Slow-Worm (Anguis fragilis)
Slow-worms are a type of legless lizard and are often mistaken for snakes. Unlike snakes they can blink, have a flat forked tongue and can drop their tails if attacked. Slow-worms are widespread throughout Britain but are absent from Ireland.
|Identification||Adults up to 50 cm in length. Shiny, smooth skin. Males: usually grey or brown in colour. May have bright blue spots. Females: usually golden brown on top and darker on sides and belly. Often have a dark stripe running along back. Juveniles: black or dark brown belly. Gold, silver or copper sides. Often have a dark stripe running along back. Visible eyelid. May be confused with snakes: unlike snakes they can blink, have a flat forked tongue and can drop their tails if attacked|
|Distribution||Native to the UK. Widespread across the UK but absent from Ireland. Wide distribution across continental Europe.|
|Ecology||Species of legless lizard but often mistaken for snakes. Feed on a variety of invertebrates including slugs, snails and other garden pests. Found under stones, wood, sheets of metal, and in compost heaps.|
|Predators and other threats||Adults eaten by snakes, hedgehogs, foxes and birds. Threatened by loss and degradation of habitat.|
A year in the life…Spring
Adults emerge from their hibernation sites in spring; breeding takes place during April and May. Slow-worms do not tend to bask out in the open like other reptiles, instead preferring to hide under objects that will be warmed by the sun or will create their own warmth such as compost heaps or dead wood.
Female slow-worms incubate their eggs internally and ‘give birth’ to live young in late summer. The gold or silver juveniles are very thin and only around 4cm long.
Slow-worms spend autumn preparing for hibernation. Adults usually feed on slow moving prey like slugs.
Slow-worms usually hibernate between November and March.