Although Georgia’s winters are a bit too chilly for some reptiles, a handful of lizard species have still been able to thrive in the temperate peach state. Home to a variety of skinks, legless lizards, race runners, anoles, and more, Georgia has a surprisingly diverse lizard population. Let’s look at 10 of the most amazing species living in this unique southern state.
1. Eastern Fence Lizard (Sceloporus undulatus)
These little rough-scaled lizards are extremely common throughout Appalachia and the southeast, especially in states like Georgia, Tennessee, and the Carolinas. The species has many common names, including the prairie lizard and the pine lizard. It is quite tolerant of cooler weather and usually lives in temperate forests and pine barrens.
The typical eastern fence lizard is roughly 4 to 7 inches long from snout to tail tip. Its color is typically a solid brown or gray. The scales on its body are slightly keeled, giving the lizard a rough, textured appearance. Interestingly, the species is highly sexually dimorphic, as males of the species have blue splotches on their bellies.
Sadly, if you’re lucky enough to spot one of these unique little lizards, it will likely flee instantly. Eastern fence lizards are highly arboreal and fast-moving, so they will typically run up the nearest tree for safety when startled.
2. Mole Skink (Plestiodon egregius)
Common throughout southern Georgia, the mole skink is a slender, speedy terrestrial lizard and expert burrower. It is native to the southeastern US, primarily in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. It actually has five unique subspecies, all of which are similar in appearance and size but differing in geographic range.
The northern mole skink, Plestiodon egregius similis, is the main subspecies occurring in Georgia and Alabama. The other four subspecies mainly reside in Florida.
Like most skinks, the mole skink is perfectly suited to burrowing underground. Its 4-to-6-inch-long body is long and slender with short, thin limbs and a long, narrow tail. Its primary body color is typically brown or gray, with thin, lighter-colored stripes running vertically down the sides of the body. The lizards’ most recognizable trait is their bright reddish-orange tails.
3. Six-Lined Racerunner (Aspidoscelis sexlineatus)
As its common name suggests, the six-lined racerunner is a long, slender whiptail lizard with six thin, yellow, or greenish-yellow stripes running vertically down its body. Its long tail makes up much of its total body length. It typically reaches around 6 to 9 inches long from snout to tail tip. The lizard is mainly native to the American east coast, from as far north as Maryland all the way down to Georgia and Florida.
Additionally, the species is slightly sexually dimorphic. The underside of the lizard’s body is usually white or yellow, though males often have blue or green markings on their throats and bellies. There are currently three unique subspecies, all of which are similar in appearance and size but differing slightly in geographic range.
Six-lined racerunners are highly adaptable, hardy lizards who can thrive in a wide range of habitats and climates. They most commonly reside in sparsely wooded grasslands, forests, and plains, as well as dry, rocky outcrops. As a terrestrial species, it prefers staying low to the ground, where it can easily burrow into the dirt.
4. Slender Glass Lizard (Ophisaurus attenuatus)
The slender glass lizard is a legless lizard that, interestingly, superficially resembles a garter snake. However, it can easily be differentiated from snakes by its external earholes, movable eyelids, and small, inflexible jaws. It is native to much of America’s Midwest and Southeast regions and is especially abundant throughout Georgia.
As its name suggests, the slender glass lizard has a long, thin body. The “glass” part of this lizard’s name comes from its long tail, which the lizard can sever on its own when threatened or startled. Unlike most lizards capable of caudal autotomy, though, glass lizards’ tails usually break off in an irregular, shattering fashion like fragile glass.
There are two distinct subspecies of the slender glass lizard: a western and eastern variety. They are similar in appearance, with striped, brownish-yellow bodies and short, pointed snouts.
While the eastern variety is more common along the southeast coast, the western subspecies reside in the Midwest. Both subspecies are roughly 25 inches in length from snout to tail tip.
5. Southeastern Five-Lined Skink (Plestiodon inexpectatus)
We now come to another very common skink lizard in Georgia, the southeastern five-lined skink. It lives throughout much of the American Southeast, from Mississippi and western Tennessee all the way to the Carolinas on the east coast. It is actually a distinct species from the similarly-named American five-lined skink, though the two are closely related.
