SNAKES ARE AROUND NOW THAN AT ANY OTHER TIME OF YEAR
enjoyed answering a question I received recently because I was able
to say, "Great find. Actually, you still have not seen a snake
in your yard," and added an emoticon smiley face.
query and attached photo I received said, "Can you tell me what
kind of snake I saw in my back yard today? I have never seen a snake
in my yard in the 15 years I have lived here. I don't know what it is,
and I can't find a picture of it online. I live in middle Georgia."
at the photo, I was able to give my reply, with some additional information.
"What you found was not a snake but one of the legless lizards
or glass lizards." Unlike snakes, they have eyelids that can blink
and ear openings, but unlike most lizards they have no legs. They are
sometimes called glass snakes because of their obvious resemblance to
As a boy
in Alabama I remember them being called jointed snakes because a shattered
tail looked like it had come apart at connecting joints, which in a
sense was accurate because the tail separates between vertebrae.
them glass lizards or glass snakes is also a reasonable description
because they look like a shiny piece of porcelain. The eastern glass
lizard can be a stunningly beautiful greenish black creature with a
glasslike sheen above and an unmarked yellow belly. Also, legless lizards
have a tail that can be more than two-thirds of their body length. Like
many other lizards the tail will break off if a predator attacks it
or if a person picks one up too roughly. Sometimes a glass lizard's
tail can break into three or four pieces.
of glass lizards are known from the Southeast, with at least one being
native to every state, and one of them, the slender glass lizard, ranging
as far west as Kansas. In my experience the most likely places to find
glass lizards are in coastal areas. My grandson in Charleston averages
finding more than one a week from spring through fall. Of course he
knows where to look for them, how not to get bitten and even more importantly
how to catch them without breaking their tail.
a glass lizard and breaking its tail is a major faux pas in herpetological
circles. Imagine the shame of holding up a glass lizard you have just
caught - with its tail broken. All right, I realize most readers will
not be able to empathize with the embarrassment, but take my word for
it, it would be like offering someone a book with half its pages missing.
The tail will grow back, very slowly, but will never reach its original
a coastal dune grass habitat on Little St. Simons Island, Georgia, we
caught a truly rare species - the island glass lizard. This magnificent
creature has a pale yellow body and an eye-catching black stripe down
each side. This one's body measured only 7 inches, but its tail was
almost 2 feet long! Island glass lizards do not bite and their tails
seldom break like those of the others. So we could handle and photograph
this particular individual with no problem.
the rarity of the species, John Jensen of the Georgia Department of
Natural Resources who was with us noted that the specimen was the first
island glass lizard found in Georgia in more than a decade and the largest
one he had ever seen. When we released it, I watched in awe as this
extraordinary lizard disappeared into the dunes. The photos, taken by
J.D. Willson, ended up in a book.
lizards are impressive, and in some areas they are more common than
people realize. They deserve to be greatly appreciated whenever they
are encountered, even when people think they are snakes.
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