2014 guide to species at risk in the prairie provinces: chapter 3


Eastern Yellow-bellied Racer

Coluber constrictor flaviventris

Photo of Eastern Yellow-bellied Racer
Photo: Parks Canada, W. Lynch
Long description for Eastern Yellow-bellied Racer photo

This is a photo of an Eastern Yellow-bellied Racer, coiled up on a patch of sparsely vegetated, gravely ground. The head of the snake is near the center of the coils, facing right, showing a black eye and a black tongue sticking out, and a yellowish face. The snake is slender and predominately a bright bluish-green.

51 - 121 cm (20 - 48 inches)


Eastern yellow-bellied racers are long and slender snakes with whip-like tails, elongated heads and smooth lustrous scales. The upper part of their bodies are bluish-green and their bellies are yellow. In Canada, they are found in a few areas of southern Saskatchewan, in open habitats such as grasslands and agricultural areas. They also appear in extreme southeastern Alberta.

Did you know?

  • As the name implies, racers are built for speed and are capable of travelling up to 7 km/h for very short distances.
  • They return to the same den each year to hibernate through the winter months.
  • Be aware of snakes which may be on roads in their general area of occurrence as they disperse to feed in the summer months.
Eastern Yellow-bellied Racer map
Eastern Yellow-bellied Racer map
Long description for Eastern Yellow-bellied Racer map

This is the distribution map of Eastern Yellow-bellied Racers in Alberta and Saskatchewan. There are three areas where the snake is found; in south eastern Alberta at the One-Four Research Station, in and around Grassland National Park, and  around the tributaries in the Big Muddy region in Saskatchewan.

Greater Short-horned Lizard

Phrynosoma hernandesi

Photo of Greater Short-horned Lizard
Photo: A. B. Sheldon
Long description for Greater Short-horned Lizard photo

This is a photo of a Greater Short-horned Lizard facing right, and basking in the sun on a rock, with grass blades in the background. The lizard has a flat wide body and short legs.  It is exceptionally cryptic, in shades of grey with a whitish side/belly showing.  The many short horns on its head and body that give this species its common name.

6 – 9.5 cm (2.5 to 3.75 inches)


The greater short-horned lizard is a squat grayish lizard with some dark blotches, often with white edges, on its back. There are short spines along the back of the head, and there are fringes of triangular scales along the sides of the abdomen. This lizard thrives in a hot, dry badland habitat with exposed soils, sparse vegetation along drainages such as rocky river beds in southeastern Alberta and in Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan.

Did you know?

  • This lizard eats a variety of insects but it is especially fond of ants.
  • The females bear live young which are about 1 inch long.
  • These lizards are very secretive and extremely difficult to find because their colour closely matches the ground colour, and these lizards often do not move when they are approached.
Greater Short-horned Lizard map
Photo of Northern Prairie Skink
Long description for Greater Short-horned Lizard map

This is a distribution map of Greater Short-horned Lizards in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan. The lizards occur in four disjunct areas in southeast Alberta: 1) the South Saskatchewan River valley near Medicine Hat; 2) the Chin Coulee/Forty Mile Coulee Complex; 3) the area east and south of Manyberries in the Pakowki Lake drainage; and 4) the valleys of the Milk River and Lost River.  The largest area of continuous occupied habitat in Alberta is found south and east of the town of Manyberries along the southern fringe of the Cypress Hills.

Greater short-horned lizards occur in four disjunct areas of known occupancy in southwest Saskatchewan within and near Grasslands National Park: 1) the northern portion of the West Block of Grasslands National Park;  2) the central portion of the West Block of Grasslands National Park; 3) the southern portion of the West Block of Grasslands National Park; and 4) the southern portion of the East Block of Grasslands National Park.

Northern Prairie Skink

Plestiodon septentrionalis

Photo of Northern Prairie Skink
Photo: © A. B. Sheldon
Long description for Northern Prairie Skink photo

This is a photo of a Northern Prairie Skin on a log, facing left and downward.  It is a small, slender lizard with short legs and is distinguished by the four light stripes bordered by black that run the entire length of its body and along part of its tail. The tail, which can be almost as long as the body, is blue-grey in adults and bright blue in juveniles.

5 - 8.5 cm (2 - 3.35 inches)


The northern prairie skink is a cigar-shaped lizard with small legs, an olive to olivebrown back, dark sides and seven light stripes on its back and sides. The tail is bright blue in the young. It inhabits sandy areas with adequate cover, such as native grasses.

Did you know?

  • The prairie skink is the only lizard species in Manitoba and one of only six native lizard species in Canada.
  • Female prairie skinks nest in subterranean burrows or, more typically, under artificial cover such as sheets of tin and old boards.
  • They spend more than seven months of the year in hibernation.
Northern Prairie Skink map
Northern Prairie Skink map
Long description for Northern Prairie Skink map

This is a distribution map of the Northern Prairie Skink in Manitoba. This species can be found in two separate regions. The species is mainly found in the sandy soils of the Assiniboine delta in the Carberry Sandhills. It is also found in the Lauder Sand Hills. The northern boundary of the main population’s range is approximately 6 km southwest of Neepawa and the southern boundary is 3.5 km northeast of Glenboro, south of the Assiniboine.

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