What Happens to Lizards In Winter?

lizards in winter

A sagebrush lizard.

Where are lizards in winter in cold, snowy areas such as the Rocky Mountains?  Lizards choose to enter a state of dormancy to survive winter in cold areas.

I sure don’t see lizards scurrying around when the ground is covered in snow.  Many animals go into a state of dormancy to survive winter, such as hibernation.  Another reptile, snakes, go into a sleep like state of brumation, which is similar to hibernation.  Read on to discover lizards’ survival strategy during the cold, snowy winters of the Rocky Mountains.

lizards in winter

A short horned lizard is cold blooded.

Lizards Are Cold-Blooded Animals

To begin with it is important to remember that lizards, like other reptiles, are ectotherms or cold-blooded animals.  That means that they can’t regulate or maintain their body temperature by themselves.  Instead they become hotter or colder based on the temperature of their environment.

We need to keep this in mind when thinking about what lizards in winter do to survive. If it is cold or freezing outside than they would also be very cold or near freezing, making it impossible for them to live. Therefore, they need to do something to avoid that cold.

lizards in winter

A lizard sunning itself.  Photo via Flickr.

How Do Lizards In Winter Survive The Cold Temperatures?

They are not active during winter, rather they enter a state of dormancy called brumation or hibernation.

Lizards need to stay somewhere kind of warm during winter to survive.  So, they will hide underground, enter a hole in a tree, or even bury themselves under leaves.  Then they will enter a state of brumation, which is like hibernation.  They will survive the winter in this sleep like state and wait for the temperature to warm up.

Then once the temperature is warm, they will sun themselves to warm up their bodies and raise their temperatures.  Once their bodies are warm again they will being to look for food.

Most lizards will spend the winter alone, but there have been a few found together in a group.