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Lizards in Tennessee

There are nine lizards that are common in Tennessee.

Whether you want to identify the lizard your child just brought into the home or you are worried that your cat has just been bitten by a lizard in the yard, you want to know how to identify the lizards or whether they are poisonous.

Continue reading to find detailed information on the nine common lizards you will come across when in Tennessee.

Are There Poisonous Lizards In Tennessee?

The good news is that the lizards you come across in Tennessee are not poisonous, though you want to remember that they do carry disease.

If your child brings a lizard home or your cat is bitten in your yard, you will want to wash your hands and flush the wound, reducing the risk of salmonella.

Lizards in Tennessee

1. Green Anole

The green anole (Anolis Carolinensis) is a common lizard in Tennessee, easily identified with its slender body and long pointed head. These are small to medium-sized lizards that have adhesive pads on their toes to help them climb.

The green anole is the most popular pet anole, even for beginners.

Males are larger than females with a large red dewlap.

Females have a smaller dewlap that is white to very pale pink in color. Females also have a white stripe that runs down their spines, while males have a dorsal ridge behind their head, which is displayed when stressed.

Up to seventy percent of the green anole lizard length is made up of tail.

They are seen on the ground or in shrubs, they can be found in urban areas, roadsides, forest edges, building sites, and railings or steps, though they do prefer moist forests and brush clearings.

2. Eastern Fence Lizard

Eastern Fence Lizard

Image by Michael Oster via iNaturalist

The Eastern fence lizard (Sceloporus Undulatus) is found in Florida, Tennessee, Virginia, Southern Illinois, Mississippi, and more.

They grow up to 7.5 inches (19cm) including their tails.

They are a brown or gray color with a dark line which runs along the back of the thigh.

Females are gray with dark lines across their back with white bellies and pale blue areas on the belly and throat.

Males are brown and take on a green/blue color during summer. They have black coloration on the sides of their bellies and throats.

3. Six-lined Racerunner

Image by Greg Lasley via iNaturalist

Six-lined racerunners (Aspidoscelis sexlineatus) can be found throughout the South-Central and Southeastern United States.

These are dark green, black or brown lizards with six yellow to green stripes down the body, spanning from their heads to their tails.

Males have pale blue tummies, while females have white bellies. Some males also display a green throat.

They are slender with a tail that is double their body length.

The six-lined racerunner eats insects.

They are fast-moving, reaching impressive speeds of 29 kilometers per hour (18mph).

They can be found in a host of habitats, this includes open floodplains, grasslands, rocky outcrops, and woodlands.

4. Coal Skink

Image by J.D. Willson via iNaturalist

Coal skinks (Plestiodon Anthracinus) grow up to 7.1 inches (18cm) including their tails.

This skink has four light stripes, which extend all the way to the tail. They do not have any lines on the top of their heads.

Males have red coloration on their heads during the breeding season.

These lizards prefer wooded hillsides where there is plenty of leaf litter, where they can hide. They often live near rocky bluffs and springs, they are known for hiding in shallow water, under stones and debris to escape predators.

5. Five-lined Skink

Image by Bo Abernethy via iNaturalist

This is a small to medium size skink that can grow up to 8.5 inches (21.5cm) including its tails.

Young five-lined skinks are usually black or brown with five yellow to white stripes running down their body, combined with a bright blue tail.

The blue on the tail does fade as the lizard gets older.

Five-lined skink distribution map

The five-lined skink (Plestiodon fasciatus) can be found in many regions in the United States where they prefer partially wooded habitats that offer plenty of hiding places.

6. Southeastern Five-lined Skink

Southeastern Five-lined Skink

The Southeastern five-lined skink (Plestiodon Inexpectatus) has five lines that run down its body, fading as it gets older. The middle stripe is narrower than the other four stripes and there are dark areas between them.

The young have a bright blue tail, which may fade as they get older, though some do keep their blue tail and orange head into adulthood.

Plestiodon Inexpectatus distribution

These skinks are usually found in wooded areas, including small islands, which are located on the southeastern coast. They are ground-dwelling and will run and hide if approached.

7. Broad-headed Skink

Image by Laura Gaudette via iNaturalist

The broad-headed skink (Plestiodon Laticeps) is one of the largest skinks growing up to thirteen inches (33cm). They have wide jaws, which makes their head look triangular.

Males are olive to brown in color with orange heads during the breeding season. Females have five light stripes down their back and tail.

Juveniles have bright blue tails, with a brown or black coloration.

Broad-headed skink distribution map

You can find the broad-headed skink in urban areas, though they do prefer forest areas where there is plenty of leaf litter to provide ample hiding places.

While they do spend most of their time on the ground, it's not uncommon to find these skinks in the tree to catch food or sleep.

8. Little Brown Skink

Image by Evan Spears via iNaturalist

The little brown skink (Scincella lateralis) is a small lizard that grows up to 5.5 inches (14.5cm) including its tails. They are copper brown with yellow or white bellies. They have a long body with short legs.

These skinks live in a host of different habitats from being seen on the edge of ponds and streams, to forests and hedges, as long as there is ample leaf litter.

Little brown skink distribution map

9. Slender Glass Lizard

These lizards are brown to yellow with six stripes with white flecks on the middle of the scales. They grow up to 36 inches (91cm). The tail takes up two thirds of this impressive length with a hard and stiff body.

The slender glass lizard (Ophisaurus attenuatus) has a pointed nose with both sexes being similar in size.

These lizards tend to struggle when on smooth surfaces, as they don't have the belly plates that snakes have, but don't be fooled, they can move fast when approached.

They will thrash about to try and escape if you catch them, this causes their tail to fall off, which is distracting to predators, allowing them to get away.

They sleep in other animal burrows and are most active during the cooler times of the day.

Geographic distribution of Ophisaurus attenuatus

These lizards are common in the southeast and the midwestern United States often found in open woodlands, old fields, and prairie, where they are close to water.