Friday, September 9, 2011

Calls about reptiles

Lizard by Lairich Rig

Common Lizard (Zootoca vivipara)
  © Copyright Lairich Rig and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

We're getting a slightly surprising number of calls from people who are concerned about finding lizards in their garden (or straying inside buildings), so I thought I'd try to find a photo showing what species these are likely to be. The only other British lizards are the Smooth snake (a legless lizard) and the much rarer Sand Lizard. 

They are entirely harmless to people (in fact beneficial because they feed on insects and slugs) and, at a maximum size of about 8 inches, have much more reason to be afraid of us than we of them.

All species of British lizard are protected by law, and it is an offence to kill or injure them. If one end s up indoors (perhaps attracted by warmth), the best way to remove it is probably to capture it by putting something like a jam jar over it, then sliding a piece of card or paper under the rim of the jar until the lizard is confined. Alternatively you could use a dustpan and soft brush to gently sweep the lizard up and then release it outside. 

Lizards have waterproof skin which is dry and scaly to the touch. Other lizard-like creatures you may find locally are various newts. These are amphibia (related to frogs and toads) and their skin is moist. They definitely ought not to be indoors as they will dehydrate and die, but may get in by accident, or possibly be brought in by cats.

SO1191 : Newt by Penny Mayes

  © Copyright Penny Mayes and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

As exotic reptiles become more common as pets, there's the added potential complication of escapees. If you find a lizard that's significantly more than 8 inches long, it may be a lost pet. 

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