There are nine widely recognized lizards in Tennessee. On top of these nine, there are a few invasive species but these are primarily confined to small areas. The majority of the lizards are technically skinks, a particular type of lizard. Many of them also live in wet wooded areas and rocks, as you would expect from most lizards.

While you don’t have to worry about identifying poisonous lizards, you may still want to know the particular type of lizards you can come across. Keep reading for a complete guide to all the lizards found in Tennessee.

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The 9 Lizards Found in Tennessee

The 3 Small Lizards in Tennessee

1. Green Anole

Green Anole Food
Image Credit By: Amanda Phung, unsplash
Species:Anolis carolinensis
Longevity:2–8 years
Good to own as a pet?:Yes
Legal to own?:Yes
Adult size:5–8 inches
Diet:Insects, spiders, and other arthropods

The green anole is a small lizard that lives in Southern Tennessee. Only one subspecies, the northern green anole, is native. As their name suggests, these lizards are primarily green but they can also come in different shades of brown or a mixture of both colors. Males are larger and have a reddish throat, while females have a white throat. Most females also have a white stripe running down their back.

The green anole spends most of its time in trees. They are often discovered on shaded tree branches, but they can technically be found anywhere. This species is typically not found in mountainous areas. There are no current threats to their population, but they are susceptible to the pet trade.

Sometimes, this species is referred to as the “American chameleon”. While they can change colors, they are not technically chameleons.

2. Eastern Fence Lizard

eastern fence lizard
Image Credit: JamesDeMers, Pixabay
Species:Sceloporus undulatus
Longevity:Less than 5 years
Good to own as a pet?:Yes
Legal to own?:Yes
Adult size:4–7.25 inches
Diet:Ants, beetles, spiders, snails

The eastern fence lizard is the only spiny lizard found in Tennessee. It is considered to be medium-sized, with adults staying smaller than 7.25 inches. Their body ranges from gray to brown. They are distinguished by their pointed scales and wavy lines across their back.

Females are larger and tend to have more variety of colors across their backs. Males are smaller and come in more uniform colorations. Adult males also have blue patches along their throat and belly.

This species can live in most habitats, but they prefer dry forested areas. Many people commonly see them around fallen trees, stumps, and fences. They also frequent rock piles and firewood.

3. Little Brown Skink

little brown skink
Image Credit: Trevor Howard Jones, Shutterstock
Species:Sceloporus undulatus
Good to own as a pet?:Yes
Legal to own?:Yes
Adult size:3–5.25 inches
Diet:Insects, spiders, and worms

These small lizards have smooth, shiny scales like most skinks. Their coloration is quite variable, but it usually ranges from brown to dark brown. They have two brown stripes running from their eyes down to their tail, as well as black specks covering much of their body. Juveniles are similar to adults.

Males have yellow bellies, while females have white or gray bellies. Females are also larger overall. These factors make it pretty easy to determine the sex of a lizard.

Usually, you can find these lizards in woodlands with plenty of cover. They prefer to hide under leaf litter, decaying wood, pine needles, logs, and other debris. They are usually found after their hiding spot is disturbed.

The 6 Big Lizards in Tennessee

4. Six-lined Racerunner

six lined racerunner in grass
Image Credit: Matthew L Niemiller, Shutterstock
Species:Aspidoscelis sexlineata
Longevity:4–5 years
Good to own as a pet?:Yes
Legal to own?:Yes
Adult size:6–9.5 inches

The six-lined racerunner can reach up to 9.5 inches, making it one of the largest lizards native to Tennessee. They are known for their lightning-fast movements and can be quickly identified by the six light stripes that run down their back. The stripes range in color from yellow to grey to pale blue. The rest of their body is dark brown or black. Their tail is grey and often looks very rough.

It is difficult to distinguish between sex. Males usually have larger heads than females, but females have broader bodies.

They prefer open areas with loose sand and soil.

5. Coal Skink

coal skink
Image Credit: Hunter Kauffman, Shutterstock
Species:Plestiodon anthracinus
Good to own as a pet?:Yes
Legal to own?:Yes
Adult size:5–7 inches
Diet:Small insects and spiders

While two subspecies of coal skink exist in Tennessee, this species is scarce. They have a minimal range and are considered difficult to find within that range. They are characterized by their smooth scales and very short legs. Their color ranges from gray to brown and a wide, dark brown stripe runs from their head to their tail. Males develop a reddish tint on the side of their heads during the breeding season.

This species prefers moist forests near streams and rivers. They will make do with rocky hillsides near springs, though.

6. Common Five-lined Skink

Common five-lined skink
Image Credit: Fotoz by David G, Shutterstock
Species:Plestiodon fasciatus
Longevity:Up to 6 years
Good to own as a pet?:Yes
Legal to own?:Yes
Adult size:5–8.5 inches
Diet:Small insects and spiders

The common five-lined skink is probably one of the most common lizards in Tennessee. They range from black to brown and have five lighter-colored stripes running down their back. Makes will develop a reddish head during the breeding season. Females generally stay brown. Juveniles will have a bright blue tail and more apparent stripes.

