10 predators that eat lizards {And how different lizards fight back}

You have likely crossed paths with a lizard before, considering how prevalent they are in numerous environments. However, their high prevalence also leads to them being potential prey for a variety of animals, although they have their own strategies to combat the threats they face.

Various creatures prey on lizards, including other lizards, birds like hawks, wolves, dogs, and snakes. Additionally, it is common to see spiders eating them, especially the larger spider species.

While there are numerous lizard species that all vary in size and diet preferences, most are on the lower end of the food chain and therefore vulnerable to being preyed on. However, the enemies lizards face leads them to develop defense strategies involving camouflage and speed. They are very fast animals, with some of them having the ability to run on water surfaces. Moreover, their skin makes it difficult for predators to notice them, since it matches very well with their surroundings, and certain lizard species have a unique ability to shoot blood at their predators from their eyes.

Predators that eat lizards

  1. Hawks

Hawks are among the most important birds in many ecosystems, and are in the category of birds of prey, also known as raptors. Raptors are a classification comprising buteos and accipiters, where hawks fall under and also includes secretary birds, the Old World vultures, kites, and eagles.

Thanks to their wide range of sizes, adaptations such as keen eyes and razor-sharp talons, and ecological habitat preferences, it is unsurprising to find them eating a wide range of prey that includes lizards.Alongside lizards, hawks will also eat other reptiles like snakes. In particular, lizards comprise a third of red-shouldered hawk diets, and they also enjoy eating other reptiles that even include turtles.

The red-tail hawk is among the most widespread hawk species and lives in North America. These birds can dive at speeds of 120mph and are active fliers that prey on both alive and dead animals. Other than the adult hawks eating lizards and other animals, their young hatchlings also consume meat, with a steady diet of catfish, carps, insects, crustaceans, and lizards.

  1. Dogs

By nature, dogs are curious animals and will seek out any potential prey that seems exciting, including lizards in some cases. However, this is not a pro-active behavior, but just as an opportunity; the exception to this rule is in the case of stray dogs, which will be open to eating just about anything as long as it fulfills their dietary needs.

In the case of domestic dogs, their owners have been opposed to their pets eating lizards, because they believed lizards to be toxic to the dog’s digestive and circulatory systems. However, research findings show this long-held assumption is false, as lizards are mostly good prey for dogs. It is good to note something though: lizards do carry a variety of parasites, particularly a liver fluke that can easily infect dogs and cats when they eat the lizard, and this parasite proves harmful to them.

Other than the liver fluke, lizards are also carriers of Salmonella, a bacterium that can make a dog very sick when it eats a lizard, although it does not lead to infections in a healthy dog. To avoid having the dog eat lizards, there are some strategies pet owners can implement to train it to do so.

  1. Snakes

With more than 3,000 snake species, it is a guarantee to find them in every continent with the exception of Antarctica. They come in all sizes and shapes, so it also goes that their preferences regarding prey will depend on their habitats, what is available to them, and their sizes; although lizards are a favorite meal for many species.

Snakes are entirely carnivores, so they will eat animals only. Their forked tongues help them to find prey as they have smell receptors that can interpret whether prey or danger is nearby. Other than their tongues, they also have pit holes, which are openings at the front of their eyes that are sensitive to the heat that warm-blooded prey gives off. For scurrying animals like lizards and rats, their lower jaws are sensitive to the vibrations these animals give off when they move.

When killing a lizard, their method will vary according to whether they are a poisonous snake species or not, as well as the size of the lizard. If they are a non-poisonous snake, they will constrict their target and suffocate it until it dies, while the poisonous snakes will give their target a venomous bite.

  1. Mongooses

Although you may think of them as a form of weasels because of their similar appearance, mongooses actually belong to the family of ‘cat-like carnivores’ rather than the ‘dog-like carnivores’ weasels fall under. Many species of mongoose are social and live in ‘mobs’ or ‘packs’ of between 6 and 40 individuals; with some species living in packs of at least 50 of their kind. The group is under the leadership of an alpha male and alpha female, who are the only individuals in the pack that will reproduce.

