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The Best Way to Catch a Blue-Belly Lizard (or Western Fence Lizard)

Paul has caught countless blue-bellied lizards in his time and shares his pro tips here.

Blue-Belly Lizard

Blue-Belly Lizard

The Best Way to Catch a Blue-Belly Lizard

The Western fence lizard, commonly known as the blue-belly, can be found across the Western United States. Typically, they are spotted sunning themselves on a rock or log during the day. Their scales make them a little rough to handle, but they are fairly docile and a lot of fun to catch.

There are multiple techniques I've used over the years to catch them—from just being quick with my hands to baiting small snares—but by far, the best technique is to make a lasso out of grass and slip it over the lizard's head. This technique works so well because blue-belly lizards can only run forward, so there is only one way for them to go, which will tighten the noose.

A Grass Lasso

A Grass Lasso

How to Make a Lizard-Catching Lasso

  1. Select a long piece of grass like a foxtail that is at least three feet long and is green enough that the flimsy, thin end can be tied to make a lasso without breaking.
  2. Pull the grass out of the ground from as near to the roots as possible.
  3. Remove all the small branches so that you're left with a single long stem of grass.
  4. Next, take the tip and loop it back about one and a half inches, then tie a half knot around the stem. The loop will tighten if pulled.
Approaching a Blue-Belly Lizard

Approaching a Blue-Belly Lizard

How to Catch a Lizard With a Lasso

To be successful at catching blue-belly lizards, you have to stalk them very slowly.

  1. Approach them from behind.
  2. Make sure your shadow never covers the lizard. Most people that aren't successful at catching lizards tend to move quickly and forget to think about their shadows. As soon as the shadow hits the lizard, the lizard darts off for cover.
  3. Once your lasso can reach the lizard, slowly bounce it up and down. If the lizard's head starts bobbing, there is a good chance it will remain still for you to slip the loop over its head.
  4. Carefully slip the loop over the lizard's head. A long piece of grass can be a bit tricky to hold still, but with a little practice, you will get the hang of it.
  5. When the loop is over the lizard's head, gently pull up on it. You need to be quick enough to pull it tight before the lizard can run through, but not so quick that you hurt the lizard.
Blue-Belly Lizard Lasso

Blue-Belly Lizard Lasso

How to Remove the Lasso From the Lizard

  1. Once the catch is in your hands, gently put the lizard on its back and rub its belly. This will mesmerize and calm the lizard down.
  2. Once it's calm, push the loop open and slide it off its head.
  3. If the lasso becomes too tight, just be patient when opening it up. Blue-belly lizards have little gill-like features on the side of their necks that can catch the grass. Sometimes, the lizard will also thrash around when you're trying to remove the trap from its head. Just be really careful to open the loop gently.
  4. Once the loop is off, you don't want to handle the lizards too much. I usually flip them over and give them a tummy rub to see how long they will sleep, then I put them on my shoulder and let them stay there until they run away.

What if the Lizard Loses Its Tail?

It's not uncommon for blue-belly lizards to lose their tails. This is a natural defense mechanism. Don't worry too much if this happens; the tail will grow back, but it can make the lizard appear as if it's badly hurt in the meantime. Just remain calm if this happens and continue to work on removing the loop from its head.

Happy blue-belly hunting!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.


Lizard lord on August 31, 2020:

It jump into my mouth and I swallowed it

Emily on July 10, 2020:

How can I build a bule belly lizards trap

E man on July 01, 2020:

I do not recemend keeping these lizards as pets when catching them in such places as your back yard. I have before and the where a great show while eating, but essentially the wild ones are for just catch and release. you could also try finding a bug feed it to the lizards and develping trust.

Kaylyn on June 14, 2020:

These lizards will bite if they feel harmed and will try to jump. The ones with a lot of blue are the females

Bob on May 26, 2020:

I used to catch these guys all the time at my school on the California coast when I was in 2nd/3rd grade. Now they are everywhere around my house. I caught one just because he'd been sleeping under a towel on my brick walkway while it was raining. So when it stopped raining and I saw other lizards out, I decided to pull him out and warm him up in my hand until he decided to run off.

I like lizards on May 25, 2020:

Do the lizards play dead?

roblox gal on May 17, 2020:

i found one on my porch area, i was so scared to even touch it but after reading these articles, i now know that they are not bad

kyuho jung on October 10, 2019:

i have a bunch of lizards pet :3

Malrw on July 12, 2019:

i see blue belly lizards more than daily outside my backyard they do not bite, though alligator lizards i see alot and have caught many, alligator lizards are alot more relaxed. Example: when you go to close to a blue belly lizard, they run away fast. when you come close to a alligator lizard they calmly walk away. alligator lizards are easier to catch.

Paul Edmondson (author) from Burlingame, CA on June 18, 2017:

I hold them all the time. While they may act like they are going to bite, I've never been hurt. Hold them gently, roll it over on its back and lightly rub its belly. It will sleep:)

Mia on June 17, 2017:

I just caught a blue bellied lizard it's in a plastic container with holes on the top I want to hold him/her but I am worried if it will bite or jump I was wondering if someone can tell me if it is safe to hold him/her

Fawntia Fowler from Portland on March 25, 2016:

I don't think I've ever seen a lizard like this before, but the blue color on the belly is so unusual! I've heard that blue is not very common in nature.

lizard lover on February 27, 2015:

what worked most successfully for me was first, to take a long thin stick ,second then get dental floss and cut off about a foot of floss then make a lasso at one end of then string then attach the other side of the string to the end of the stick. i have caught countless lizards using this method and have never hurt or damaged any of my lizards.

Jennifer Arnett from California on December 01, 2014:

What a fun idea! I used to catch them by hand by sneaking up on them. I'd put them in the same cage as my anoles and they got along great. Blue bellies are really easy to tame and will sit on your shirt for hours. Now I don't have to use the pouncing method.

David Sproull from Toronto on May 15, 2013:

@Paul: as long as you know I was trying to be helpful and not critical for it's own sake. Stick with it, you'll get this hubbing thing figured out in no time! ;-)

Paul Edmondson (author) from Burlingame, CA on May 14, 2013:

@DDS thanks for the grammar tip. Some day we will have a feature that let's other Hubbers fix things up like that. Thanks again!

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on May 14, 2013:

Fascinating. We did this years ago in Key West with the center stalk of a palm frond leaf. There were loads of lizards on the island. Although I never saw the western Blue Belly ones, of course. Lizards always reminded me of tiny dinosaurs. Never thought to rub their bellies but we did keep them on sewing thread with a safety pin attached to our shirts. Ah, you've reminded me of the old tomboy days.

David Sproull from Toronto on May 14, 2013:

Hi Paul, you might want to do a quick re-check on the spelling as you have 'tales' in for 'tails'

An honest mistake, but figured you'd want to fix it.

Nice article otherwise!