Southern Nevada to Guayman, Mexico, southern California to central Arizona, southern Utah


Deserts with rocky hillsides and creosote bush, some Colorado River drainage areas; below 4,000 feet.


This is the largest of the southwest desert lizards except for the Gila Monster. It has a flat dark body with loose folds of skin on the neck and sides. The skin has a sandpaper texture. The tail has a blunt tip and broad base. There is no rostral (nose) scale. Females tend to retain juvenile cross-bands. Adults of both sexes are usually banded in Southwestern Utah. The tail bands are conspicuously black on an olive-gray or yellow background. Outside Utah the male's foreparts and limbs are usually black, sometimes spotted and flecked with pale gray; the remainder of the body is usually red or light gray, depending on the animal's age and locality. The tail is pale yellow.


The chuckwalla is a rock-dwelling animal; rocks provide shelter and basking sites. During the late morning and afternoon it is often found basking in the sun. When disturbed, a chuck gulps air, distends its body (thus the loose skin folds), and wedges itself in place in a crevice or behind rocks. It may open its mouth and"huff" or "hiss" at an intruder. This lizard is able to change colors somewhat according to changes in light, temperature, etc.


Little is known; this lizard is believed to breed in early April and May. It is oviparous (lays eggs). An average of 8 eggs is laid in rock crevices. The young have cross-bands of color on the body and tail.

Interesting Facts:

Chuckwallas have an interesting way of coping with the excess salt found in their diet. To help rid the body of excess salt, they "sneeze" salt from their bodies. This is evident by the salty residue often seen around the nostrils.

Native Utah Animal
Class: reptiles
Order: Squamata
Family: Iguanidae
Genus: Sauromalus
Species: obesus
Length: Average 5.5 to 8 inches; maximum 12 inches
Average Lifespan: 40 years
Wild Diet: Creosote bush is its main food. The chuckwalla also favors yellow blossoms and wild fruit.
Predators: Man, snakes, raptors, carnivorous mammals.
USFWS Status: Not Listed
CITES Status: Not Listed
Where at the Zoo? Small Animal Building: Desert Zone

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