However, dispersal characteristics are unknown, and these lizards appear to be capable of making extensive movements. Also, secretive habits of anguid lizards may result in a lack of observations in areas where the lizards do in fact occur. The separation distance for suitable habitat is a compromise between the documented sedentary habits and the likely low probability that two locations separated by less than several kilometers of suitable habitat would represent different populations.

Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): .2 km
Date: 21Sep2004
Author: Hammerson, G.
Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 09May2005
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Hammerson, G.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 04Nov2003
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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  • Behler, J. L., and F. W. King. 1979. The Audubon Society field guide to North American reptiles and amphibians. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 719 pp.

  • Boundy, J. 2001. Herpetofaunal surveys in the Clark Fork Valley region, Montana. Herpetological Natural History 8:15-26.

  • Brunson, R. B. 1955. Check list of the amphibians and reptiles of Montana. Proc. Mont. Academy Sci. 15:27-29.

  • Collins, J. T. 1990. Standard common and current scientific names for North American amphibians and reptiles. 3rd ed. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles. Herpetological Circular No. 19. 41 pp.

  • Cook, F. R. 1984. Introduction to Canadian amphibians and reptiles. National Museum of Natural Sciences, National Museums of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario.

  • Crother, B. I. (editor). 2008. Scientific and standard English names of amphibians and reptiles of North America north of Mexico, with comments regarding confidence in our understanding. Sixth edition. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles Herpetological Circular 37:1-84. Online with updates at: http://www.ssarherps.org/pages/comm_names/Index.php

  • Crother, B. I. (editor). 2012. Scientific and standard English names of amphibians and reptiles of North America north of Mexico, with comments regarding confidence in our understanding. 7th edition. SSAR Herpetological Circular 39:1-92.

  • Good, D. A. 1988a. Allozyme variation and phylogenetic relationships among the species of ELGARIA (Squamata: Anguidae). Herpetologica 44:154-62.

  • Good, D. A. 1988b. Phylogenetic relationships among gerrhonotine lizards: an analysis of external morphology. University of California Publication Zoology 121.

  • Gregory, P. T. and R. W. Campbell. 1984. The reptiles of British Columbia. British Columbia Provincial Museum, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. 102 pp.

  • Gregory, P.T. and R.W. Campbell. 1984. Royal British Columbia Museum Handbook: the reptiles of British Columbia. Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria. 102 pp.

  • Hendricks, P. and J. D. Reichel. 1996. Amphibian and reptile survey on the Bitterroot National Forest: 1995. Unpublished report to the Bitterroot National Forest. Montana Natural Heritage Program. Helena, Montana. 95 pp.

  • Lais, P. M. 1976. GERRHONOTUS COERULEUS. Cat. Am. Amph. Rep. 178.1-178.4.

  • Lais, P. M. 1976. GERRHONOTUS COERULEUS. Cat. American Amphibians and Reptiles 178.1-178.4.

  • Macey, J. R., J. A. Schulte, II, A. Larson, B. S. Tuniyev, N. Orlov, and T. J. Papenfuss. 1999. Molecular phylogenetics, tRNA evolution, and historical biogeography in anguid lizards and related taxonomic families. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 12:250-272.

  • Maxell, B. A., J. K. Werner, P. Hendricks, and D. L. Flath. 2003. Herpetology in Montana: a history, status summary, checklists, dichotomous keys, accounts for native, potentially native, and exotic species, and indexed bibliography. Northwest Fauna Number 5. 138 pp.

  • Nussbaum, R. A., E. D. Brodie, Jr. and R. M. Storm. 1983. Amphibians and reptiles of the Pacific Northwest. University Press of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho. 332 pp.

  • Nussbaum, R.A., E.D. Brodie, Jr., and R.M. Storm. 1983. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Pacific Northwest. University Press of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho. 332 pp.

  • Ovaska, K, S. Lennart, C Engelstoft, L. Matthias, E. Wind and J. MacGarvie. 2004. Best Management Practices for Amphibians and Reptiles in Urban and Rural Environments in British Columbia. Ministry of Water Land and Air Protection, Ecosystems Standards and Planning, Biodiversity Branch

  • Rodgers, T. L., and W. L. Jellison. 1942. A collection of amphibians and reptiles from western Montana. Copeia 1942:10-13.

  • Russell, A. P., and A. M. Bauer. 1993. The amphibians and reptiles of Alberta. University of Calgary Press, Calgary, Alberta, and University of Alberta Press, Edmonton, Alberta. 264 pp.

  • Rutherford, P. L., and P. T. Gregory. 2003. Habitat use and movement patterns of northern alligator lizards (Elgaria coerulea) and western skinks (Eumces skiltonianus) in southeastern British Columbia. Journal of Herpetology 37:98-106.

  • Rutherford, P.L., and P.T. Gregory. 2001. Habitat Use and Movement Patterns of Northern Alligator Lizards and Western Skinks in Southeastern British Columbia. Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program, BC Hydro, B.C. Minist. Environ, Lands and Parks, B.C. Fish. in partnership with Creston Valley Wildl. Manage. Area, Columbia Basin Trust and Univ. Victoria. 52pp.

  • St. John, A. 2002. Reptiles of the Northwest. Lone Pine Publishing, Renton, Washington. 272 pp.

  • St. John, A. 2002. Reptiles of the northwest. Lone Pine Publishing, Renton, Washington. 272 pp.

  • Stebbins, R. C. 1985a. A field guide to western reptiles and amphibians. Second edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts. xiv + 336 pp.

  • Stebbins, R. C. 2003. A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. Third Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts. 533 pp.

  • Stebbins, R. C. 2003. A field guide to western reptiles and amphibians. Third edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston.

  • Stewart, J. R. 1985. Growth and survivorship in a California population of GERRHONOTUS COERULEUS, with comments on intraspecific variation in adult female size. Am. Midl. Nat. 113:30-44.

  • The Reptiles of British Columbia: Alligator Lizard, Elgaria coerulea principis. 2004. Univ. Coll. of the Cariboo, and B.C. Minist. Water, Land and Air Prot. Online. Available: http://www.bcreptiles.ca/lizards/alligator.htm

  • Vindum, J. V., and E. N. Arnold. 1997. The northern alligator lizard (ELGARIA COERULEA) from Nevada. Herpetological Review 28:100.

  • Vindum, J.V. and E.N. Arnold. 1997. The northern alligator lizard (Elgaria coerulea) from Nevada. Herpetological Review 28(2):100.

  • Werner, J. K. and J. D. Reichel. 1994. Amphibian and reptile survey of the Kootenai National Forest: 1994. Montana Natural Heritage Program, Helena, Montana. 105 pp.

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