While the state of Michigan does have a few reptiles that thrive here, there aren’t a lot of big lizards in Michigan because of the cold. Reptiles rely on the outside environment to regulate their body temperatures. With long, below-freezing winters, this state surely isn’t the place that you’d want to turn into your home as a lizard. Despite these freezing conditions, there are a few lizards who have turned Michigan into a place where they can survive without too much competition. You’re most likely spot them around woodlands or grasslands when wondering outside, but seeing one can make you question what brave types of lizards have made Michigan their safe place.

divider-reptile The 4 Lizards Found in Michigan

1. Five-lined Skink

Southeastern Five-Lined Skink
Image Credit: Liz Weber, Shutterstock
Species:Plestiodon fasciatus
Longevity:6 years
Good to own as a pet?:Yes
Legal to own?:Yes
Adult size:5–8.5 inches

Although there aren’t any poison lizards in Michigan, the Five-lined Skink is a lizard that gives the impression that it might be. These lizards have a bright, metallic blue tail that gives their predators the impression that they’re dangerous. Other than that pop of color, they have black bodies with five cream or yellowish stripes that run from their snouts all the way down their tails. Males also have a widened head with red colors on their jaws. Find the Five-lined skink spending its time around a wooded area that has sufficient cover and places to bask in the sun. There is also a record of large groups along the beaches of the Great Lakes. These lizards a preyed on mostly by large birds, like crows and hawks, but also by foxes, raccoons, snakes, and cats.

2. Six-Lined Racerunner

six lined racerunner lizard
Image Credit: Alice Wonder, Pixabay
Species:Aspidoscelis sexlineatus
Longevity:4–5 years
Good to own as a pet?:No
Legal to own?:Yes
Adult size:6–10.5 inches

There is only one known colony of Six-lined Racerunners left in the state and they currently reside around east-central Michigan. These small lizards in Michigan are similar to the five-lined skinks in appearance. They have six yellowish-green stripes on their back and sides that can become obscured as they get older. Their background colors can be olive, black, gray, or brown. They only develop bright blue colors on their chin and bellies during the mating season. These lizards enjoy sunny, dry habitats with lots of loose sand and vegetation. While they were once believed to be invasive lizards in Michigan, their numbers have dwindled drastically over the years.

3. Blue-spotted Salamander

Blue Spotted Salamander front view_Mike Wilhelm_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Mike Wilhelm, Shutterstock
Species:Ambystoma laterale
Longevity:2 years
Good to own as a pet?:No
Legal to own?:Yes
Adult size:3–5.5 inches

Blue-spotted Salamanders are not technically lizards, but there aren’t very many lizards able to survive in Michigan. Instead, there are a number of amphibians that closely resemble different lizard species. Even though there aren’t poison lizards in Michigan, these salamanders have skin with glandular glands that produce a toxic substance. The Blue-spotted salamander is often in woodlands like deciduous and coniferous forests. They prefer moist, lowland areas but are also found in drier upland ones. They are gray and black all over, with many blue-colored flecks on their sides and underbelly. Although you can technically keep them as pets, they don’t do well in captivity and prefer to live in the wild. They feed on all types of invertebrates like worms, slugs, insects, spiders, and snails.

4. Eastern Newt

male eastern newt underwater
Image Credit: Michael Benard, Shutterstock
Species:Notophthalmus viridescens
Longevity:12–15 years
Good to own as a pet?:Yes
Legal to own?:Yes
Adult size:2.5–5.5 inches

The Eastern Newt is another example of a Michigan amphibian that looks like a lizard. These animals are always found around aquatic vegetation, though their numbers decrease where there are periods of pollution, drought, or deforestation. Eastern Newts are olive and greenish-brown in color with small black spots all over their bodies and tails. The skin is not slimy, and the juveniles are fully terrestrial, while adults are more semi-aquatic. Newts are likely to be confused with salamanders because of their bumpy skin. There are only two newt species in Michigan.

divider- lizardprint What is the Difference Between Lizards and Salamanders?

Michigan only has two types of lizards that occupy this space, but there are plenty of other lizard-like animals that are easily mistaken for lizards. Salamanders are much more common to find in Michigan than lizards. The biggest difference between these two is that salamanders are amphibians while lizards are reptiles. Both like basking in the sun, but a salamander prefers to live in wet areas and are better adapted for the cold weather that occupies about six months out of the year in this northern part of the country. Even though they are different species entirely, it’s easy to understand why you might lump the two together.

divider-reptile Conclusion

Michigan might not be known for its large number of lizards, but there are still a couple that you might be lucky enough to spot while you’re out for a walk in the woods. It’s amazing that any lizard species are able to survive here at all. Because of this, we think that these lizards should be given an award for their uncanny survival skills.

Learn more about lizards found in other states:

Featured Image Credit: Matthew L Niemiller, Shutterstock