You’ll typically find this species in wooded areas. They need plenty of cover and lots of basking spots. Usually, you can find them hiding in wood piles, stumps, bark, and rock piles. Most live off of small insects and spiders. The largest lizards may also eat frogs, smaller lizards, and mice.

They have remained common through Tennessee due to their tolerance for human activity.

7. Southeastern Five-Lined Skink

Southeastern Five-Lined Skink
Image Credit: Liz Weber, Shutterstock
Species:Plestiodon inexpectatus
Longevity:Up to 6 years
Good to own as a pet?:Yes
Legal to own?:Yes
Adult size:5.5–8.5 inches
Diet:Insects, spiders, and other invertebrates

This species is highly similar to the one we previously discussed. They are pretty large and very shiny. Their color pattern can vary widely and isn’t an accurate way to identify them. Usually, their bodies are a darker color such as brown or black. They have five stripes of a lighter color that go all the way down their body. Adult males may lose their middle stripe and develop a reddish head during mating season.

Adult females tend to look faded and don’t have as striking of colors as other species. Juveniles will have a bright blue tail and more distinctive colorations.

You can find this species in many different woodland areas. They aren’t very picky about their habitat, which is one reason why they are so widespread. They usually hide underneath things, like fallen logs, stumps, and rock piles.

8. Broad-Headed Skink

Broad-Headed Skink
Image Credit: Peter Paplanus, PxHere
Species:Plestiodon laticeps
Longevity:About 4 years on average
Good to own as a pet?:Yes
Legal to own?:Yes
Adult size:6.5–12.5 inches

These giant lizards are found across much of Tennessee. They can reach up to 12.5 inches in size and have an extremely stocky body. They are known for their smooth scales and olive-brown coloration. Males will get reddish heads during the breeding season.

Adult females have varying color patterns. Sometimes, they may have up to five faded stripes on their brownish body. Juveniles also have these five stripes and a blue tail.

As a species, they prefer moist woodland areas and are commonly found on the edges of woodland lots. You may find them in old farm buildings, under logs, and around stumps. They may also occasionally climb trees to escape predators.

9. Slender Glass Lizard

Western Slender Glass Lizard
Image credit: Matt Jeppson, Shutterstock
Species:Ophisaurus attenuatus
Longevity:10–30 years
Good to own as a pet?:Yes
Legal to own?:Yes
Adult size:22–46 inches
Diet:Invertebrates, snakes, bird eggs

The Slender Glass Lizard is exceptionally long. They look similar to a snake and are often mistaken as one. However, they have moveable eyelids, external eats, and tiny scales on their belly. Otherwise, they look very similar to a snake by the average observer.

Narrow stripes run down their body from head to tail. Older lizards may have irregular crossbands over their body as well.

They are a shy species that prefer open grasslands or woodlands. They can be found in dried grassy areas, as well as vacant lots and farms. They usually stay out of the way of people.

Like most lizards, they eat a variety of invertebrates, including other lizards. They may also eat small snakes and bird’s eggs due to their larger size.

This lizard is considered rare and uncommon in Tennessee. They technically have a range covering most of Tennessee, but the odds of finding one are pretty low. They are considered “in need of management” by the TWRA.

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Are There Poisonous Lizards in Tennessee?

No. There are no poisonous lizards in Tennessee. All the lizards in Tennessee are pretty harmless! Of course, some lizards may carry diseases, so handling wild lizards is not recommended.

If you come into contact with a lizard, it is recommended to wash your hands thoroughly as well as anywhere else the lizard touched. Bites and wounds should be washed thoroughly as well. However, there is typically nothing to worry about.

Just like any wound, bites from lizards can get infected. Visit your doctor if the wound becomes inflamed or itchy.

How Do I Identify a Lizard?

Many lizards in Tennessee are easy to identify based on their markings. There are a few species that look similar, which can make telling them apart challenging. However, you can usually get a pretty good idea based on the lizard’s coloration, markings, and shape.

Luckily, it isn’t too important to get the identification correct in Tennessee. There are no poisonous lizards, so you don’t have to worry about correctly identifying them. Most lizards are harmless, though they can still bite.

Many lizards in Tennessee are too small to make much of a stir. If you see a lizard in the wild, you have nothing to worry about. Lizards rarely end up in homes, though some may follow water to leaky faucets. In this case, the lizard can be removed and placed back outside. Most are not aggressive or large enough to harm a person.

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All lizards in Tennessee are pretty harmless. There are no poisonous lizards, and all of them are docile. They prefer to hide under woodpiles rather than be around people, which often means that you won’t see them unless you disturb their hiding spot.

There are about nine species of lizard in all. Many of these are skinks, which prefer wetter areas. All skinks can drop off their tail if they are frightened, so handling them is not recommended. While skinks can regrow their tail, this requires calories and can be troublesome for the animal.

Some species are endangered; one is even exceedingly rare. These may be protected under law in some cases, so be careful before disturbing any wild lizard. Many are not located throughout Tennessee, so the lizards you’ll find in your backyard will differ depending on your exact location.

Featured Image Credit by Mike Wilhem, Shutterstock