U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version

February 2008


Published in Journal of Herpetology, Vol. 42, No. 1, pp. 163–171, 2008.


Radio telemetry was used to track 16 adult Short-Horned Lizards (Phrynosoma hernandesi) to their individual overwintering sites on the Central Plains Experimental Range (CPER) in Weld County, Colorado. Above-ground habitat characteristics of overwintering sites and randomly selected points within the study area were assessed. All individuals entered overwintering between 29 August and 19 September with a mean estimated entrance date of 7 September. Arrival of the first subzero nighttime air temperatures occurred shortly thereafter on 16 September. No lizard left its normal area of use to overwinter, and there was no tendency to aggregate. Lizards did not necessarily overwinter on warmer south-facing slopes; the proportion of overwintering sites oriented southward (0.62) was not different from random. Most lizards (75%) selected overwintering sites in the banks of washes that had relatively steep slopes and at specific locations where substrate was relatively bare and penetrable. Overwintering sites also tended to have a greater coverage of Yucca glauca (0.02%) than the general study area (0.01%). Analyses of historical soil temperature data from the CPER revealed that lizards would have to overwinter at a subsoil depth of about 1 m to avoid freezing temperatures. Banks that contain suitable hibernation sites that are located within an individual’s normal area of use may be the habitat feature most important to successful overwintering.