Bearded Dragon

Pogona vitticeps

Bearded dragons are native to central Australia and are very popular as pets. The name “bearded” refers to a large throat pouch that extends outward and looks like a spiny beard. Some species display this beard as a defense mechanism or to assert dominance. There are several closely-related species of bearded dragons, some of which have attractive color patterns. Pogona vitticeps is the most common species in the pet trade.

In the wild, bearded dragons are semi-arboreal and occupy various habitats ranging from deserts to dry forests. They are diurnal, normally foraging in the early morning and late afternoon, and resting under shelter during mid-day.

Domesticated bearded dragons typically live 5 to 15 years, weigh 10 to 18 ounces, and grow to 12 to 18 inches in length.

Did You Know?

Domesticated Bearded Dragons typically live 5 to 15 years.

Sustainability

Does the harvest for wildlife trade or captive breeding of this species harm wild populations?

Little Cause for Concern

Australia maintains very strict controls on export, which is illegal for this species.  Almost all animals in captivity are captive bred, and the species breeds well in captivity, so harvest of wild individuals would not be necessary for the pet trade even if it were legal. Wild populations of bearded dragons are not believed to be at risk due to their wide native geographic range and stable population numbers.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

When purchasing a bearded dragon, ensure that it is captive-bred from domesticated animals. Only acquire a pet that is from a reputable breeder or seller to ensure that you are not buying an illegally wild-caught and/or imported animal.

Invasion Threat

Does the release or escape of this species into the wild harm the environment and/or economy?

Some Cause for Concern

Bearded dragons are very popular pets in the U.S., but so far there are no established populations in the wild. However, the sheer magnitude of the bearded dragon trade increases the likelihood that animals will escape or be released into the wild by their owners. Bearded dragons could become self-sustaining in arid regions of the USA or elsewhere.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

Before obtaining any non-traditional pet, check that it is legal to own one in your state of residence and check for permitting requirements. Only acquire a pet that is from a reputable breeder or dealer to ensure that you are not buying an illegally imported or wild-caught animal. Always keep your pet inside a safe and secure enclosure. Never release a pet into the wild.

Ease of Care

Does harvest, captive breeding, transport, or being kept as a pet harm individual animals?

Little Cause for Concern

Ease of care of many non-traditional pets depends on the individual owner’s years of experience and knowledge caring for a particular species. For the purposes of this website, we have geared information toward the benefit of the beginner.

Bearded dragons may tolerate captivity with minimal stress if cared for properly. They need a secure container where they feel safe to sleep and hide, access to food and water, a safe heat gradient (from 70–100°F), and a UVB light source. They also need a clean and properly humidified environment; the cage should not be wet but the air should be periodically moist. Bearded dragons should be fed a mix of vegetable matter and live insects, which should be dusted with vitamin and mineral supplements.

Male bearded dragons are territorial, so it is best to have only one male per cage; larger cages can accommodate separate territories (allow 2 x 4 ft per male). Two or three females can be housed with a male, but to avoid excessive dominance interaction, juveniles should be kept apart from adults.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

Before acquiring a pet bearded dragon, be sure to research its specific care requirements. Annual check ups and fecal analyses are recommended. Talk to your veterinarian about the proper diet and how to maintain a healthy weight for your pet.

Health Threat

Does this animal pose a health risk to native wildlife, humans, livestock and agriculture?

Some Cause for Concern

Bearded dragons, like all captive reptiles, may carry Salmonella. If ingested by humans, Salmonella can cause vomiting and diarrhea; these symptoms are usually mild in healthy adults but can be fatal to infants and young children, or anyone with a compromised immune system. It is important to wash hands before and after handling an animal. Salmonella can be transmitted from exotic pets to any member of a household, even those who do not handle the pet directly.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

Reptiles often do not show signs of illness when harboring Salmonella. Regardless, when purchasing a pet ask the seller if the animal has been checked by a veterinarian and obtain a list of any medical treatments the animal has received. Always wash your hands after handling a reptile.

EcoHealth Alliance works at the intersection of ecosystem, animal and human health through local conservation programs and develops global health solutions to emerging diseases.
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