Just like their common name implies, the southeastern five-lined skink has five thin, light-colored vertical stripes stretching down the length of its body. Its base body color is typically brown or grayish-brown. Juveniles often have vibrant blue tails and orange heads. However, some adults retain their orange head coloration. When fully grown, the lizard typically reaches around 5 to 9 inches in length.
As a fairly adaptable species, this particular lizard is hardy and can thrive in a range of habitats. It typically lives in forests and densely wooded areas, often near bodies of water.
6. Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis)
The vibrant green anole is a lizard that seems to have dominated the American southeast, primarily in states like Georgia, Florida, North and South Carolina, and Alabama. As an arboreal species, it prefers warm, densely forested habitats where it can climb trees.
This small, slender lizard is around 4 to 8 inches long, with males being slightly longer than females. Its snout is long and pointed. Its most common color is a bright, leafy green, but this varies from individual to individual. Some green anoles, including most babies and juveniles, are more drab or even brown in color.
Notably, the species is capable of shifting its color slightly, most likely in response to temperature rather than as camouflage. It has also become a common pet in the exotic pet trade thanks to its hardy nature, small size, and fairly minimal care requirements.
7. Broadhead Skink (Plestiodon laticeps)
The broadhead skink is one of the larger skink species with a surprisingly stout, wide body. As its name suggests, its head is especially large and wide. The lizard’s body is typically primarily brown or greenish-brown in color. It is somewhat similar in appearance to the aforementioned southeastern five-lined skink.
The species is quite sexually dimorphic, with females having thin, light stripes running down their backs and tails. Males, on the other hand, often have bright orange or red-colored heads. Additionally, juvenile broadhead skinks are darker in body color and usually have blue tails, which fade with age. When fully grown, broadhead skinks usually range from 6 to 12 inches in length.
Interestingly, while most skinks are terrestrial in nature, the broadhead skink is actually semi-arboreal. It is a fairly skilled climber and spends a lot of its time hiding in trees for shelter or in search of insect prey.
8. Coal Skink (Plestiodon anthracinus)
The coal skink’s geographic range varies slightly depending on the subspecies. Currently, two subspecies are recognized: the northern and southern varieties. While the northern variety inhabits northern states like Pennsylvania and New York, the southern variety lives in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and parts of the southern Midwest.
Other than geographic range, the two subspecies are very similar in size and general appearance. They both generally prefer densely wooded habitats close to bodies of water.
The coal skink can be easily differentiated from other skinks by its four thin, light-colored stripes extending vertically down its body. It is fairly small in size, usually reaching around 5 to 7 inches from snout to tail tip when fully grown. Males often have bright red or orange heads during their spring breeding season to appeal to potential female mates.
9. Eastern Glass Lizard (Ophisaurus ventralis)
Another fascinating legless lizard common to Georgia is the eastern glass lizard. These bizarre yet stunning reptiles are usually very dark green with tiny mottled white or pale yellow spots covering their bodies from head to tail. These tiny spots are often arranged more in a stripe-like pattern along the lizard’s back and sides. Juveniles of the species are usually lighter in color, with two dark stripes running vertically down their backs.
Like the slender glass lizard, the eastern glass lizard resembles a garter snake superficially. However, it has movable eyelids, inflexible jaws, and distinct external earholes, traits that snakes notably lack. Its body shape is also more slender and not as round and plump as that of most snakes.
This species is common throughout southern Georgia as well as the American southeast coast in general. They are most often found in wetlands with moist, sandy soil. As strong foragers and burrowers, they feed on a wide variety of insects and invertebrates both above and below ground.
10. Ground Skink (Scincella lateralis)
Finally, we cap off our list of Georgia’s most fascinating lizards with the humble ground skink. This hardy reptile is native to much of the eastern half of North America, with its native range stretching as far south as northern Mexico. It is also commonly known as the little brown skink for its small size and fairly uniform reddish-brown coloration.
At only 3 to 5 inches long from snout to tail tip, the ground skink is one of America’s smallest reptile species. Like most skinks, it is very slender with a long tail that makes up much of its total body length. While it is mostly brown in color, its underside is typically white or light yellow. The species is slightly sexually dimorphic, with females being larger than males on average.
True to its name, the ground skink is terrestrial and prefers staying low to the ground. It thrives in a wide range of habitats, but it prefers densely wooded forests with soft, moist soil for burrowing. It often lives near small bodies of water like streams and rivers.