Where Do Lizards Go in the Winter?

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If you’re a pet owner, you may wonder what happens to lizards in the winter. Do they hibernate? Migrate? Or do something else entirely? The answer is that it depends on the lizard species and where they live. So let’s explore how different lizards survive the cold winter months.


Where do lizards go in the winter?


Winter is a time that creatures must prepare for. For lizards, this often involves hibernation to conserve energy during the cold months.

They need to find the best spot to hunker down, so typically, they’ll go underneath logs and rocks or burrow into the sand.

When looking for a cozy spot, most lizards will also seek out an area that receives plenty of sunshine when it appears, as this ensures their location will remain warm.

Of course, some lizard species remain active even in winter (See Below); however, these hardy varieties use particular strategies like entering a state of semi-hibernation or basking near warmth sources.


1. Hibernation


When winter arrives, many lizard species take the opportunity to engage in hibernation. Hibernation is a necessary behavior that allows these reptiles to conserve their energy during unfavorable weather conditions; the cold and lack of food forced them into a state of inactivity.

During hibernation, lizards avoid extreme temperatures and other environmental stressors and can get by using only the tiny reserves of fat they have stored up from the summer months.

When the days get warmer and more food sources to become available, lizards emerge from their dormant state, once again ready to take advantage of all that spring has to offer.


2. Migration


During winter, lizards must migrate to survive and find adequate food sources. In addition, these cold-blooded creatures rely on the warmth of their surroundings to regulate their body temperature.

Because temperatures drop during the winter, they must find a warmer environment to stay in until winter has passed.

As such, many species of lizards relocate to places with higher elevations or further south when the weather cools down. Their migration is often short-term and may only last a few weeks to a few months, depending on location and climate data.

For instance, some lizards may move away from the coast and go inland for warmer temperatures or burrow underground to protect against extreme cold weather.


3. Aestivation


Aestivation, a process in which lizards become dormant during the warmer months of the year, is a survival technique employed by many species.

During aestivation, lizards seek out moist and shaded areas – often burrows or debris piles – and slow down their metabolism until more preferable conditions arise.

Many species avoid cold temperatures that can be fatal by hibernating through winter if the temperatures become too low in their local environment.

Aestivation allows these lizards to survive harsh weather cycles and find food when it returns.


4. Thermoregulation


Thermoregulation is a critical factor in where lizards go during the winter months. However, like many cold-blooded creatures, lizards rely on external sources like the sun for body warmth instead of generating their heat.

This means that some species will look for spots with plenty of sun, such as tree trunks or rocks, to absorb the necessary energy to survive during the chillier months.

Additionally, some species will bury themselves in underground burrows and slow their metabolic activity to conserve energy during the winter when food sources may also be more limited.

Ultimately, numerous adaptations exist in different lizard species that enable them to weather even comparatively harsh environments during winter.


5. Behavioral Changes


Reptiles like lizards enter a state of dormancy or brumation during winter. During this period, their need for food and water is significantly reduced, and they may stay in a single spot for days.

As temperatures cool, lizards arrive at sheltered locations such as under leaves, in logs, underneath coverings of debris, and more.

Their metabolic rate also slows down; they become less active and lose color in their skin as the thermoregulation process changes with the outside environment.

Generally, these animals remain under the same thermal cover from fall until emerging from dormancy in spring when things warm up again.


6. Hiding Out


During the winter, it can be hard to spot lizards as they typically enter a hibernation period. During this time, lizards will seek out safe locations to spend the winter that offers warmth and protection.

Often these places are inside hollow logs or beneath patches of wood mulch since they can absorb some heat when exposed to the sun during periods of warm weather.

Additionally, fallen trees, rocks, and depressions in the ground also provide suitable habitats during cold weather, as these areas tend to accumulate some warmth from nearby sources like buildings and soil.

With their bodies slowing down during this hibernation period, lizards can survive temperatures as low as 7°C for extended periods.


Which lizard species remain active in the winter


Despite traditional beliefs, many lizards remain active even in harsh winter weather. The key is finding a microhabitat where temperatures stay above freezing.

This can mean deep crevices or tunnels given off by rocks, trees, and other landscape features that maintain a warmer climate than the outside air temperature. Species known to do this include alligator lizards, Mediterranean house geckos,

Mediterranean wall lizards, and Mediterranean green lizards, all of which can be found in Europe and the surrounding areas. Even more solitary species, such as the collared lizard, typically bask in the sun during warm summer and take refuge in rock crevices when cold weather approaches. However, such species can remain active in temperatures down to 30°F for brief periods.




Whether a lizard hibernates, migrates, or hides out during the winter months depends mainly on its habitat and the climate conditions where it lives. Knowing which strategies your pet lizard uses can help you better care for them during those cold winter days when they are less active than usual. With proper knowledge, you can ensure your pet lizard has all that it needs to make it through the season unscathed.

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