Also known as:
This species was placed in the genus Cnemidophorus until recently, so many reference books use that name.
Subspecies I've seen:
Aspidoscelis tigris munda
Pine Ridge Trail, Ventana Wilderness, Monterey County, California—August 23, 1998
This one is medium sized, probably a young adult. Its regenerated tail is not so whiplike as it once was.
Garland Ranch Regional Park, Monterey County, California—January 17, 1999
This one is a juvenile; you can tell by its disproportionately larger head and shorter snout. It must have been injured, possibly stepped on, because it was writhing about when we came upon it. I picked it up and it seemed to enjoy basking in the warmth of my palm on this cool winter day. It seemed to recover well from its earlier trauma and I didn't see any injuries so I'm hopeful that it will grow up to be a big whiptail someday.
Desert Tortoise Natural Area, Kern County, California—April 22, 2000
This attractively marked one was playing the usual whiptail tease-the-photographer game which consists of resting briefly until the shutter is almost clicked, then racing off to another bush. I must have tired it out though because it finally stopped for long enough to take a couple of photos.
Pinnacles National Park, San Benito County, California—July 3, 2011
The whiptails were busily bustling about on this hot morning. Most of them raced away in the nervous twitchy manner of whiptails everywhere, but this one paused on the trail in front of me for a little basking.
Pinnacles National Park, San Benito County, California—June 2, 2016
I watched this large whiptail poke around between the pictured rock and dead branch, repeatedly pulling out some sort of yummy whiptail snack. My guess is that the snacks were winged termites, but I'm not sure.
Volcan Mountain Trail, San Diego County, California—May 27, 2021
These lizards are definitely not habitat specialists. I see them near the coast, reasonably high in the mountains, and way down in the lowest deserts.
Aspidoscelis tigris punctilinealis
Sonoran Tiger Whiptail
near Signal Hill Trail, Saguaro National Park West, Pima County, Arizona—April 10, 1999
Tucson was recovering from a cold spell on this day, so there were relatively few lizards skittering about. If there were more, I'm sure I would have gotten a better picture (yeah, right).
near Quitobaquito Spring, Organ Pipe National Monument, Pima County, Arizona—May 27, 2001
My friend David Sloo and I watched this whiptail nervously excavate some sort of crunchy wiggling morsel. The lizard looked like a dog digging a hole in beach sand.
near Ajo, Pima County, Arizona—August 14, 2013
While unsuccessfully looking for horned lizards early in the morning, I did manage to find a few wary whiptails.
Mohawk Dunes, Yuma County, Arizona—May 21, 2015
Ditto, except in this case I was successfully
looking for horned lizards.
Bahía de Kino, Sonora, Mexico—August 18, 2017
Not too far south of here, the subspecies changes to Aspidoscelis tigris aethiops
, a Mexico endemic. But at least according to the range map on the very reliable californiaherps.com
, the Tiger Whiptails in this area are the same subspecies as the ones in southern Arizona.
Aspidoscelis tigris septentrionalis
Plateau Tiger Whiptail
Dead Horse Point State Park, Wayne County, Utah—June 19, 2001
Another rare resting whiptail. This same morning, I saw another whiptail two feet up in a bush foraging for bugs. I had never seen one climbing so high off the ground before.
Sedona, Coconino County, Arizona—August 13, 2004
On a relatively cool day, this whiptail had just crawled out of a burrow a few inches away and was warming up for its afternoon forage.
Virgin River Recreation Area, Mohave County, Arizona—April 28, 2006
Considering the time (around 10:30 AM, plenty late enough for the whiptails to be warmed up and feisty), this lizard was remarkably polite to let me approach close enough for this photo.
Natural Bridges National Monument, San Juan County, Utah—June 2, 2006
I'm pretty sure that this is the closest any whiptail has ever let me approach for a photograph. It was early enough in the morning that the whiptails were just starting to bask. I didn't think the "good lizards" would be up yet, so I hadn't brought my trusty 200mm macro lens with me, but I had brought along a wide-angle lens for some photos of the scenic beauty. After this fellow started sunbathing near me, my wife, and the various dogs we had brought along, I just kept inching closer and closer to it until I could get this photo from no more than a foot away. I guess I'll have to stop bad-mouthing whiptail lizards if they're going to be this cooperative.
Goblin Valley State Park, Emery County, Utah—July 19, 2017
I followed this attractively patterned whiptail lizard around as it inspected every clump of grass and rodent hole in the vicinity. What it did not do is stop moving so I could get a decent photo.
Mill Creek North Fork Trail, Moab, Grand County, Utah—May 23, 2022
This whiptail taunted me mercilessly by staying on the trail ahead of me, but always just far enough that I couldn't get a good close-up photo.
Aspidoscelis tigris tigris
Great Basin Whiptail
Mara Oasis, Joshua Tree National Park, San Bernardino County, California—June 20, 1998
You have to follow a lot of whiptails for a long time before one of them will stop twitching long enough for you to take a decent picture. This one was climbing in some low branches and so couldn't race off as fast as most.
Borrego Palm Canyon, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, San Diego County, California—April 24, 2009
When I first saw the two whiptails pictured in the top photo, one of them seemed to be chasing the other. I thought they might be a courting pair, and perhaps they were. But after a minute or two, they ended up in the same bush, digging at the same spot, apparently foraging together.
The unusually non-cameraphobic whiptail in the second photo was about to endure the scare of its life. Shortly after the full-body basking shown here, it jittered its way into a leafy bush about six feet ahead of us on the trail and momentarily disappeared. A fraction of a second later it was back in the middle of the trail, and so was the huge coachwhip that had essentially flown out of said bush in hot pursuit. I've never seen two herps move that fast -- one instant, empty trail; the next instant, whiptail and large hungry snake hit the trail simultaneously. The whiptail zipped past us down the hill. The coachwhip saw us and decided that we looked more frightening than the whiptail looked tasty, so quickly fled into the nearest cover. I didn't have nearly enough time to take a photo, but the image of that surprised whiptail and lightning-fast predator will be burned into my brain for some time to come.
Borrego Palm Canyon, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, San Diego County, California—May 23, 2015
Not a particularly good whiptail picture, but the best one I managed to take this morning. Those darn whiptails!
SARA Mountain Park, Lake Havasu City, Mohave County, Arizona—April 14, 2016
Since I was mostly dog-walking and only incidentally herping, I had neglected to bring any lens longer than 100mm, so I had (and consequently you have) to settle for this medium-distance shot. It did not stick around for its close-up.
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