Mongooses are also excellent hunters despite their small size, thanks to their keen hearing, sight, and smell as well as excellent reflexes. Their diet varies widely depending on what is available, although most targets are snakes, lizards, rabbits, rats, mice, and insects. They are also omnivorous unlike many of the predators on this list, and can supplement their meat diet with seeds, berries, roots, fruits, nuts, and eggs.

  1. Felines

Similar to dogs, it is common to find a cat eating a lizard although it is unsafe in many cases. Lizards have the potential to be poisonous to cats and other felines, with some signs of poisoning including lack of responsiveness, shakiness, vomiting, and foaming at the mouth. However, it is in their instincts to kill and eat lizards, so knowing this is important to preventing any health issues.

Cats are also curious animals, and will eat whatever is moving around them, even if the cat lives indoors. Wild cats also see lizards as prey or a new toy they can play with, such as bobcats and cheetah cubs.

It is important to discourage your cat from eating a lizard, since they can ingest liver flukes and salmonella in the process. While these parasites live on or in the lizard without harming it, they can lead to very serious issues and death in a cat or dog.

  1. Spiders

Spiders are generally carnivorous except for one species that consumes plant products and plants. The bigger spiders will usually attack smaller lizards, although the lizards will successfully defend themselves in most cases by running away or relying on camouflage to avoid being seen. The only exception to this is the regal jumping spider, which can eat insects and lizards that are significantly larger in size compared to it, with some cases involving it eating lizards three times its size.

  1. Other lizards

Certain lizard species will consume other lizards, including members of their species when they need to; this mainly applies to carnivorous lizards. As part of their diet in the wild, collared lizards will hunt other lizards and consider them a main component of their diet.

Many lizards that have this tendency usually eat other meat forms like insects, small snakes, small birds, and rodents like mice. The bigger the lizard is, the more likely it is to eat smaller lizards, except in the case of non-carnivorous lizards. An instance of this is Komodo dragons, where the hatchlings must hide in trees to avoid crossing paths with adult Komodo dragons that can eat them.

In terms of hunting methods, carnivorous lizards use interesting techniques, with scientists finding two methods in particular:

  • Active foraging: The approach involves the lizard slowly moving around in its environment while looking for potential prey. It is helped by its chemosensory ability to hunt its prey actively.
  • Sitting and waiting: The lizard will patiently wait for their targets in a specific location for significant lengths of time. When the prey comes close, the lizard moves quickly to snatch it using its tongue.

In the table below, we outline some lizard species and their main diet choices, with some includinglizards as part of their meal:

Lizard
Examples
Diet
Gekkota lizards
Blind lizards, Legless lizards, geckos.
Small lizards, insects, small rodents, small reptiles. The smaller lizards will eat smaller reptiles and insects while the larger lizards will eat bigger animals.
Iguania lizards
It is the biggest group of lizards, comprising about 1,000 species. These include iguanas, anoles, and chameleons.
Most are herbivores, although some will eat small animals. These include worms, crickets, and baby mice.
Anguimorpha lizard
Gila monsters, Monitor lizards, Chinese crocodile lizards, and slow worms.
Lizards, frogs, eggs, small birds, snails, tadpoles, worms
Scincomorpha lizards
Skinks, wall lizards
Most of these are carnivorous with a predominant preference for insects. These include flies, beetles, crickets, and caterpillars.
Amphisbaenia lizards
Legless burrowing worm lizards
Most are carnivorous, with their diet mainly consisting of worms, insects, small vertebrates, and arthropods.
  1. Raccoons and possums

Both raccoons and possums are opportunistic eaters, so their diet depends on the accessibility of their foods; which is why they can end up looking for food in your garbage. However, this is far from their preferred approach: in the best conditions, they will prefer animals living near or in water, such as clams, snails, slugs, frogs, crayfish, and other fish types. Additionally, they will enjoy carrion, nuts, vegetables, fruits, eggs, and insects.

As a general rule, possums and raccoons will focus on eating plants in the colder months of the year, and animals during the spring and summer months.

  1. Chickens

These birds will eat anything they see is viable enough for them to overpower; so that includes reptiles, amphibians, and small backyard lizards. Chickens follow an omnivorous diet, so they can consume both animals and plants; lizards will not harm them either, since they do not have any venom.

