The bearded dragon that is most commonly kept in the pet industry is known as the Inland Bearded Dragon or Central Bearded Dragon. This dragon comes from the arid center of Australia. These areas rarely see rainfall. There is scarce and rugged vegetation. Bearded dragons are tough and resilient residents of the Australian Outback. Learning about the natural habitat of these fascinating lizards can help us create a more ideal environment for them in our homes.
Understanding your dragon’s natural habitat can help you provide a better environment for her. Learn about your dragon’s natural distribution in the wild, the amount of ground that she would typically cover over what kind of terrain, and the kind of relationships that wild dragons have with one another and other animals.
The natural distribution of your bearded dragon can tell you a lot about the kind of temperature that she would prefer in captivity. The ground that wild dragons cover, as well as their activity level, tells you something about how much room you should provide both in the cage and in out of cage activities. Learning how much basking time is normal can also help you determine if your dragon is healthy.
If you know the kind of terrain that your dragon evolved in you can better replicate it in captivity. Naturally, keep your dragon’s nails sharp and trimmed and keep her in good condition as well.
Captive dragons can learn to recognize their caregiver and even look to them for treats and other needs. In the wild, however, anything larger than a bearded dragon would likely be trying to eat it and anything smaller would be something worth eating. Learn what relationships dragons have with one another and other animals in the wild so that you can reduce their stress in captivity.
Inland bearded dragons range across a wide band of eastern Australia, including temperate and tropical desert areas. Bearded dragons are equally happy in woods or grassland with shrubs. They climb onto branches or high rocks in order to bask and absorb the sun’s heat.
When temperatures drop to a certain temperature in the wild bearded dragons will hibernate. This activity is often fatal in the wild and in captivity as well, and it is best that you not allow your dragons to hibernate. Maintain heat and light cycles so that your dragon does not think that the seasons are changing, and talk to your veterinarian if you think that your dragon is starting to hibernate.
In captivity, it is important to provide a wide range of temperatures from the hottest basking areas to cooler sections of the cage so that your dragon can maintain her ideal temperature.
In the wild, bearded dragons go about as far as they need to go to find food. Individuals stake out a territory and control the resources available there. The fewer resources available, the larger the territories.
Since dragons are willing to eat such a wide variety of foods, including vegetation, insects, and small mammals, there is a range of activities that they may do in order to get food. Dragons may climb up into trees to raid bird nests or catch insects. They may also dig into the dirt in search of worms or beetles or chase a fast flying cricket or locust for long distances across the sand and rock.
In our homes, bearded dragons live in cages, but it is important to think about the ground that a dragon might cover in the wild in order to provide the best kind of life for your dragon. Provide the largest cage that you can, and offer opportunities to climb and run as your bearded dragon would in nature. You can tell that your dragon needs more space if she frequently glass surfs or paces up and down her cage.
If you are worrying that it is unusual for your dragon to spend large amounts of time flat on her belly underneath the heat lamp, don’t worry. Dragons in the wild spend much of their time basking as well. Basking is an essential task for a dragon to digest her food and maintain health. It is not unusual for a bearded dragon to spend about as much time lying around as the average cat. That said, a healthy dragon is quick to respond to any opportunity for food. In the wild, dragons would always be alert to the potential for a new food source or the danger of a predator. A dragon should always be alert and responsive, if largely sedentary.
Most bearded dragons are very affable with their people and do not mind being taken out of their cage. Dragons can even be trained to step onto a person’s hand to be moved. Letting your dragon run around in a safe and enclosed area, especially in pursuit of some prey, is an excellent exercise. It is also a lot of fun for both of you. You can’t even provide a jungle gym for your dragon made of naturally, safely sourced wood that is of the correct width for your dragon’s body.
In captivity, we can encourage our bearded dragons to be active and stay in good shape by providing very active sources of food. A good technique is to put your dragon in a bathtub or another large enclosed space and let her chase crickets or other agile insects. Make sure that you provide some kind of substrate that your dragon can grip and don’t let her climb up anything that she can jump off of and hurt herself.
Bearded dragons spend their time either on the ground or low in trees or shrubbery. These are not lizards that tend to climb very high into trees. This is because most of their environment in the wild does not contain very tall trees. Bearded dragons do, however, love to bask on wide tree branches and rock piles. Dragons have curved, sharp little nails that are excellent at grabbing onto tree bark. Scrambling up and down trees and shrubs is an excellent exercise. In the wild, bearded dragons constantly scramble into and out of trees to escape predators or capture prey, as well as to bask.
Dragons are very at home climbing under rocks or digging into the earth. In very hot weather, bearded dragons will burrow into cooler sand. They will also scratch through the dirt in search of insects and earthworms.
In captivity, only adult dragons should be allowed access to sand, since even a small amount can quickly cause impaction in immature dragons. To prevent impaction in adult dragons, it is a good idea to only offer a sandbox when you are able to observe your dragon and are not feeding. You can also feed your dragon in a separate container if you would rather house her on the sand.
Other Bearded Dragons
Bearded dragons cannot be said to be social, but they will tolerate one another. Male bearded dragons establish large and fiercely defended territories, into which they may allow several females. If male dragons interact it is to fight. Often just the sight of one another is enough to instigate a fight.
In captivity, two or three female dragons or a male with one or several females will coexist with sufficient room and plenty of resources. Every dragon must have its own heat source, sources of food and water, branches, Etc.
If male and female dragons are housed together breeding is very likely. Be certain that you are prepared with the correct substrate and the capacity to incubate. You may also need to help the female if she becomes egg-bound. Think hard before you decide to house male and female dragons together.
To a bearded dragon, the world is divided into two kinds of creatures: those you can eat and those who might eat you. Dragons often learn to see their human as a caregiver and source of food. These dragons seek out and interact with their human. If your dragon is slow to warm up to you, keep in mind how much you are asking her to do by overcoming her instinct to be afraid of you. Any other creature of your size would eat or indifferently step on a dragon.
Other animals are most likely to scare your dragon. It is best that you do not allow your dog, cat or pet bird to get near your bearded dragon or her cage. If you have other pets, elevate your dragon’s cage so that they will not be able to approach her. Protect the cage from being jumped upon by cats. Even if your other pets are friendly, your dragon doesn’t know that. The presence of other animals will stress your dragon.
Your friendly bearded dragon evolved in the rugged arid wilds of the Australian Outback. You can feel proud to be able to provide a home for your pet that meets her needs. You can provide the same sort of fulfillment and exercise that she would have gotten in the wild. Just keep in mind what your dragon’s life would have looked like in the Outback. Provide the best parts of that existence while keeping your dragon safe from dietary dangers, predators, etc. Your dragon will love you for it.