What species of lizard have I seen?
Answer 

There are three species of lizard in the UK - the common lizard, the sand lizard and the slow-worm (a type of legless lizard often mistaken for a snake)

Of these three species, you are most likely to see slow-worms or common lizards in your garden. The UK's rarest lizard, the sand lizard, tends only to be found in heathland or dune habitat.

Occasionally, non-native lizards are recorded in the wild, particularly the wall lizard and green lizard. Please report these sightings to ARC via our Alien Encounters project.

People sometimes mistake newts for lizards as they can be a similar size, shape and colour; see FAQ below: 'How do I tell the difference between lizards and newts?' if you're unsure about what you've seen.

It is important to report your lizard sightings to help build up local and national records of these declining species. Get in touch with the local Biological Record Centre and your local Amphibian and Reptile Group (ARG) if you have seen lizards in your garden.

How do I tell the difference between newts and lizards?
Answer 

Many people confuse newts and lizards as they can be a similar size and colour.

Lizards (pictured right) have scaly skin whereas newts possess smooth skin (which can look velvety on land) or skin with a bumpy, 'warty' texture. Lizards are much more likely to scurry away very quickly when disturbed, whereas newts will make slower 'lumbering' movements (generally speaking - if you can catch it, it's a newt).

If you have a chance for a closer look you could count the number of toes on the front pair of legs - newts have four toes, lizards have five.

I have lizards in my garden, do I need to do anything for them?
Answer 

Firstly, note down the areas they are commonly seen in; these might be near compost heaps, among log piles or in and around a rockery. Dry-stone walls can also be important havens for lizards. Once you've identified these areas you need to ensure that you continue to maintain them as they are. If these features disappear so might the lizards. You can find more information about maintaining your garden for reptiles by visiting our Dragons in your Garden section.

Lizards, like all reptiles, need places to warm themselves, places to forage for food and places to shelter and hibernate in. They can often be found basking on logs or around rockeries and spend much of their time foraging around wood piles and other areas that attract invertebrates.

It's important to report your sightings to help build up local and national records of these declining species. Get in touch with your local Biological Record Centre and your local Amphibian and Reptile Group (ARG).

How do I encourage lizards into my garden?
Answer 

Lizards, like all reptiles, need places for basking in the sun, foraging for food and areas for shelter. They may live and forage in rockeries, dry-stone walls or log piles where there are plenty of nooks and crannies to hide in as well as open areas to bask on. They may also forage nearby in longer vegetation, compost heaps or wood piles. Whether you see reptiles in your garden depends largely on whether they are in the local area and can access it in the first place.

You can find more information on maintaining your garden for reptiles by visiting our Dragons in your Garden section.

It is important to report your lizard sightings to help build up local and national records of these declining species. Get in touch with the local Biological Record Centre and your local Amphibian and Reptile Group (ARG) if you have seen lizards in your garden.

A lizard habitat is threatened, what can be done?
Answer 

All native reptiles are protected by law against intentional killing and injury.

If any British reptiles are present on a development site, or a proposed development, then steps must be taken by the developers or planners to ensure individual animals will not be killed or injured. This often involves relocating the animals to a suitable habitat.

It is important to report any reptile sightings to your local Biological Record Centre and your local Amphibian and Reptile Group (ARG) so that consultants carrying out preliminary surveys are aware of their presence at the earliest opportunity.

If you suspect incidents where the law might be being flouted, please inform us.

How do I tell the difference between a snake and a slow-worm?
Answer 

The slow-worm (pictured right), as a legless lizard, possesses the following lizard-like features which distinguishes them from snakes:

  • Cylindrical body.
  • Bullet-shaped head.
  • Moveable eyelid allowing them to blink.
  • Smooth, shiny appearance.
  • They can also detach their tails if attacked (like all UK lizards).

Often you may only catch a glimpse of the animal so 'shiny appearance' is the feature to keep in mind. Slow-worms also behave slightly differently to snakes - they prefer to warm themselves by sheltering under objects, like stones or patio slabs, or in compost heaps rather than basking out in the open.

I have slow-worms in my garden, do I need to do anything for them?
Answer 

Firstly, note down the areas they are commonly seen in; these might be near compost heaps, among/near log piles or underneath patio slabs. Slow-worms prefer to warm up underneath objects rather than basking out in the open. Once you've identified these areas you need to ensure that you continue to maintain them as they are. If these features disappear, so might the slow-worms. You can find more information on maintaining your garden for reptiles by visiting our Dragons in your Garden section.

Slow-worms, like all reptiles, need places to warm themselves, places to forage for food and places to shelter and hibernate in. They can often be found on/in compost heaps or under logs or garden detritus; if you have old carpet or tarpaulin covering your compost heap, this is particularly good for slow-worms. They spend much of their time foraging for invertebrates including slugs, ants and woodlice.

It's important to report your sightings to help build up local and national records of these declining species. Get in touch with your local Biological Record Centre and your local Amphibian and Reptile Group (ARG).

I have slow-worms in my compost heap, when is it safe to disturb them?
Answer 

Slow-worms are commonly found in compost heaps as they're a good place to both shelter and forage; slow-worms prefer to warm up underneath objects rather than basking out in the open. Whilst this is great for slow-worms it can be tricky for you when it comes to using your compost. Try to avoid disturbing the heap during the winter, when the slow-worms will be hibernating, and during late summer when females could be giving birth. At other times of year it's just a case of being careful when using the heap so as not to injure any potential residents - frogs, toads and grass snakes may all make use of compost heaps.

If you have a substantial reptile and/or amphibian population using the compost heap you could consider creating a separate one for you to use that they can't access.

How do I encourage slow-worms into my garden?
Answer 

Slow-worms, like all reptiles, need places to warm themselves, places to forage for food and places to shelter and hibernate in. They can often be found on/in compost heaps or under logs or garden detritus; cover your compost heap with old carpet or tarpaulin to create ideal conditions. Slow-worms spend much of their time foraging for slugs and insects under wood piles and in compost heaps or grass cuttings. Whether you see reptiles in your garden depends largely on whether they are in the local area and can access it in the first place.

You can find more information on maintaining your garden for reptiles by visiting our Dragons in your Garden section.

It is important to report your sightings to help build up local and national records of these declining species. Get in touch with the local Biological Record Centre and your local Amphibian and Reptile Group (ARG) if you have seen slow-worms in your garden.

A slow-worm habitat is threatened, what can be done?
Answer 

All native reptiles are protected by law against intentional killing and injury.

If any British reptiles are present on a development site, or a proposed development, then steps must be taken by the developers or planners to ensure individual animals will not be killed or injured. This often involves relocating the animals to a suitable habitat.

It is important to report any reptile sightings to your local Biological Record Centre and your local Amphibian and Reptile Group (ARG) so that consultants carrying out preliminary surveys are aware of their presence at the earliest opportunity.

If you suspect incidents where the law might be being flouted, please inform us.