In terms of nutritional standpoints, lizards are fine despite them not having much meat for the chicken. They do contain decent amounts of protein, and the chicken will eat it alongside other animals like earthworms, spiders, crickets, ants, flies, and bees.

  1. Coyotes

Coyotes follow an omnivorous diet, so they will change their hunting preferences and foods according to what is available at the moment; which is why they easily adapt in many habitats.When they are hunting smaller prey alone, they use a stalking and waiting strategy; patiently delaying until their prey comes close enough, and then pouncing on it.

Their dietary choices include snakes, birds, rabbits, rodents, insects, flowers, cactus fruits, and even lizards. As they are apex predators, they do not need to worry about many animals killing and eating them, with their only worry being diseases and human interactions. Despite their omnivorous diet, they will strongly prefer meat, with 75% of their diet consisting of it.

How lizards defend themselves from predators

As the list above showcases, lizards appear on many animal menus, and they have a multitude of defense strategies to rely on due to the many threats they face. When they realize they cannot outrun their enemy, they will use other methods to save their skins; literally.

  1. Using venomous bites

Most lizard species are non-venomous except for two: the beaded lizard and the Gila monster. Although certain species like iguanas and monitor lizards can sometimes appear on the list of venomous reptiles, the continuing research into these animals reveals that is not the case.

The venomous species will act in self-defense by biting their enemy and the venom causes swelling at the bite spot. In serious cases of threat, they will even kill their enemy by delivering very painful bites.

  1. Disguising themselves

Lizards are not afraid to use color to their advantage, since they may not have much else in their defense strategy. For instance, it is common to see smaller lizards using color to make them invisible to predators by blending into their environments.The beaded lizard and Gila monster, in particular, will use colors to warn predators that they are venomous.

Additionally, brighter colors in nature are warnings to enemies that the animal they are thinking of preying on is potentially dangerous to them. Therefore, you will find some non-venomous species of lizards having tails in very bright colors, and they will show their predator their tails when they feel threatened.

  1. Horns and spikes

If the lizard sees that it cannot hide from, escape, or trick its enemy into thinking it is poisonous, it will resort to making itself seem like an unappealing meal.This is a particularly popular solution for short-horned lizards, which have a row of spikes on their backs and spiny crests around their throats. In most cases, this is enough to put off any potential predators, since they look like painful meals to swallow.

  1. Shedding their tails

Among the more unusual lizard defense strategies, even among its reptilian cousins, is shedding their tails. When they are captured by their enemies or stressed, they will detach from their tails; in many instances, this is enough to surprise their predators. Instead of their enemy chasing them, it will just eat the tail and allow the lizard to escape. The loss of the tail is not much to the lizard either, since it will grow back eventually.

Certain species of lizards will take this a step further. An instance is the gecko, whose tail continues to move during the shedding process. The result is that the predator assumes the tail is also a living creature that it must kill, and it will be distracted in the attempt to kill the tail; allowing the gecko to escape.

  1. Squirting blood

When perceiving dangerous enemies, the southern desert horned lizard can shoot blood from its eyes. While this may seem like a short trick, predators will find the blood distasteful if it gets in their mouth, and they will allow it to escape.

  1. Hissing

Many lizards will use this as a defense strategy, as a warning to their enemies. Some species will also combine hissing with other methods as well, like frilled dragon lizards that open the frills around their necks while hissing.

  1. Appearing larger

Certain lizard species will appear more menacing when facing threats by puffing their throats, as is the case with bearded dragons, while others inflate their entire bodies, like horned toad lizards.

Conclusion

Lizards will vary in terms of their abilities and size, so they can be potential prey to a wide variety of animals depending on where they live. Despite their numerous adaptations, they are vulnerable to being eaten by other creatures, including other lizards.

FAQs

Does the lizard have many enemies?

It depends, although smaller lizards will have more enemies compared to the larger lizard species. These animals include other lizards, snakes, various animals, and birds.

What is the general lifespan of a lizard?

This varies between 3 and 50 years, depending on whether it is living in the wild or in captivity, as well as the species of the lizard.